Ten questions for local government candidates on climate action

The Common Climate Network has developed a questionnaire for candidates this election, and it is being used by groups throughout New Zealand. The answers will be used to score candidates on their views on climate action and the results will be available by 22 September, when the voting papers are sent out.

We’ve had a few inquiries asking what the questions are for voters to use at candidate meetings. So here are the high-level themes in case they are useful for you. We would really welcome your feedback, and are also looking for guest blogs about your experiences and issues in your regions.

If you use any of this material, please credit the Common Climate Network NZ, as well as the original sources of data where mentioned.

If you want to run the questionnaire in your area, find out more about the process

What does it cover?

Local councils can help reduce emissions through better policies and decisions on transport, waste, energy efficiency, urban development and land use, and by considering emissions in their purchasing decisions. Our Mayors and local Councillors can also advocate for greater action at a national level. We ask a series of multi-choice questions, as well as an open question requiring a text answer. 

The questionnaire covers ten topics on climate action.

1. What is your position on climate change? 

We ask candidates to agree or disagree with five statements to help us see where they stand on climate action.

2. What is your vision for the future?

We ask candidates to think about how they would want their region to have responded to climate change 10 years from now.

3. How will you support an inclusive transition?

“With previous economic transformations, the shift to a low-emissions economy will create both opportunities and downsides. Some existing firms and jobs will disappear, while new business and occupations will emerge. Some workers will be especially vulnerable to changes in employment and should be given the opportunity to acquire new skills” – Productivity Commission, 2018 

Any change in industries and work will affect some groups more than others. We want to make sure that councillors can address these issues across the whole community by supporting groups affected by the transition. This topic also asks how they will take into account tangata whenua and Te Ao Māori, Pacific peoples, gender, diversity and social equity considerations. 

4. What will you advocate on to central government?

As well as delivering Council services, Councils have a role to play in advocating for climate action to central government on behalf of their residents. We ask whether candidates support advocating to central government on a variety of topics, including emissions reduction, just transition measures, transport, energy efficiency, and sustainable procurement.

5. How will you make sure you will work collaboratively?

Climate change will affect all parts of society, so a cohesive approach is needed with everyone working together and contributing according to their strengths. We ask candidates how they will work with other councillors in a collaborative way, as well as with other councils in the region, government and community groups. 

6. What are your priorities for transport?

Transport makes up nearly 20% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions*, but it is one of the easiest sectors to address, by switching commuters to public transport, cycling or walking, and greater electrification of public transport. Making progress here will help reduce New Zealand’s emissions while we find solutions in other areas. Reducing transport emissions will also help improve the quality of air in our cities. 

We ask about various aspects of transport and climate change, including public transport, Council fleets, and increased safer cycling and walking.

7. What are your priorities for energy efficiency ?

New Zealand has a high level of renewable energy. But greater demand for electricity (from growth and conversion of heating and transport to electricity to reduce carbon emissions) will mean more power stations need to be built and these all will need to be renewable. Increasing energy efficiency in industry, businesses and homes will help reduce the demand for electricity as well as the cost.

We ask candidates about energy efficiency in council facilities, new developments, suppliers, and local renewable electricity generation.

8. What are your priorities for waste?

Emissions from waste contribute 5% of New Zealand’s overall emissions, largely methane from food waste*. Greater composting and using the compost for planting can reduce emissions and increase the carbon stored in soil. Consumers are also increasingly aware of the waste produced from household and business activities and the potential impact on the environment. 

We ask candidates about reducing waste within council activities and their supply chain, food waste collection schemes, solid waste collection and disposal, and recycling of ‘hard to recycle materials’ onshore and within the region.

9. What are your priorities for urban development?

Growing cities need housing, but not at the expense of the environment. The lowest emissions come from compact urban development that makes the best use of land that has already been converted to residential or industrial use, and is close to existing infrastructure*. This means higher density housing with increased energy efficiency. Preserving agricultural land for food production as well as keeping or increasing native bush and forestry will also protect food and water supplies and biodiversity, and increase the amount of carbon that can be stored in the soil.  

We ask candidates for their attitudes to high density development, development in existing suburban centres, on new greenfields sites, and how to protect and enhance existing green space, waterways and forest. For rural areas, the question can also cover productive land.  

10. What is your approach to governance and management?

Local Government New Zealand provides training for recently elected councillors on local government, governance and financial management. 

We ask candidates if they have undertaken training in local government, governance and financial management in the last three years. And if not, would they commit to that training within their first three months in office.

We have developed these questions through extensive reading and talking to experts, and sincerely hope that these questions will help voters choose the best candidates to address climate change issues on their councils, for the sake of our present communities and for future generations.

Author: Catherine Jeffcoat

Wellington-based communications manager.

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