19 July 2023

Wagga's net zero roadmap stalls as councillors seek to ensure it's more carrot than stick

| Chris Roe
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Wagga Wagga City Councillor Richard Foley

Wagga Wagga City Councillor Richard Foley. Photo. Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

It seems the brakes have been applied in the wake of Monday’s lively debate over Wagga City Council’s proposed net zero 2050 climate roadmap.

Cr Richard Foley filed a motion of rescission on Tuesday meaning that the Draft Community NZE 2050 Roadmap document will not be put on public exhibition until it has been considered for a second time at the next council meeting.

The roadmap broadly lays out ways to engage with climate solutions and clarifies council’s role in steering the LGA towards the net zero emissions targets set by the NSW Government.

READ ALSO Temperatures rise as new net-zero roadmap leaves councillors concerned and businesses frustrated

At the meeting, Cr Foley proposed an amendment that would ensure that punitive measures would not be introduced to enforce proposed targets.

With Cr Dan Hayes absent from Monday night’s meeting, a casting vote from Mayor Dallas Tout saw the amendment defeated and council ultimately resolved to pass the roadmap.

But on reflection, Cr Foley sought to rescind the resolution and reignite the discussion.

“Look, we’ve got a very cohesive council and this is not splitting the council,” he said.

“There’s a difference of opinion about how this should be handled and I’d rather deal with it from the get-go.

“It’s clearly inculcated and stated that we’re going to include provisions that are going to ensure that there’s going to be no regulatory compliance or penalties attached to net zero, through this LGA. ”

Cr Tout said that any action from Monday’s meeting would be paused until the rescission motion is dealt with and a potential replacement resolution considered.

Wagga Councillor Michael Henderson

Wagga Wagga City Councillor Michael Henderson fears the net zero roadmap puts the cart before the horse. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Cr Mick Henderson cosigned the rescission motion along with Cr Tim Koschel and was outspoken in his opposition to the Draft Community NZE 2050 Roadmap on Monday.

“Personally, I’d rather see the whole concept be rescinded,” he said.

“I feel that it’s all too premature. We haven’t gotten past 2030 yet and the Federal Government still hasn’t even put their net zero strategy plan together.”

He said the recent notice of motion from Deputy Mayor Jenny McKinnon to halt gas connections on new dwellings was an example of trying to put the cart before the horse.

“You can’t go into a new subdivision with no gas on it; people have still got to have their own choices as to whether they want to use it or not,” he said.

“The utilities and everything is still going up and nothing’s been done about the cost of power or with the renewables strategy plan.”

Mayor Dallas Tout and Deputy Mayor Jenny McKinnon

Deputy Mayor Jenny McKinnon and Mayor Dallas Tout were among the councillors who rejected Cr Foley’s proposed amendment to the new net zero roadmap. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

Cr Foley agreed that community members should not be forced to make change and that there should instead be incentives to adopt greener options.

He’s proposing a 50-year moratorium on penalties attached to net zero strategies in the LGA.

“We’re already seeing it in some jurisdictions overseas, like in the UK, where some councils are now starting to penalise people in relation to net zero,” he said.

READ ALSO POLL: Is it time for Wagga to put gas on the back burner?

“We’re told – this is just a roadmap, it’s not the policy, but if the intent is to merely educate and assist the community to introduce cleaner energy then we should have no problem in boldly stating that.

“I’m pro environmental, but I’m certainly not looking to put this to some type of Big Brother to micromanage people if they don’t perform.”

The matter will be reconsidered when council meets again on 7 August.

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