COUNCILLOR Les Larke’s push to reverse a council decision to declare a ‘climate emergency’ was dumped at the 11th hour.
Although the accountant withdrew his rescission motion last Wednesday night at the council meeting, Cr Pamela Rothfield went on the attack – addressing concerns that the council didn’t do proper community consultation before declaring the emergency.
There had been a “fair bit of publicity” around one councillor’s comments, she said, around “our community engagement, or lack thereof” in respect to their Climate Change Action Plan.
She didn’t name names.
Previously, Cr Les Larke placed advertisements in local press titled ‘Community engagement… What’s that?’ – which called for the entire community to be involved in the debate around climate change, among other points – after council decided to allocate $200,000 towards preparing the climate plan.
Cr Rothfield stressed it is part of council’s policy to consult and engage with the community when developing a plan.
“We don’t steamroll over people,” Cr Rothfield said.
The councillor reeled off statistics around the number of people who engaged with the Council Plan 2017-21 – including how it reached 52,400 on Facebook when undergoing consultation.
“The shire had never seen anything like the engagement that we embarked on,” she said.
The result of the engagement saw the environment being named the second most important strategic outcome.
“There is no question that our community wants to reduce our carbon footprint and we have a clear mandate to do this.”
Cr Michael Whelan praised a petition which called on council to declare a ‘climate emergency’.
It had 1084 signatures.
“We will draw on the expertise within the community… that’s important.
“Our colleagues in the BCCAN (Bass Coast Climate Action Network) are well prepared – they’ve already met the peak bodies for energy, conservation, climate action – they know what they want to see out of this.
Cr Julian Brown and Cr Les Larke abstained from voting on the council’s response to the petition – which included the council again declaring a ‘climate emergency’ and allocating $200,000 for the action plan.
Cr Brown was going to comment on the night, but decided against it.
Cr Larke tried to move an amendment, but Mayor Cr Brett Tessari didn’t allow it.
“I’m not comfortable that you disallowed it,” said Cr Larke.
Cr Tessari replied: “That’s OK – I’ve made that call, I’m comfortable with it.”
Cr Larke ended up foreshadowing a motion, but it didn’t get up as the original motion around responding to the petition was carried.
Cr Les Larke, in an email to the Sentinel-Times on Thursday, said: “Kindly note that the August 2019 Council Motion did not ‘Declare a Climate Emergency’, that was passed last night in response to the community’s petition.
“Our community is under the misapprehension that the declaration was made at the August 2019 Ordinary Council Meeting, and that is not correct.
“Our community was misled by all and sundry for a month leading into the September 2019 Ordinary Council Meeting.”
Cr Michael Whelan’s motion at the August meeting read: “That Council: 1. Declares that climate change poses serious risks to Bass Coast and Australia and should be treated as an emergency.”
The motion carried at the September meeting read: “That Council: 1. Declare a Climate Emergency.”