• Climate hub
  • 3 Jun 2022
  • 4 min read

Our sustainable communities: Hamilton

Micromobility and biodiversity lead the way as Hamilton takes action to reduce its emissions

By Amy Hamilton Chadwick

Hamilton at dusk
Hamilton at dusk

How will Aotearoa achieve its goal of net carbon zero by 2050? To meet such a huge goal, every part of New Zealand has a part to play. Each city and region must make changes to reduce emissions – and every area faces its own unique challenges.

Hamilton is a fast-growing city with a young population that sits at the centre of New Zealand’s dairy industry. Our largest inland city, its location makes it a major hub for transporting goods around the country; 64% of Hamilton’s carbon emissions come from transport.

How is Hamilton, as a busy inland port, working to reduce emissions and support Aotearoa’s climate change goals?

Hamilton residents engaging in micromobility
Hamilton residents engaging in micromobility

Micromobility and connected neighbourhoods

To combat Hamilton’s high emissions from transport the Council is working to increase micromobility and get people walking, cycling and scooting round the city. They plan to make neighbourhoods more connected, so residents can easily move between home, work and leisure activities without needing to get in the car.

“As we continue to grow our city, we’re aiming to make sure that people can access what they need by walking, cycling, scooting or taking the bus,” says Poppy Barran, Sustainability and Climate Change Advisor at Hamilton City Council. “You’ll notice the cycle wands we’ve put up – those high-vis sticks – that make cyclists safer, and the footrests for cyclists at some intersections. We’re also looking at bigger projects to make intersections more pedestrian- and cycle-friendly.”

The Council’s own fleet of vehicles is also under review, with a stocktake looking at how emissions can be reduced with fewer vehicles, ridesharing and more EVs.

Tui in a tree
Tui in a tree

Goodbye boilers, hello biodiversity

Hamilton’s ‘Nature in the City’ strategy works hand in hand with its efforts to reduce transport emissions. The thirty-year planting programme builds on the restoration activity at Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, the city’s flagship project for biodiversity.

“It’s all about restoring native vegetation,” says Poppy. “It’s at 2% of the city now and we plan to increase it to 10% by 2050. That will help our resilience to climate change and it has multiple benefits – we want cycleways and walkways that showcase our gullies full of native plants. That can become your main route to work, making you feel healthier and happier, and helping to reduce our emissions.”

The City’s nursery is playing its part in several ways, starting with growing more drought-resistant plants to prepare for a drier climate. It has also improved its energy use: instead of heating up the entire glasshouse, the team now use under-tray heating to target warmth on the plants that need it. As a result, the nursery hasn’t used its boilers in a year, considerably reducing its carbon emissions.

An award-winning recycling system

One change that has affected every household in Hamilton is the new rubbish and recycling scheme, introduced in 2020. Previously, households used black rubbish bags and a single recycling bin, with 28% of Hamilton waste diverted from landfills. That system has been replaced with a much more comprehensive system. It has four bins, including one for food scraps. The food scraps are now composted into ‘Tronpost’, which is given away to community groups and local projects. Diversion from landfill has increased to 51%.

The new service has had fantastic uptake from households and has been recognised for its impact with the Air NZ Excellence Award for Environmental Wellbeing at the 2021 Local Government New Zealand Awards.

“Climate change is a real priority”

Poppy is one of a dedicated climate change team at the Council, and says their goal is to make Hamilton a thriving, low-carbon city that is resilient to climate change. This includes assets being evaluated for their energy use, with changes already underway at the wastewater treatment plant, new building management systems that increase efficiency, LED streetlight upgrades and a lower emissions boiler has been installed at the Hamilton Zoo.

“There are a lot of good things happening – and we are working to make sure that the impact of climate change is embedded in all the decisions made at the Council,” she says. “We really can’t ask the community to respond to climate change if we’re not leading the way. We need to set the example.”

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