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Published: 2007-09-20 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is undertaking a wide range of measures to help adapt to the effects of climate change, and to lessen human contributions to the problem.

The regional council was commenting in the wake of the Government’s latest climate change policy announcement today.

“Climate change-related issues touch on most areas of our work such as flood risk management and pest control , through to energy policy and transport,” said programme manager policy and strategy Blair Dickie.

“These parts of our climate change jigsaw are all big in themselves – taken together they make up a huge challenge for the council, its partner agencies and the community to address.”

Environment Waikato is already a member of the internationally recognized Communities for Climate protection programme which commits the council to measuring and reducing carbon emissions through its own activities.

Some other current examples of Environment Waikato’s activities that will or may contribute to reduced carbon emissions include:

  • a Regional Energy Strategy which promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy, which has less carbon emissions
  • new policy on geothermal energy which resulted in several major electricity companies announcing geothermal investments worth more than $2.6 billion
  • expanded bus services in Hamilton and the promotion of more rail freight through infrastructure improvements.

Council activities that help remove carbon from the atmosphere include:

  • river catchment planting to help retain soil organic matter on the land
  • promoting forestry on steep and erodible soils
  • pest control that helps protect carbon-storing forests.

A range of other activities help communities adapt to climate change. These include biosecurity projects to manage organisms that become pests as climatic conditions alter, coastal hazard planning that takes rising sea levels into account, and improved planning for river flooding. Also, the council is stepping up the amount of information it has on the region’s water resources.

“We need to keep improving the information we have and also the policies that help us deal with the challenges presented by climate change,” said Mr Dickie.

“Environment Waikato will work closely with communities throughout the region to help them deal with the realities climate change presents.”

Mr Dickie agreed a careful transition to a fully accounted carbon economy was critical for the Waikato region, given that so much of its GDP depended on agriculture, particularly dairying.

He also noted the region had many opportunities for growing trees to soak up carbon. Apart from 53,000 ha of nutrient-constrained land around Lake Taupo – where afforestation of up to 14,000 ha of pasture land is proposed – there was another 144,000 ha of highly erodible, Kyoto-compliant land.

In the Waikato, nearly 90 per cent of the Kyoto-compliant marginal lands are in contiguous blocks of over 100 ha, the minimum size considered economical for Kyoto audit procedures.

“We will continue to keep a close eye out for ways to improve Environment Waikato’s and the region’s performance when it comes to reducing our carbon emissions and soaking up carbon through planting,” said Mr Dickie.