Canterbury flooding: Emotional Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins breaks down during climate change speech

Dunedin City Mayor Aaron Hawkins broke down during a speech on climate change when he delivered a message about the burden of the Canterbury floods.

Hawkins, New Zealand's first Mayor from the Green Party, delivered the speech at the Dunedin City Council on Tuesday - during deliberations for the city's 10-year-plan.

He spoke about planning for Dunedin's future transport network and how "one of the biggest challenges" the climate action movement faced was "generating support" for alternative transport methods.

"But one of the few direct, tangible things that we can do as a local authority in contributing to that work is through the transport network and the contribution that can make to our zero-carbon goals are obvious," he told councillors.

Hawkins, who doesn't drive, acknowledged the inconvenience for residents to not use their own car. 

But it was after that he became emotional when linking the transport issue to the Canterbury floods: "God, sorry," he said, having to pause for a moment. 

"I can speak to this with some authority; is it convenient to not drive a private motor vehicle? Absolutely not - but I tell you what's less convenient, is having your… God, sorry… What is less convenient is being separated from your family… and your places of business and your friends and social connections, by way of extreme weather events like we have seen in Canterbury."

Hawkins said those weather events would become more frequent in a "less stable environment".

Aaron Hawkins.
Aaron Hawkins. Photo credit: Dunedin City Council

"I do want to remind people of the social implications of the decisions that we make around our transport network because those who seek to entrench the status quo and the people it serves - it's giving tacit endorsement to those who are excluded from the status quo."

He said the council needed to show its commitment to "social and environmental wellbeing".

"This set of [transport] projects is an obvious place for us to do that."

The council voted in favour of the proposed $53 million 10-year transport plan, which includes bike hubs, bus lanes, as well as park and ride facilities. 

Earlier in the meeting, Dunedin City councillor Lee Vandervis described it as an "obscenely expensive $53 million ideological splurge".