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Transport: It’s electrifying

Leaders were divided about the region’s electric future at a council meeting on Wednesday. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Stances were divided about the uptake of electric vehicles on Wednesday at Greater Wellington Regional Council’s climate committee meeting.

A point was made by a council staff member about the overall reduction of vehicles on roads, as opposed to just switching to electric vehicles.

She said electric buses were heavier, and therefore caused more stress to roads, which would require repair, which was carbon-intensive.

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said an effective solution for the future would require a mix of a strengthened public transport system, and a move to electric vehicles.

“It’s different in a rural setting – we don’t have public transport the way that urban areas do, and some people have to travel quite a distance just to get to school,” he said.

Beijen said the reduction of fossil fuel vehicles would have to be done in a logical way, with plans not ignoring the needs of those outside urban centres.

Much would have to be strengthened in the transport system in order for a long-term switch to be viable, Beijen said.

In latter years, Wairarapa councils have been making the switch to hybrid or electric fleet.

Beijen said the council was committed to playing its part in fighting climate change.

“Moving to hybrid vehicles is one of many actions being implemented by council to reduce emissions in its daily operations,” he said.

South Wairarapa District Council chief executive Harry Wilson said the council’s greenhouse gas inventory in 2019 showed transport to be its second highest carbon-emitting activity, behind only wastewater treatment, which was another area being addressed with a complete rethink on the Featherston Wastewater Treatment upgrade.

Masterton District Council said climate change was already affecting the region.

“Masterton had the fastest increase in annual average maximum temperatures and gained seven extra warm days [above 25 degrees Celsius] per decade, a new Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ report shows,” the council said.

It said it had announced an ‘electric first’ fleet purchase policy in 2017 to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles.

“Council now has three electric vehicles and wherever possible, new fleet vehicles are electric.”

“EVs emit 80 per cent less carbon dioxide than an equivalent petrol vehicle when being driven in New Zealand because electricity generated here is typically at least 80 per cent renewable mostly from hydro, geothermal and wind,” the council said.

Both Masterton and Carterton district councils said they were would support regional council moves to potentially electrifying train services.

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