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Going green

Moving to green vehicles is a small part of Gisborne District Council’s work to reduce its carbon footprint “but every bit helps”, says Mayor Rehette Stoltz.

The council’s first low-emission vehicle — a Toyota Prius Prime that can run on electricity or petrol — was acquired about four months ago.

With a new car due to be bought for Mayor Stoltz, she was keen for it to be environmentally friendly.

The quiet Mitsubishi Outlander hybrid she has been driving around for the past few weeks is working out well.

It has a battery range of about 55 kilometres, which is about the distance she consistently travels when on council business in Gisborne.

The ability to switch to petrol power helped allay “battery anxiety”.

She plugs in the SUV at home overnight so it is fully charged — at a cost of about $3 — for the next day.

Mayor Stoltz says the big focus for the council in terms of climate change is in planning for its effects on infrastructure such as roads and underground utilities.

Gisborne District Council asset manager Simon Jeune says the council has about 70 vehicles in its fleet.

About two-thirds of these are utility vehicles that need to be four-wheel drives and able to travel long distances.

There is currently no hybrid or electric vehicle to viably replace these, Mr Jeune says.

The rest of the fleet is made up of passenger cars, and about half of those do not need to travel off-road so can potentially be replaced with green vehicles.

Switching out petrol or diesel cars will occur as each one becomes due for replacement.

The council’s passenger vehicles have a lifespan of 60,000 to 90,000km, or three to four years.

The decision will come down to the potential electric or hybrid vehicle’s performance — being able to do what the council need it to do — and affordability in comparison to an equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle.

The council recently bought two 2016 Nissan Leafs for about $22,000 each.

Along with the two hybrid vehicles, these fully electric cars will have access to three chargers being installed in the carpark at the council building on Fitzherbert Street.

Mr Jeune says electric vehicles have been a consideration in plans for the redeveloped council building, which opened in 2018 with a tube for wiring laid under the carpark.

Another charger will be installed at the council’s service centre in Te Puia Springs.

The four chargers were partly funded by a $20,000 grant from the Government’s low emission vehicles contestable fund in August, with the council contributing $20,000 to make up the total cost.

In the same round of grants, Eastland Group was given $97,000 to expand its fast charger network in Tairawhiti, including in Ruatoria and Tokomaru Bay.

Mr Jeune says as well as moving to green vehicles, which will reduce fuel bills, an emissions profile for the council is being worked on, allowing it to monitor its output and track emissions reduction over time, Mr Jeune says.

Council staff also have access to an e-bike and five e-scooters that are plugged in at various departments in the council building, as well as five ordinary bikes.

These have replaced car trips for council staff heading into town for meetings or inspections.

Staff wanting to use e-scooters, which are limited to 300W or 25kmh, must first go through an induction.

Electric vehicle technology is advancing rapidly so it is likely more viable options to replace long-distance, off-road vehicles will become available in time, Mr Jeune says.

TAKE YOUR PICK: Rehette Stoltz with the new mayoral car — a Mitsubishi Outlander hybrid — and Gisborne District Council asset manager Simon Jeune with one of the council’s e-scooters and an e-bike, which are part of a drive to get the council moving in an environmentally friendly way. Picture by Liam Clayton