Dunedin Mayoral Hopefuls Do The (Climate) Denial Twist


I’m aware that there are still people in denial about man made climate change, and as such the urgent need to change our energy habits to slow it down to safer levels. Some of them are in genuine disbelief, which is a shame, but to some extent their coming on board is hindered by an even louder lobby of people who refuse to get off the fossil fuel gravy train. Extraction industries are the most lucrative in the history of money, so it makes sense that anyone with ties to the stock market scene would be reluctant to give this up. The motives of the three percent of scientists who make a living rebutting IPCC Reports (pre-emptively or otherwise) may be best left up to the imagination.

In the New Zealand political sphere, though, denial is a pretty fringe approach. They may disagree on scale, urgency, or the best solutions, but in New Zealand the political consensus seems to be that man made climate change exists, it is affecting our planet and we need to change our habits before we plummet into environmental oblivion. Imagine my surprise, then, that at least four of the nine contenders for Mayor of Dunedin would fit this category?

Lee Vandervis couldn’t wait to show me his graph that explained the cyclic nature of global temperature patterns stretched out over 5 million years. “What we really should be worried about”, he said gravely, “is global freezing.”

Former Act Party list MP Hilary Calvert – whose then leader Rodney Hide was an advocate for the coded denial of Going Back To First Principles  – said her biggest gripe with the new Toitu Otago Settlers Museum was the bit about climate change because she “couldn’t see what that had to do with settlers”.

Olivier Lequeux is convinced, due to the environmental principles of the Nazi Party, that the “Green fascist lie is responsible for the deaths of 6+ million Jews”. He brought a portrait of Hitler to a Mayoral Forum and introduced him as the “world’s first ecologist”.

Former United Future list candidate and prolific blog commenter Pete George has consistently refused to answer my question “Do you believe man made climate change is real and we need to take urgent action to address it”. Which is funny, given part of his platform is being more open and engaging on social media platforms. I have taken his refusal to answer as a no.

I’m not sure of golf professional Andrew Whiley’s stance on climate change issues, but he is a cheerleader for the oil and gas industry and last night urged that we took a softly, slowly approach to any action to reduce our impact on the environment. The reticence and cargo cultism would put him squarely in the If You’re Not Part Of The Solution You’re Part Of The Problem camp.

Kevin Dwyer has suggested current Councillor Jinty MacTavish – a strong lobbyist for climate action – go live on an island commune somewhere and let the real world get on with it.

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One of the main reasons I decided to stand for public office was to give a strong voice to solutions for the greatest challenge our society currently faces: Taking our role as kaitiaki seriously enough that future generations get to inherit both this great planet and that great responsibility. Many of my fellow candidates talk longingly about how their grandchildren had to leave the country to find work, but ignore the fact that if they continue to consume as they have always done, there may not be anything left for my grandchildren at all. They treat environmental protection as (at best) a luxury we can’t afford or (at worst) a perversion of the rights of big business to do whatever it damn well pleases. It is selfish and short-sighted thinking at a time when we need strong leadership and bold ideas to face up to the challenges, and seize the opportunities, of becoming a 21st Century City / Country / Global Community.


  1. What on earth?

    These people are a disgrace.

    Good on you Aaron for making a stand on principle and taking the fight into this bear pit, which seems to be infested with greasy self serving corporate politicians on the make, who all know what to say to keep the corporates happy.

  2. I need a right of reply here.

    Pete George has consistently refused to answer my question “Do you believe man made climate change is real and we need to take urgent action to address it”.

    That’s a blatant lie – Aaron has never asked me that. If he has put the question to me I have never been aware of it.

    I believe climate change is real, and we should be taking action. There is legitimate debate about what sort of action should be taken.

    • Pete, I asked you via Twitter on August 31st and September 2nd, and reminded you again on September 8th. You never replied. Considering a large part of your platform is better consultation and engagement by way of social media, it seems a shame you were reluctant to do exactly that. I have sent you screenshots of them, and I would appreciate a retraction / apology from you.

      • I don’t recall seeing that on Twitter, that’s a fleeting environment and easy to miss things if you’re busy elsewhere.

        I have never refused to answer, and that’s what you have claimed.

        • Just so its clear – the first piece of italicised text in your first comment is a quote from this blog. Is the second piece of italicised text your answer to the question?

