Coorong council rules out any drastic response to 'climate variability'

Councillors have formally acknowledged the issue for the first time, but one says it might actually be good for the district.

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The Coorong council has acknowledged “climate variability” for the first time, but will not rush to respond to the issue.

At a meeting last Tuesday, councillors hashed out a position statement on climate change: something staff could point to if they were asked about the council’s official position.

The statement, passed with a 5-3 vote, read:

The effects of climate variability are being felt across our district with our environment, landholders and the wider community having to adapt farming practices and lifestyles. Council will consider the likely impacts of climate variability for our current and planned activities, whilst applying principles of sustainability and adaption in decision making. Information will be published and regularly updated on council’s website, informing the community of actions being taken by council in response to the existing and likely impacts of climate variability within our district.

Cr Jeff Arthur had argued against making any such statement, saying residents deserved to be consulted first.

“What right has council to make these sorts of statements?” he asked.

“Council are here to represent ratepayers, not their own individual, personal beliefs.”

But Cr Lisa Rowntree negotiated its passage after she suggested leaving out passages she described as “prescriptive”.

That included references to the likely effects of climate change – more heatwaves, lower rainfall, sea level rise and more intense storms and bushfires – as well as to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Cr Rowntree said the council could not assume that all its residents were worried.

“As an olive grower, we don’t have enough hot days and we have too much rain,” she said.

“From our perspective, we need way more hotter days.

“Cherry growers, apple growers, nearly everyone I speak to in horticulture says we’re having the opposite effect of what people are saying (about climate change being bad).”

However, the three councillors who voted against the final statement – Neville Jaensch, Tracy Hill and Vern Leng – derided it as weak and disappointing.

Cr Jaensch described climate change, and the effect it would have on water supplies, as “the most significant risk we face as a district”.

Cr Tracy Hill went so far as to say she found it offensive that anyone could hold personal beliefs about climate change in the face of established scientific fact.

“The overwhelming evidence and sentiment is that we have serious implications coming from climate change,” she said.

“While we can’t – as a council – change that, we need to consider there are things we can do.”

The Murray Bridge council is among those which have taken a more active approach.

It approved a 36-point climate change action plan in July, promising to plant more trees along city streets, electrify its vehicular fleet and install energy-efficient street lights, having acknowledged the existence of the “climate emergency” last October.

Photo: Landscape SA. Video: Coorong District Council/YouTube.

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