Updated: May 6

✦ Calls for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to hold fast to its climate change policy and show leadership. This was raised as a key priority with residents and regional leaders at a community forum on April 28.

The forum debated climate issues and its complexities and aimed to normalise the need for sensible action on climate change.

Residents, and others who joined via livestream, participated in a robust discussion with a panel of respected Port Macquarie-Hastings community representatives, health and science experts.

The event was prompted by Port Macquarie-Hastings councillors Lauren Edwards, Lisa Intemann, Nik Lipovac and Rachel Sheppard in response to a council proposal to revoke its Climate Change Response Policy. This proposal follows a recent decision by council to rescind its previous Climate Emergency Declaration.

Crs Edwards, Intemann, Lipovac and Sheppard believe the open community discussion on climate change will empower residents to have conversations about the proposed removal of council’s Climate Change Response Policy, discuss concerns respectfully, debate solutions and ultimately engage in individual and collective action to address climate change at the local level.

The four councillors were unable to attend the start of this event as they were fulfilling their duties at an extraordinary council meeting.

Panellists on the night were:

  • Dr Gordon Burch - former SCAS chairman, scientist, representative on numerous community organisation/committee roles.

  • Teresa Cochrane – proud young Dunghutti/Gumbaynggirr woman studying environmental science and management at CSU.

  • Dr Angela Frimberger - Chamber of Commerce member, Deputy Chair Veterinarians for Climate Action.

  • Peter Johnson – board member of Eco-Tourism Australia, owner of Diamond Waters Eco Resort, Camden Haven.

  • Dr Georgia Ritchie – medical oncologist at Mid North Coast Local Health District (MNCLHD) Cancer Institute.

  • Brian Tierney – long-time local developer and active Port Macquarie-Hastings community and committee member

  • Leslie Williams - State Member of Parliament for Port Macquarie.

Panelists at climate change community forum in Port Macquarie as featured on Brilliant-Online
Panelists at climate change community forum in Port Macquarie

Submissions were received from concerned citizens

The Medical Staff Council - Port Macquarie Base Hospital submitted an open letter acknowledging climate change is a ‘health emergency’. Signed by 130 local medical professionals, the letter supports the broader concerns of the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

“We call on local, state and federal government to work together to develop robust climate and health policy that draws on the expertise of national and international bodies,” the open community letter said.“This policy should include plans to monitor and undertake research into the health impacts of climate change including air pollution, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases and mental health effects, and how to best respond to the emerging health crisis.”

Panellists comments

Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams said the community is looking for real leadership on the issue of climate change.

“This is what our community expects. I am bewildered and perplexed as to why you would rescind a Climate Change Response Policy only ratified by the council in October last year,” Mrs Williams said.

Mrs Williams said it is ‘ironic’ councillors were called into an extraordinary meeting on the same night as the forum to discuss, among other issues, council’s Think 2050 strategic plan – a plan developed after comprehensive community engagement. Among the key priorities from that consultation was a call from the community for council to take more action on climate change.

“I have a huge amount of faith in this community. If council rescind this climate change policy, we are just going to continue without them,” she said.

Mrs Williams encouraged the four councillors who prompted the forum to stay resilient.

Brian Tierney strongly opposes the policy proposal saying it is incumbent on council to do the right thing for future generations and accept that climate change is a reality.

“When I became aware the council planned to revoke its climate change response policy, I fired off a response… I’m firmly against it. It doesn’t make sense to me that councillors, who have a duty of care to the public, could consider supporting such a proposal,” Mr Tierney said.

“Council needs to go back, rethink and start again. Please don’t leave our community, our people, our children, their children and the generations that follow, to face inevitable climate change without a broadly respected response policy – it’s the right thing to do. It’s incumbent on the council to be a leader and show leadership.”

Dr Georgia Ritchie said climate action is crucial for good health and joined the chorus of her medical colleagues on declaring it a ‘health emergency’.

“It should not be a divisive political issue, it should be a bipartisan issue and we should be working together as a community to address this,” Dr Ritchie said.

“We can do that – we’ve gone through a global pandemic, we stood together as a community.

“If we stand together now, we can enjoy the wins in bettering the health of our communities into the future.”

Peter Johnson said council and the community risk falling behind many other regions who have embraced the opportunities that exist in good climate policy.