The High Court has ruled in favour of Hauraki Coromandel Climate Action Inc (HCCA) which sought a judicial review of the decision of the Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) to refuse to sign the Local Government Leaders Climate Declaration.
The Court has ruled that TCDC’s decision was unlawful and has ordered TCDC to reconsider its decision in light of the decision-making provisions in the Local Government Act, the Council’s own Significant and Engagement Policy, and the Court judgment.
This is a very significant victory for climate action. The judgment sends a very strong message to TCDC that decisions about climate change are highly significant and must be taken seriously. It may also set a legal precedent which some other councils must consider.
The Court found that decisions about climate change by public decision-makers will be scrutinised by the Courts with similar intensity to that applied in cases where fundamental human rights are concerned. TCDC’s failures were significant by any measure.
Despite repeated requests at Public Forum by HCCA members, the Council discounted evidence that the Thames Coromandel District could be severely impacted by sea level rise, coastal flooding and erosion, landslides, fire, drought and adverse effects on biodiversity and biosecurity. Nor did the Council give any serious consideration as to how it might mitigate climate change by reducing its own emissions.
This abdication by TCDC of its responsibility to acknowledge the significance of the climate crisis, the need for strong climate action, and not signing the Declaration is what led the Court to find that TCDC’s decision “was inconsistent with the requirements under the Local Government Act and its Policy to carry out analysis and considering consultation.”
The Court decision has important climate action implications for other councils in New Zealand.
The Declaration outlines key commitments councils will take in responding to the opportunities and risks posed by climate change. The Court has ruled that in some circumstances this may create a legitimate expectation that councils which have signed the Declaration will deliver on the council commitments to take meaningful action in relation to climate change. Failure to adhere to the commitments could potentially lead to that council facing a legal challenge.
Other councils which have refused to sign the Declaration may now come under renewed scrutiny from their constituents.
here is a link to the judgement –