            • Just to clarify Pete, does that mean you accept the evidence that climate change is largely caused by human activity with the inference that we must all make significant changes in lifestyle to address it – particularly those with a high carbon footprint like NZers?

              • That’s not how I see it. There is a large amount of evidence suggesting human activity affects the climate, and far less contrary evidence.

                But it is far from certain how much we affect it, how much we might affect it, and what the effects might be.

                There will also be both negative and positive effects – if the run of mild winters are not seasonal variations and are caused by climate change then it’s quite nice not to have as many frosts.

                It is also not certain whether we can reverse any effects, at all or by reducing our carbon emissions. It’s certain that whatever we do in New Zealand we will have very little if any impact on the climate.

                So I am far from convinced that making major lifestyle changes here is necessary or would be effective.

                I do think we should in any case do what we can to move as quickly as possibility towards sustainability and lower pollution. I have done a number of things on a personal level on this.

                • Sounds like climate denial to me. That shifty ‘suuuuure’ and then the ‘but’. Deniers like Pete here have had to back down in the overwhelming science to admit something is happening but conveniently weak enough to do nothing.

                  Same old denial spin, same old denial charm.

        • Pete, you may not recall seeing it, but it was put out there. Hence your accusation of Aaron being a liar is demonstrably false.

          The original tweets are available: https://twitter.com/MrAaronHawkins/status/373689037199917056

          This is why an apology would be appropriate.

          Aaron also needs to apologise for making the assumption in the first place, but it did at least catch your attention.

          Pete, you said that you’re trying to engage more with social media. You may wish to make the Mentions/Replies column in what ever twitter client you’re using the default view. That will show a filtered list where your account is mentioned in the tweets. For the nature of what you’re trying to do it makes sense.

          It would also have prevented this sort of thing from happening. 🙂

  3. Global warming is a scam to tax you even further into debt. Any politician that advocates anything good for the planet is lying through their teeth and cannot be trusted.

    Now the global climate change scar-mongers have to come up with a reverse plan, that is the planet is cooling, probably because Co2 is an important ingredient for climate stability.

  4. I have a scientist friend who argues it was atmospheric nuclear weapons testing that kicked off the ‘ global warming ‘ phenomenon by starting a dire and unstoppable chemical chain reaction which lead to ozone depletion .
    ( The explosions caused immense amounts of light to be released which gave rise to chlorine which in turn destroyed ozone . )
    Those , so called ‘ ozone holes ‘ eventually emigrated to the Poles and the rest is history/herstory . He’s not a politician , he’s only a scientist so what would he know right ? ( BSc with honours in Zoology . ) I’m damned if I can find the link to his article written and published in ‘ The News ‘ Westport . 19 September 2012 . OMG ! That’s exactly one year ago today ! Well I never .

    The last words spoken by the second to last man alive on Earth will be ‘ Fill er up mate . ‘

    If you want to stop Global Warming , you must bring down the Bankers . All of them .
    Barter or cash only , become a ‘ Fixer ‘ and grow your own . And have you seen this little gem ? Toyota and Honda are all woop de do about their hybrid petrol / electric cars of today . However , back in 2006 …

    • As far as I know, the warming trend we’ve recently seen began around 1850, after the previous cooler period known as the “little ice age”, which would make his claim absurd. I guess he picks some much more modern date for the start.

    • BSc with honours in Zoology

      So not a climate scientist then?

      When you need to take your car in for a service would you take it to a mechanic or a plumber? Just asking.

      Because this is what you’re doing here.

  5. Global warming or not!??..nobody has talked about the ‘Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme”..this is a bull shit “Leave it up to the Markets” monetary scam’ …Private trading firms get rich by buying and selling the rights to the carbon in other peoples(third world countries) forest and fields, investing in dubious quick-fixes and propping up polluting industries. .Quote..Its a bit like Handing control of the Earths vital natural systems over to a bunch of grinning Wall Street traders..Oh no, wait it’s exactly like that!!!.
    By the way… HOW can we hold our head up in this country in terms of reducing carbon emissions whilst at the same time our precious environment/rivers etc are being highjacked by the continued expansion of dairying!!!#*..whats more, we are forced to subsidize their irrigation schemes to boot!

  6. Thank you Aaron for this article – not just about the issues associated with climate change but also the mindset (I was going to write “mentality” or “idiocy”) of some of the other candidates for Mayor of Dunedin.

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