Glen Innes council makes climate emergency declaration

Mayor Carol Sparks moved the motion, saying the council needs to tackle the problem head on.
Mayor Carol Sparks moved the motion, saying the council needs to tackle the problem head on.

The Glen Innes council has declared a climate emergency, becoming the smallest and most rural local government in the state to do so.

After a fractious debate last night, the Glen Innes Severn council resolved to declare a climate emergency and commit "to a more sustainable future for our community."

Councilors will also convene for a workshop to develop a climate emergency plan for the Glen Innes Severn area.

Mayor Carol Sparks, who sponsored the motion, argued council needs to tackle climate change "head on".

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She pointed to recent unprecedented fire, drought and weather conditions to argue that climate change is already having an effect.

"The tent city at Mead Park to accommodate emergency workers for the duration says more about the emergency conditions we face than words ever could," her mayoral minute said.

"When one is faced with an emergency, one does not stand around debating whether the house is on fire, one acts.

"For us to delay the declaration of a climate emergency now would be an insult to all those people who are facing the ravages of fire and drought and to all those who have been on the fire front and to all those who have shown their concern for our future survival."

Councilor Jeff Smith said the motion was part of a political agenda.

Councilor Jeff Smith said the motion was part of a political agenda.

But councilors Jeff Smith, Steve Toms and Col Price all disagreed, with the trio unsuccessfully voting against the motion.

Councilor Smith described the idea as an "admirable one" with some pitfalls, but argued it was part of a political takeover of the council.

"I have concerns that this council is being hijacked by stealth by a political group," he said.

"We should remember what we are doing here - to look after local issues at ground root level.

"Our focus should be on, just to name a few items, just roads, rubbish and rates.

"We're struggling to find enough resources just to maintain these road systems which is well below an acceptable level that our community should expect from us."

He said climate change was an issue that should be sorted out by state and federal governments and quoted a recent speech by Prime Minister Scott Morrison who claims Australia is doing enough to reduce carbon emissions.

Councilor Newman denied the motion was part of any political agenda.

Councilor Steve Toms.

Councilor Steve Toms.

Councilor Col Price said the New England was suffering a "weather" emergency and said the drought wasnot the worst in the town's history with councilor Steve Toms asking if the motion would obligate council or councilors to eliminate fossil fuel use, or force landholders to reduce animal agriculture.

But councilor Parsons pointed out that the motion's only practical outcome would be a meeting to talk through the issue.

"We can sit and do nothing or we can actually go to a meeting, which is a small price to pay and a bit of our time and probably see what council might be able to achieve in being a more sustainable council," he said.

"If a workshop does nothing more than us developing a sustainable strategy for our community then we've achieved something."

The motion passed four votes to three.

Mayor Carol Sparks last week told a climate rally in the centre of town she would support the motion. Glen Innes becomes the latest of around 50 Australian local governments to make a climate declaration, plus the ACT government and the British parliament.

The smallest remains the Denmark shire council in WA.

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