by Conan Tait

How a crucial community consultation is being conducted

Mayor Holborow displayed the skills of a top King’s Counsel when she questioned the chair of the Coastal Advisory Group, the Rt Hon Jim Bolger on the CAG‘s approach to science at the Kapiti Coast District Council’s Strategy, Operations and Finance Committee meeting of 8 June [viewable here] where CAG reported back to KCDC.

Background — Role of CAG

KCDC has started the process for having provisions concerning the coast incorporated in the District Plan. CAG is stage one in the process. CAG is meant to get the community’s views on what the district plan should provide if there is sea level rise and threats to the coastline. The KCDC website says of CAG “A coastal advisory panel of iwi partners, community and agency representatives will lead our community’s conversation about the coastal hazard risks of sea-level rise etc.”

‘Belief’ is what matters to CAG 

The Mayor asked if:

1. CAG would listen to the range of scientific evidence, and:

2. would it approach the evidence in an objective and logically reasoned way.

Jim Bolger did not directly answer the questions but said when weighing up a matter the ultimate decision rested on belief. He gave a rather incomprehensible example saying that the Mayor would get a report from her CEO and then would decide “on what we believe are the right decisions”.

What of science?  Bolger said he had extensive dealing with scientists having been  a University chancellor for 12 years.  Scientists did not agree and they had different views. He said that CAG could “not wait for experts to agree”. CAG apparently has this sorted. There will be a 2100 mm sea level rise for planning purposes! CAG member Prof. M. Manning has been reported by Stuff as saying “From a risk management perspective, councils should be looking at 2 metres by [the year] 2100″. It could be called the 2100 x 2100 Rule.

In contrast to that claim, the latest IPCC (International Committee on Climate Change) data say over the next century the likely global mean sea level is predicted to rise by 28–55 mm if overall temperature rises 1.5 degrees Celcius. If warming is 1.8C, then sea levels are predicted to rise 32–62 mm.

Iwi Perspective is the Guiding Principle 

The terms of reference for CAG require it to draw on indigenous knowledge. Bolger affirmed this principle saying, “We [the CAG] take Iwi perspective as it is more protective of the environment”.

CAG identifies ‘biased’ submitters 

Bolger indicated the CAG looks at people’s backgrounds to determine whether they are just biased propagandists. A resident (who holds a Masters Degree in coastal science) spoke to the committee and submitted that all relevant science should be considered and the District Plan provisions should deal with what is ‘likely’ to occur with global warming, not provide for what is unlikely.

Jim Bolger made a personal attack on the submitter suggesting that because the man had once worked at an oil company (the oil industry contributing most to global warming, says Bolger), what he said must be dismissed as biased and the submitter was trying “urge on council a softer position on climate change.” Jim Bolger did not define ‘soft’.

Jim Bolger emphasised the CAG committee needed to know the background of a person submitting to it so CAG could weed out bias.

For those expecting CAG to listen to what the community thinks, Jim Bolger’s disclosure of how CAG is there to identify as biased any submission that the CAG committee does not agree with, renders the whole process little more than a farce. If CAG will only report on what it has predetermined is the right view on protecting the coast then why pretend to be listening to what residents say?