8 August 2023

Debate sees changes to Net Zero roadmap as it goes out for public comment

| Jarryd Rowley
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Wagga Wagga City Councillor Richard Foley

Wagga Wagga City Councillor Richard Foley led the push for changes to council’s Net Zero roadmap. Photo. Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Wagga Wagga City Council’s Net Zero 2050 roadmap will now go out for public submissions after last night’s vote to alter the resolution of the original document.

While the unamended roadmap was narrowly passed during last month’s meeting, a rescission motion brought the council back to the table to reconsider.

The approved motion reaffirms the intent of the roadmap as a guide to members of the community to reduce their own carbon footprint and not a policy or basis for the future consideration of fees or charges.

The motion also asks for a report summarising the feedback and submissions.

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Cr Richard Foley led the decision to rescind the document following concerns that the roadmap could inflict hidden fees onto businesses and individuals who do not comply with the roadmap’s suggestions.

Councillors debated for just under an hour on the intended use of the document, with most councillors agreeing it would be used as a guide and not to force compliance.

Councillors, including Cr Foley, sought clarification as to whether the decision made on Monday night (7 August) could prevent future councils from inflicting penalties.

WWCC General Manager Peter Thompson explained that while the decision wouldn’t introduce the means to hand out penalties, future councils may decide to introduce a net zero policy that could.

Council had one guest speaker, Dr Gordon Murray, a local climate activist, who spoke in favour of the new motion.

“It’s vital that the purpose of the community Net Zero roadmap is understood by residents,” Dr Murray said.

“It’s important that it is not undermined by uninformed and alarmist comments. The additional paragraphs (the alterations to the roadmap) clarify what is in the draft resolution, that it is a roadmap of choices for each of us, individually and as a community.”

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Of the nine councillors, Cr Jenny McKinnon was the only member to vote against the changes.

Cr McKinnon said she believed the document was clearly presented as a set of non-mandatory guidelines with no fees or charges attached and that the original recommendation for the roadmap, which was formed by a public forum last year, should be the document that’s up for community submissions.

“The original document should go forward so that the public exhibition process will be the vehicle for community impact and feedback rather than a distortion of the process which would be achieved by the rescission motion,” she said.

Councillors ultimately voted 8 – 1 in favour of the changes to the document with public submissions open from 11 August to 22 September.

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