At this critical point in time for our city, Wellington City Councillors are deciding what our new normal will look like as we come through the COVID-19 crisis together. Amidst calls for a climate justice focused recovery, they’ve voted to bail out Wellington Airport, a major polluter. This is concerning and Generation Zero will be watching closely to ensure the council delivers on their promises to take urgent action on climate change.
The current situation we find ourselves in is a tragedy and many people are struggling to cope with our city in lock-down. While we’re staying home, staying safe, and trying to support each other, we look to the city council for leadership. They’re making important decisions that will impact how we live our lives, not just now, but far into the future.
This crisis has given us a chance to slow down, take a step back, and see for ourselves what our new normal could look like. Te Whanganui-a-Tara is alive with bird songs, a bike ride through our local areas is bliss, children are playing safely in the streets, and we’re all becoming re-acquainted with the delights of what's local.
We can make these silver-linings stick. Wellington City Council has declared a climate and biodiversity emergency and their response to this crisis is the chance of a lifetime to create the zero-carbon, resilient, connected and livable city we have asked for. We need to support our council to be brave and make choices that will secure this vision for current and future generations to enjoy.
Our future is in their hands. Many of the councillors we elected to represent our voices ran on the platform of transformation and the promise of strong climate policy. These councillors promised us that they would vote with a future focus. Now is not the time to break your promises to your electorate.
Right now, some of our councillors seem to have more of a focus on their future careers than on the future generations. They have an opportunity to be transformational by investing in exciting new initiatives to improve connectivity, support innovative businesses, upgrade and expand existing infrastructure, retro-fit and increase the housing stock, and enhance our communities.
Instead, we’ve watched our councillors cave under pressure and back down on their promises. The recent vote on a bail-out loan for Wellington Airport during a closed meeting is case and point. We recognise the need to support local business but Wellington Airport is a polluter and this bailout speaks to a return to business as usual.
It’s good news that the loan is convertible to an equity stake, but it’s not enough. Maybe this will put the council in a strong position to force change at a later date, but we can't be sure when there is no transparency on how much has been loaned to give comfort to investors.
This loan needs to include conditions that ensure the airport adopts and act on emissions reduction targets. Their current 2040 plan is untenable. We cannot be giving these bailouts to high-emitting companies with no climate strings attached. Perhaps our council has forgotten that Wellingtonians have overwhelmingly supported a zero-carbon future during consultations? Now is the time for action. The more we borrow and invest now, the bigger our future savings. We can't afford to keep passing the climate change burden to future generations.
Generation Zero wants to see Wellington City Council uphold their commitment to Te Atakura: First to Zero. We will be paying close attention when they debate the annual plan consultation next week. Our councillors have the privilege of deciding how our streets, homes, and society will look and feel as we recover from COVID-19. We want to support you, so make choices we can support. Don't forget that Wellington voted for you because we want a new normal.
Eleanor West and Marko Garlick