Who's shifting to a low carbon NZ?

10 May 2016

The Royal Society of NZ’s report on a low carbon economy has put climate change firmly in the spotlight. Businesses, governments and individuals are all being urged to take immediate action. So who’s ahead of the game?

Transition to a low-carbon economy for NZ, published on 27 April, makes clear there are good opportunities to reduce emissions in all sectors and shift to a thriving low carbon economy. However significant behaviour changes will be required.

Following on from our article about the top things you need to know from the report, we take a look at some organisations we work with that are already taking action. They’re the trailblazers who are making headway in our low carbon future.  Be inspired by some of these initiatives within different sectors from the report:

Electricity supply

The report makes clear that it’s technically and economically possible to reach New Zealand’s target of 90% renewables by 2025. Reaching a higher target would need a more flexible grid, energy storage and back up generation to meet seasonal peaks. Smart energy (e.g. intelligent appliances) could play a future role.

  • Most New Zealand businesses can save 20% on their energy bill simply by being smarter with their energy use – for example by using Philips’ energy efficient LED lighting
  • Yealands Family Wines has installed one of New Zealand’s largest solar panel installations which produces 133,000kWh a year from solar. It also bales vine prunings which are burnt in specially-installed burners that can produce 500kW of energy.
  • Ecotricity are an electricity provider which offers carboNZero certified 100% renewable electricity.


The current dependence on privately owned fossil fuel-powered cars must be reduced. Urban design should prioritise walking, cycling and more comfortable and convenient bus and rail.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are starting to be adopted, but need policy support and incentives to accelerate, which has been partly addressed by the recent Government announcement. For freight, rail and shipping have significantly lower emissions than road transport. Biofuels can be competitive but are currently being utilised only at a small scale.

  • Fulton Hogan is taking a lead in various ways, including the introduction of EVs into its passenger fleet and using a significant volume of biofuels for its heavy vehicle fleet.
  • Z Energy will this year open a $27 million biodiesel plant in South Auckland. The plant will produce 20 million litres of sustainable biodiesel per year. It is the only plant of its type in the world to have been built without a government subsidy or mandate. Z has also installed six rapid electric vehicle charging stations across the country, in partnership with Charge.Net NZ.
  • NZ Post has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 10% over the last three years. It is piloting EVs for residential deliveries.
  • Mighty River Power has committed to convert 70% of its vehicle fleet to electric or hybrid cars.
  • Air New Zealand has just purchased 75 EVs, working with LeasePlan.
  • Westpac has just announced an EV fleet leasing product for corporate customers. It is also introducing EVs into its own fleet.
  • EV Imports imports quality second hand EVs to New Zealand to make them more affordable. It is working with councils and other groups to promote EVs.
  • Yealands Family Wines is installing hydrogen generator units on tractors to cut fuel consumption by up to 15% and reduce the amount of emissions to almost zero.
  • Car-sharing schemes such as Cityhop and Your Drive make it easy to use a car when you need one, which encourages people to drive less. If you need to take a taxi, use Green Cabs, which has only low-emission hybrid vehicles.
  • Ricoh NZ actively discourages the use of cars, with its head office having a limited number of parking spaces. It also encourages its staff to take up cycling as a mode of transport and leisure activity.
  • Vector has installed several EV charging stations in the central Auckland area.
  • Waikato Management School uses Toyota Prius C Hybrids (part of the University of Waikato’s total of 48 Toyota Priuses).


We need better energy management in residential and commercial buildings and improved minimum performance standards for all appliances. Improving insulation levels, retro-fitting existing buildings, integrating renewable energy systems and supporting green building design will all contribute.

  • Ceres’ new building has some 90% reuse of materials, combined with massive energy efficiency within the building.
  • NZ Post has focused on energy efficiency and waste reduction in its property portfolio, especially through staff engagement.
  • AUT University is introducing LED lighting into existing high use areas. It has also collaborated with EECA on energy efficiency initiatives.
  • Victoria University of Wellington is undergoing extensive energy audits and installing insulation into its halls of residence with the help of the Sustainability Trust. It has had great success with halls of residence competing for power reduction, with the money saved used to purchase bikes.
  • Wellington City Council has a Smart Building Challenge to help commercial building owners reduce costs, grow their business and improve sustainability performance.
  • SBN’s Circular Economy Model Office project to transform the office refurbishment and new build industry.


Significantly reducing agricultural emissions will be challenging unless we reduce our reliance on meat and milk. But emissions could be reduced, for example by adopting best practices and selectively breeding cattle and sheep. Measures to reduce emissions will also help water quality.

  • Taupo Beef has made changes to its system to reduce the amount of carbon embedded in its beef, such as: crossbreeding cattle and feeding them high quality pasture for efficient rumen function, no cultivation of pastures to retain soil carbon, rotational grazing of pasture to maximise carbon sequestering, minimal use of vehicles in farm system, and using modern fuel efficient trucks for transporting stock.
  • Organic farming uses less fossil fuels as it doesn’t apply synthetic fertilisers, which are made from fossil fuels. Organic food businesses include Ceres, CommonSense Organics, Purefresh Organic and All Good.
  • The National Good Food Network, coordinated by SBN, is contributing to the step change needed in agricultural systems. It has a focus on strengthening regional food systems, which includes better planning for food resilience, food security and to mitigate climate change impacts through better food choices. Healthy Families NZ is a Partner, with support from Hutt City Council, Well South and Toi Te Ora Public Health Service.

Forestry and land use

Planting new forests in unforested areas can remove large volumes of carbon from the atmosphere in the short to medium term. But forest sinks are only an interim solution.

  • Million Metres Streams: this SBN crowdfunding platform contributes to carbon sequestration and flood protection through the restoration of our waterways.

Behaviour change

By purchasing low carbon products and services you can support smart companies making a difference. Through your procurement policy you can support companies focusing on energy efficiency and renewables, or purchase items produced locally as they will have lower emissions from transport.

  • Auckland Council, Fuji Xerox, IAG and others are looking at sustainable procurement now with some 25 corporates learning from their leadership. The Sustainable Business Directory makes it easy to find a sustainable supplier in your area.
  • Waikato Management School leads the University of Waikato’s Eco Emporium, a forum where items are upcycled, repaired and swapped while students learn hands on about sustainability and waste minimisation. 

Did we miss your initiative off the list? If you’re an SBN member please let us know so we can add your great work! Contact Fiona on fiona@sustainable.org.nz