Last Sunday (Nov. 8) marked 500 days since Hutt City Council declared a ‘climate change emergency’. We’ve made progress on a number of fronts but if we want to accelerate action on projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions/boost resilience ahead of sea level rise, etc., the next few months are important.
Councillors are debating priorities for the Long-Term Annual Plan (2021-2031), which goes out for public consultation March-April next year. Any significant future spending needs to be budgeted for. We know Council will have to significantly increase our investment in 3 Waters infrastructure (stormwater, drinking water, sewerage), and there’s a risk that will squeeze out other priorities.
A report released in June this year shows that gross greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) dropped by 11% across Lower Hutt between 2001 and 2019 and there has been a 19% drop in emissions on a per capita basis. But much more effort is needed by our city – and the rest of New Zealand – if we’re to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Leaving it all to latter decades makes the task progressively more difficult.
Lower Hutt contributed 13% of the Wellington region’s total gross emissions. Transport continues to be the biggest source of emissions in our city, comprising almost 56% of total gross emissions. Electricity and gas consumption is the second largest emitter at around 31%.
Take a look below at what’s been achieved so far/is being worked on. Is it enough? What are the gaps? What other climate change initiatives would you like to see Hutt City Council tackle? Please add your suggestions in a comment below, or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Under the new waste and recycling contract just announced, from July next year half the fleet of trucks running kerbside collections will be electric (100% EV by 2024). The move to one contract will mean there will be fewer collection trucks on the road. 957 tonnes of carbon emissions will be avoided each year for the 11 EV trucks that will be on the road in July 2021 equating to the annual emissions of 473 cars or flying 7,500 people from Wellington to Auckland.
- Council’s vehicle fleet has been reduced by eight vehicles, to 72, thanks to pooling, analysis of trip trends, and electric bikes being available for shorter trips.
- Fourteen vehicles (19% of the fleet) are now fully electric and the roll-out of 15 fleet charging stations is complete, catering for future EV growth.
- To encourage more residents to make the switch from petrol and diesel vehicles, as part of Long-Term Plan considerations councillors will consider an option to invest around $300,000 in extending the network of public EV charging stations to locations outside libraries, swimming pools, hubs and at other strategic locations in suburban centres. Revenue from charging fees could be re-invested in further additions to the network, based on demand.
- Under a mandatory directive from government, developers of any new building no longer have to provide off-street parking. We are also required by the government to allow for housing intensification (buildings of six storeys or more) around railway stations.
- Air travel – Council is monitoring use of air travel by staff, with a view to reducing it. In light of the increased use of remote video conferencing such as MS Teams and ZOOM since the emergency of COVID-19, it is possible that future air travel emissions will be significantly lower than in the past.
- Around 50% of the city’s carbon emissions comes from vehicle use. We have huge health problems arising from obesity and lack of physical activity, and costs of petrol, car buying, repair and insurance add to debt spirals. That’s why the Council is investing heavily in safer cycleways to encourage our residents to leave the car behind whenever they can.
- The Wainuiomata Hill Shared Path cost $12.3m, with HCC paying $5.2m and the rest covered by Waka Kotahi/NZTA. It’s getting a lot of use.
- We have a similar cost sharing arrangement with Waka Kotahi for the $7 million ‘Beltway’ central and northern sections. The Beltway is an off-road 2.5m wide shared path now taking shape along rail corridor land between Waterloo Interchange and Wingate. A southern section from Waterloo to link with the Wainuiomata Hill Path is still at design stage.
- With 90% funding from the government, we’re also running a trial of cycle/micromobility lanes on either side of Knights Rd from the interchange to Bunny St. This is due to open in the first quarter of 2021. Other cycleways to link the Beltway with schools, the hospital and the river trails are in planning stages.
- We intend more than doubling spending on footpath upgrades, and smoothing gutter crossings at street corners to make it easier not just for those using wheelchairs, scooters, mobility scooters and prams, but also for our elderly pedestrians.
