Auckland Council, AT, sued over RLTP's failure to reduce emissions

Source: 1News

A coalition of climate and transport advocacy groups has filed court proceedings against Auckland Transport (AT) and Auckland Council over the Regional Land Transport Plan 2021-2031 (‘RLTP’), claiming it fails to reduce emissions.

At an intersection in Denver, Colorado, exhaust pours out of a tailpipes from accelerating vehicles onto Santa Fe Drive.

The coalition, All Aboard Aotearoa, filed an application for judicial review in the High Court at Auckland today.

A lawyer representing the group says council officials adopted a transport plan that doesn't match the legal requirements to reduce emissions. 

“It is unacceptable that in 2021 New Zealand’s largest city adopts a transport plan that does nothing to address the climate crisis. Despite the fact transport accounts for almost 40 percent of Auckland's emissions, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council have produced a plan that provides for virtually no reduction in these emissions," Zoe Brentnall of Lawyers for Climate Action NZ said.

That is a clear breach of their legal obligations to prepare a plan that is in the public interest and to act for the benefit of existing and future communities."

According to the RLTP's forecasting, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions) would have increased by 2031 as a result of Auckland's growing population.

"Our transport modelling forecasts that Auckland’s per capita transport emissions will reduce by 13 per cent between 2016 and 2031. However, the 22 per cent increase in population over the same period means that the region’s total emissions are expected to increase by six per cent between 2016 and 2031," it said.

Bevan Woodward, an independent transport planner who is part of the coalition, says lawyers acting for the group confirmed parties were served at 3pm today.

He says the step to lodge proceedings follows "a series of meetings and submissions to try and get them on board with what needs to happen".

He says "fundamentally the problem is they are planning for an increase of six per cent" and there has not been a response from AT to meet the legal obligations outlined in section 14 of the The Land Transport Management Act ".

While the council cannot control populations, Woodward says “their job is to plan around the projected growth in population and manage greenhouse gas emissions".

"In this case, the law is clear, they are required to reduce GHG emissions from transport," Woodward said.

"With AT still wanting to build more roads and them saying this will reduce emissions - that's patently untrue."

Public consultation on the RLTP took place between March and May this year. More than 5,800 submissions were received.

The top themes were that more investment was required to address climate change, discourage car use, and improve public transport, walking and cycling.

An overwhelming number asking for Penlink and Mill Road to be removed. Auckland Council’s own climate plan, Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan, calls for a 64 per cent reduction in gross transport emissions by 2030, from 2016 levels.

The group says even with planned Government interventions in the form of Clean Car Standards and biofuels improvements, only a one per cent reduction would be achieved.

"This is still well short of the 64 per cent decrease required by the Auckland Climate Plan," the group said.

The RLTP was passed in June this year after public consultation closed in May.

Earlier this year, All Aboard commenced Court proceedings against Waka Kotahi/NZTA and the Government in relation to a project that would have widened Mill Road. That project has since been abandoned by the Government, citing cost and climate change concerns.

Auckland Transport and Auckland Council have been approached for comment.