Lord Mayor Martin Haese admits he is an unlikely climate convert but the former General Manager of the Rundle Mall Authority says the City of Adelaide’s quest to become the world’s first carbon neutral city is an “enormous opportunity”.
Haese, who defeated Stephen Yarwood to become Lord Mayor late last year, says his “climate penny dropped” in March when the Secretary General of the UN’s Climate Change Unit, Christiana Figueres, was in Adelaide to present to a group of environment ministers. She told the group that the world is currently witnessing a levelling-off of greenhouse gas emissions for the first time in human history and emissions are expected to fall next year. The reason for the drop? Technology. “She went on to explain how that [green technology] improves the competiveness of cities and countries, and creates jobs,” says Haese. “So, I had this ah-ha moment.” Haese says the City of Adelaide’s emissions have dropped by 19 percent since 2007, thanks to technology. With 80 percent of the city’s emissions coming from the commercial sector and 20 percent from residents, Council introduced a Sustainability Incentive Scheme (SIS), which includes grants of up to $5000 to install green initiatives. The founder of Youthworks says he is out there spruiking SIS to local businesses and a number have adopted the schemes. “If I say to business, ‘Do you believe in climate change?’ They’ll either say yes, no or they are ambivalent. If I say, ‘Do you believe in energy efficiency and saving costs?’ I’ve never met anyone who says no.” Haese believes the City of Adelaide should aim to be carbon neutral by 2020. “I think we should strive for it. I think we need to set that goal and send that very clear message that – for the brand, the reputation of the City of Adelaide, the competiveness of the city and for the liveabiliity of the city – we need to strive like hell to achieve it. I would like us to be the first national capital to do it. We would need to do it sooner than later as the competition will intensify.” Will the current initiatives be enough for Adelaide to reach its carbon neutral goal by 2020? Will what we’ve got now – the million dollar Greener Streets initiative, the incentives program (SIS) and a whole range of policy positions – be enough to get us there? No, it won’t. We need to do more. If we want to get there by say 2020, we need to do more. We need to work hand-in-glove with the State Government. And we are.” Haese’s mayoral campaign last year featured a back to basics focus on infrastructure. He also wanted to encourage big business to invest in the city and better resource council’s support for small business. There was a perception that the former head of the Rundle Mall Authority represented business and ‘old Adelaide’ while his predecessor, Stephen Yarwood, represented the new ‘vibrant Adelaide’ that emerged thanks to activated laneways, popup bars and food trucks. “Am I pro-business? Absolutely. Am I pro-entrepreneurship? Absolutely. I don’t know how entrepreneurship and business ever became old Adelaide. God help us if it does. I’m unashamedly pro-progress. I’m unashamedly pro-business. I’m unashamedly pro-investment, technology, youth retention and vibrancy because none of that is bad for the city as far as I can see. “This is not about old Adelaide vs new Adelaide,” continues Haese. “This is about the Adelaide of today vs the Adelaide of tomorrow and what kind of city we are going to build. We need more of our businesses exporting and we have to play a leadership role. I’m hugely passionate about a city of firsts. Adelaide needs to be a city of firsts. And whether that’s technology, tourism, conferencing, climate or start-ups – it doesn’t matter. Whether that’s livability, whether that’s design, the arts, recreation or sport – do it here first. A city of firsts, that’s critical.” As part of Haese’s back to basics approach, a raft of infrastructure upgrades will be carried out. This also means that Stage 2 of Victoria Square won’t be completed in the near future. “Victoria Square will go ahead,” Haese says. “But Victoria Square will not go ahead in the short term.” Haese says that Victoria Square is a “good project” but for now Council needs to focus on infrastructure projects. “I’m talking public lighting, footpaths, verges, roundabouts, bridges, roads and linemarking. It’s not sexy. It’s not glamorous. But it’s essential. Haese believes that first-class infrastructure is good for residents and business and once that is completed, Council will return to Victoria Square. Will it be a modi fied version? “ The full enchilada is $100 million,” he says. “Stage 2 can be done for $25 million which will make it a $50 million project in two chunks. At this point I can’t answer the question. We can’t do a $100 million project on our own.” To complete the “full enchilada” Haese says they will need financial support. “We need help from someone. If we can’t get it we would logically do a Stage 2 to bring it up to standard of Stage 1.” In line with greening the city is encouraging workers and residents to use public transport, cycle and walk. “We would like to see more trams through the city, and spurs going out into the suburbs. We think that’s got great potential bene fit for the city. Trams take pressure of cars. People love trams. We are for the extension of the tram network. We know it’s capital intensive but it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the economy.” On the O-Bahn extension, Haese says the revised State Government project will bring people into the city faster and more e fficiently. “ That was the overriding lens for the whole debate. The ‘what’ was never beyond dispute. It then became the ‘how’. This is how I framed it with Minister [Stephen] Mullighan. The government had a proposed plan. We were a little uncomfortable with how that plan was going to impact the park lands. We worked with the government on a plan b, and the water found its level and the plan was modi fied. We are very thankful to Mr Mullighan. It is a better outcome for park lands. There is an impact but it is a short-term impact during construction. Everything will be reset and re-landscaped, it’s underground. Much better than it otherwise was.” Haese has been critical of the Frome Street bikeway in the past but this does not mean he is anti-cycling. “My concern about the Frome Street bikeway is not the segregated bike lane. It never has been. I’m pro-segregated bike lanes. My concern about Frome Street is the design and balance of the infrastructure. I think we got a Yo-Yo biscuit when we could have got a deluxe biscuit. If that was to be the model of rolling out bikelane infrastructure, I don’t support it in that design. It’s a design discussion. I would like to see an east-west, and north-south corridor for bike lanes across the city. It’s a good idea but not in that design. And that’s the whole debate. Many elected members would agree. “Some more scurrilous elements of the media attempted to polarise this debate by virtue of the fact we wanted to relay some concrete, it means we must be anti-cycling. It’s utter rubbish. We think it can be designed better. Our own administration would absolutely agree that it can be designed better. “My view, would you roll it out like that? No way. Would you roll it out in another form, in a better form? Yes, I would.” Does Haese know what that form is? “Administration is working on it now. When you’re in this job you’ve got to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. I’m not going to pretend to be a tra ffic management expert. There are great examples in the world. I don’t think this would be in the category of great examples around the world to be honest. I want people to say, ‘ at’s fantastic cycling infrastructure. Have you seen what they’re doing in Adelaide?’ They’re not saying that now. We can do it better. We can do it much better. We undersell ourselves. Near enough is not good enough in my view.”