Invercargill councillors have butted heads over the meaning of a single line in a climate change document, with one saying he was “dumbfounded” by his counterpart’s interpretation.

On Tuesday, Invercargill City Council endorsed Environment Southland to take the next step of gaining feedback on a proposed climate change strategy.

The piece of work was developed by a regional group consisting of four Southland councils and iwi liaison entity Te Ao Mārama Inc.

During the debate, fifth-term councillor Ian Pottinger took exception with the “accuracy” of the document, getting stuck on a section which stated: “examples of reducing emissions by sources include the reduction of waste going to landfill”.

Pottinger said the statement was incorrect because of the way Southland’s main landfill — AB Lime near Winton — collected and destroyed its emissions.

“A strategy document must be accurate … and a statement like this is, in my view, flippant.”

Deputy mayor Tom Campbell responded that his interpretation of that statement was around fuel consumption in getting waste to landfill.

“The less waste you take to landfill, the less diesel you consume by trucks taking it there,” he said.

“How do you know how far away the landfill is?” Pottinger responded, before asking for clarification from staff.

Council manager strategy policy and engagement Rhiannon Suter said it was a “high level” example that in her view referred to the end-to-end process.

Transporting waste was one of the council’s most significant carbon emission items, Suter said.

Pottinger wasn’t satisfied, saying the information should be clearer if it was going out for consultation.

“I’m dumbfounded that that statement means the pickup by the collection of waste. Unbelievable. I’ll take that as an answer, but I’m dumbfounded.”

Councillor Alex Crackett pointed out the strategy was a regional document and AB Lime was not the only landfill in the region.

Ultimately, the strategy passed with just two votes against — Barry Stewart and Ian Pottinger.

During an August meeting where feedback was sought on the working group’s aspirations and principles, Pottinger was sceptical of the science of climate change while Stewart said he didn’t believe in it “for a second”.

The strategy is yet to be presented to Environment Southland and Gore District Council for endorsement.

Feedback from the consultation period is expected to be reported back to the working group around May.

By Matthew Rosenberg, Local Democracy Reporter

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air