Waikato Regional Council gets friendly with Nature


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Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, June 10, 2024

The Waikato Regional Council is set to take a significant step towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 by adopting the “Te Āki Tūroa- Nature+ Framework and Plan.”

This decision, endorsed by the Climate Action Committee, outlines a comprehensive strategy to offset hard-to-reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the restoration of indigenous biodiversity and the promotion of climate resilience.

Council Chair Pamela Storey lauded the initiative, stating, “This is a really positive and impressive step the council is taking. It is a practical approach that aligns with our business as usual and will benefit the local environment.”

Multiple solutions

While the council continues to reduce its direct emissions through initiatives like introducing solar power and an all-electric fleet, Te Āki Tūroa provides a framework specifically for offsetting emissions that are more challenging to eliminate, such as those from natural gas and diesel.

The framework emphasises the planting of native trees and shrubs on council-owned land to generate carbon credits. This not only creates habitats for native species but also enhances water quality and resilience to climate change. Additionally, there is potential for generating income through the Emissions Trading Scheme and a future biodiversity credit scheme.

Avenues for partnerships

Climate Action Committee Chair Jennifer Nickel highlighted that the council’s goal is to offset its hard-to-reduce corporate emissions using its own land. The plan also opens avenues for partnerships with landowners and suppliers to support them in offsetting their emissions.

“By changing our own land use and improving biodiversity, it is even achievable to reach nature-positive carbon neutrality for this region’s public transport emissions, including bus networks and the Te Huia train,” said Cr Nickel. Although public transport and land drainage services are council responsibilities, they are not part of the council’s direct corporate emissions.

Estimates suggest that planting between 22 to 34 hectares (up to 1.4 percent) of the council’s 2507 hectares of suitable land in native species will be enough to achieve carbon neutrality for corporate emissions.

Including public transport emissions would require planting between 140 to 240 hectares (up to 9.6 percent) by 2050. The largest source of indirect emissions comes from land drained by council flood management infrastructure, which would require planting around 80,000 hectares over 20 years.

Fostering community engagement

Cr Nickel emphasised the council’s commitment to supporting entities and landowners who are direct sources of these emissions in reducing them where practical. “We have developed case studies to highlight the costs, benefits, opportunities, and challenges of using nature-based solutions to offset our own emissions while providing local environmental and community benefits. We are walking the talk on the land we own,” she said.

The Te Āki Tūroa plan is set to transform how the Waikato Regional Council addresses its environmental impact, leading by example and fostering wider community engagement in sustainability efforts.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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