APPLAUSE sounded at a packed Moyne Shire Council meeting as councillors narrowly voted to declare a climate emergency.
The 30-member audience gathered for the outcome of a motion by Cr Jordan Lockett, who successfully directed Moyne Shire to strengthen its position on climate change.
Four members of the audience addressed the council and spoke of the rigor of scientists' climate predictions and the threats to the region's farmers, coastal and bushfire-prone communities, and wider nation.
Councillors Jill Parker, Colin Ryan and Mick Wolfe supported the motion, which recongised extreme weather events, coastal erosion and sea level rise would "likely" impact the shire.
It also required council officers examine how plans, policies and works can address climate change, while directing the council to lobby state and federal government to also announce an emergency.
"The future belongs to those who prepare for it today," Cr Lockett said.
But Cr Jim Doukas opposed the motion stating he was unconvinced by scientists' climate change predictions.
"There's a lot of things out there that aren't factual," Cr Doukas said.
He questioned what people who "lived and breathed" climate change issues did about the issue, and whether the council could afford or achieve the outcomes in the motion.
"It's all well to talk about it and say everyone else should do something but what do you actually do about it?" Cr Doukas said.
"I think what councillor Lockett has in front of us is too much too soon."
Councillors Daniel Meade and Ian Smith also opposed the motion and pushed for a watered down amendment that removed the council's advocacy to state and federal government.
"I'd like us to (only) concentrate on what we can do here at the Moyne Shire to help our residents and ratepayers adapt to the changing seasons," Cr Meade said.
Cr Parker, who seconded the motion, said its outcomes were positive for the shire's environment, economy and wellbeing even if future evidence was to show "it isn't a climate emergency".
Cr Mick Wolfe, who had the deciding vote at the end of a 35-minute debate, supported the motion and said that Cr Lockett had "enlightened" his definition of emergency.
"There is a very united front throughout Australia. We are not only looking after our own patch, we are looking after Australia and we are looking after the world with the action we are taking here tonight," Cr Wolfe said.
"We do need them (state and federal government) to realise Australia, and Moyne included in that, is in a climate emergency, they need to declare it."
Sixty-five Australian councils have reportedly declared a climate emergency, including Warrnambool City Council this month.
Rosebrook's Genevieve Grant addressed the meeting, and said afterwards she was "very happy with the decision".
"I feel somewhat more positive, I still feel very fearful though of the enormous job before us and galvanising people," she said.
Purnim's Geoff Rollinson, who spoke on behalf of the Climate Emergency Declaration South-West group at the meeting, said it was important the council followed up with practical actions.
"We were confident Warrnambool would declare an emergency, but we weren't confident Moyne would," he said afterwards.
"When the mayor indicated his support we knew we'd achieved the vote."
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