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SA councils split on "climate emergency" vote

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Marion and Adelaide City councils have knocked back calls to declare a “climate emergency” in their local government areas, after some councillors argued ratepayers should not be slogged more to tackle climate change.

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Adelaide Hills and Light Regional councils, however, were successful at passing “climate emergency” motions last night – joining 12 councils across Australia, including Gawler Town Council, which previously passed such a motion, to sign up to a global movement calling for local government action on climate change.

At last night’s city council meeting, area councillor Robert Simms was unsuccessful at passing his full raft of climate proposals.

Simms had asked that the council recognise it faces “a climate emergency that represents a serious threat to our wellbeing, economy, built infrastructure, services, water supplies, environment and reputation as a liveable city”.

His motion called on the council’s administration to investigate how it could improve water resilience and ensure an equitable distribution of trees across the city.

It also requested that Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor lobby the State Government to decarbonise the city’s free City Connector bus and to electrify its passenger vehicle fleet.

But Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad amended Simms’ motion to remove the recognition of a “climate emergency” and the request for changes to the connector bus and State Government’s passenger vehicle fleet.

Abiad said he supported sustainability measures, but he feared that ratepayers would be slugged for measures “that are within the state and federal government remit”.

“I believe in our current budget we’re spending anywhere between $3 to $5 million on such (climate change) issues,” he told the chamber.

“South Australia produces less than 0.0884 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“The City of Adelaide, with 200,000 daily visitors, produces less than 0.01 per cent of those emissions globally.

“These are issues that I value and I think are important, but I think we need to understand our role and our impact on that footprint.

“As a council, we are already reaching our limit.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

But north ward councillor Phil Martin argued against Abiad’s changes, saying “only a person prepared to be labelled a climate change denier” could oppose Simms’ original motion.

“I ask members who are thinking of opposing this to consider the embarrassment that would cloak this council by denying a climate emergency,” he said.

Simms agreed, saying Abiad’s amendment “ripped the heart out” of his original proposal.

“There are three other councils that are going to be voting on motions similar to this tonight and it would be really embarrassing if Adelaide was to come out of this meeting being the only one of the three that didn’t support declaring a climate emergency.

“It will go down like a lead balloon in the community.”

Simms garnered the support of area councillor Anne Moran, who likened Abiad’s amendment to “unpicking an unpickable motion”, but Simms was unsuccessful at convincing the majority of the council chamber, which voted in favour of Abiad’s amendment.

North ward councillor Mary Couros said she felt “very insulted that it has been twisted around that we have to vote for the original motion”.

“We are here for all ratepayers,” she said.

“I believe this amendment does support climate change.”

Couros joined councillors Jessy Khera, Arman Abrahimzadeh, Simon Hou, Franz Knoll and Alexander Hyde to vote in support of Abiad’s amendment.

City of Marion councillor Bruce Hull moved a similar “climate emergency” motion last night, but he was unsuccessful at getting the full motion through the council chamber.

Motions declaring “climate emergencies” were, however, successfully passed at Adelaide Hills and Light Regional councils.

Last night’s city council meeting also saw the council move to put its administration on notice to comply with the council’s call to “revamp” Hindley Street in a similar fashion to Rundle Mall and Rundle Street.

The call came following a raft of motions put forward by council – dating back to 2013 – which the majority of councillors argued had not been adequately addressed by council staff.

The council also voted to investigate how it could improve its customer service for people who do not speak English “with a view to fostering the adoption and understanding of English”.

South ward councillor Alexander Hyde was similarly successful at proposing that council write to the State Government to indicate that it does not support the removal of right-hand turns along King William Street, after the Government announced earlier this year that it would remove six right-hand turns under an upgrade of the tram stop and track in the city’s south.

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