By Melissa Sheil
AFTER more than an hour of heated debate and passionate deputations, the City of Kalamunda’s decision to declare a climate emergency was met with applause from councillors, staff and those in the gallery at Tuesday’s meeting.
The motion to sign the Western Australia Local Government Association’s (WALGA) statement and officially declare an emergency was carried 10/2.
Five members of the community spoke in support, citing health, environmental damage, future of youth, community support and a yearning for the Council to display courage and leadership as reasoning.
Member of Transition Town Kalamunda Dr Michelle Bunn, who moved the original motion to declare an emergency at the electors meeting last year, threw her support behind the recommendation and tabled a petition of signatories.
“When I moved my motion at the [electors meeting] last year, I mistakenly believed the success of the motion was a substantive decision of Council and thereby made it unnecessary to table the petition,” Dr Bunn said.
“I am tabling this petition now and note that in the fortnight since the Council’s forum I’ve been contacted by many concerned residents and received even more signatures – we now have almost 250.
“Council must accept the challenge, put to them repeatedly by the community, to demonstrate environmental leadership by voting in support of the recommendations on climate change action.”
As reported in Kalamunda climate change declaration up in the air (Echo News, May 14), Cr Dylan O’Connor had previously raised concerns regarding public consultation and financial implications on ratepayers, and subsequently proposed an alternative motion to go back to community on the matter before making a decision.
“A 238-signature petition does not reflect views of the wider community,” he told Council this week.
“We can’t throw away the goodwill and trust of our residents and say we don’t care about your opinion.
“Signing this statement and declaring an emergency will make us feel good about ourselves and say we did our bit, but that can’t be all we consider.
“We can’t pretend that any actions associated with this won’t cost money and have to consider the shifting of costs onto ratepayers.”
City staff said the signing of the statement would be of no cost to the ratepayer and each decision made to combat climate change would come before Council via the annual budget or environmental strategies.
Staff also noted the community had been consulted on many occasions regarding the environment and climate change, with most recent results saying residents were above the average of other local governments in their climate concern.
The motion was carried with an amendment from Cr Janelle Sewell to undertake community consultation on actions taken to combat the emergency.
Cr Kathy Ritchie spoke as the mover of the motion.
“I’ve heard a lot of talk about costs tonight,” she said.
“So, I have to ask the Council – what is the cost of doing nothing?”
The City of Kalamunda joins 24 other metro local governments as statement signatories.