- In August this year, the government announced it would inject $15 million of ‘shovel ready’ project funding into our $28.7m Eastern Bays Shared Path. Long in the planning but delayed because of the growing cost, the 4.4 km path will run along Marine Drive in two sections: between Point Howard and the northern end of Days Bay, and the southern end of Days Bay (Windy Point) to Eastbourne (Muritai Road/Marine Parade intersection). The design will include seawall improvements designed to push back waves during storm events. Work is expected to start early in 2021 and continue through until 2026.
- Council is supporting a new ‘Free Rides’ bike scheme in Naenae. Read more, here.
- An Energy and Carbon Reduction Plan 2020-24 now in place. The aim is a a 30% reduction in carbon emissions at Council’s facilities (gas and electricity used in libraries, halls, pools, hubs, etc) by 2024.
- Officers are finalising business cases for switching Eastbourne, Huia and Stokes Valley Pools from gas to electric heat pump technology. If we can avoid needing to replace or upgrade the existing gas meter at Huia pool, and install a heat pump, operational cost savings could be in the order of $38,000 per year, with cuts to emissions of about 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.
- We installed an after-hours cover over the main outdoor pool at Petone’s McKenzie Baths at the start of the 2019/20 summer. Estimates of savings of 233,100 kWh ($16,600) and 51 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (reducing that pool’s carbon emissions by about 60%) are on track.
- Work is also under way regarding the business case for a pool cover at Wainuiomata pool, potentially saving up to 60tonnesCO2e per season.
- For the new Naenae Pool + Fitness Centre we’re investigating low carbon heating options and the use of the NZ Green Building Council’s GreenStar building rating tool.
- Council has included in the Statement of Intent for its property company, Urban Plus, that all new housing units it builds from July 1 this year have a Homestar (insulation, etc) design rating of at least six stars.
- Council owns Silverstream landfill, where some of the methane (a potent greenhouse gas) from rotting organic matter is captured for use in a gas to electricity-generation plant.
- Unfortunately, the landfill’s 2020 calendar year emissions will likely be significantly higher than previous years, possibly up to 30,000 tCO2e. This is because of disruption to plant operations in the first half of 2020, in turn caused by disruptions associated with the change of ownership of the power plant from Pioneer Energy to LMS Energy, and LMS Energy’s inability to enter NZ as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
- To better cater for any such future disruptions, and to capture a great level of the methane that escapes the collection system for the gas to electricity plant, a flare is to be installed at the landfill – hopefully before the end of 2020 – to burn off excess methane. This would help Council avoid future ETS liabilities, and a side benefit is improved odour control at the landfill, with cost savings.
- On a region wide basis, investigations continue on the optimum way to collect/compost organic waste and green waste from households. Any initiative is more likely to be cost-efficient if it’s done on a regional scale, though community composting trials are also taking place in Wellington.
- In collaboration with other councils, Hutt City has a waste minimisation portal at www.sortwaste.nz, which aims to bring together resources to enable residents to make more informed decisions, including ways of minimising organic waste going to landfill.
- A Zero Carbon Plan for Lower Hutt is being worked on, in a ‘co-design’ process with the community.
- As part of the Council website update, new pages are to be added on climate change, including actions that Hutt households can take to reduce their own environmental footprint.
- With every project and paper put in front of councillors for decisions, an assessment of climate change impacts must be provided (just the same as assessments on any financial or consultation requirements).
- Climate change issues are likely to be front and centre as we get underway with a total review of the District Plan over the next 2-3 years. One of the debates is likely to be on whether we should continue to allow development of areas prone to sea level rise, and impacts of more frequent storm/flooding events. There will be ample opportunity for public input.
- Our new Energy Advisor, co-funded by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, initially for a two year pilot period, has already identified immediate cost savings. By adjusting energy tariffs payable at various facilities, Council will avoid $50,000 in annual costs. As well, some unnecessary power connections have been shut down, avoiding a further $12,000 in annual costs.
- We’re exploring carbon forestry opportunities for our reserve land. Our application to formally register the first batch of land in native recovering forest in the East Harbour Regional Park was successful. Work is now under way to assess the formal eligibility, and register other forest land owned by Council. GWRC is pursuing a plan to re-forest parts of the Belmont Regional Park currently leased for livestock grazing.
- A Councillor climate change working group has been formed to sprear-head future initiatives and keep the topic in front of the council as a whole. Terms of reference – here.