Capital Excels in Green City Index

17 April 2013

Wellington is an environmental leader for cities in Australasia, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Australia-New Zealand Green City Index.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the survey has shown the city and region to be a top performer, especially when it comes to air quality, CO2 emissions, energy consumption and waste management.

“This is a major accolade for us, from respected international authorities. It’s also a useful tool to help guide future decisions in environmental matters.

“Our air is up there with the cleanest in the world. This is perhaps due in part to our famous wind, but also our residents insulating their homes, lower vehicle usage and minimising the burning of waste.”

Wellington’s per capita CO2 emissions are notably less than Auckland’s, mainly due to factors such as lower levels of car usage and industry. “However, we still intend to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions further. Our aim is to decrease city emissions by 30 percent of 2001 levels by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.

Using a range of criteria, the index compared Wellington to six major cities across the region – Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Due to differences in data sets – particularly with Australian cities where some data was only available at state level – the index didn’t definitively rank the cities.

The study praised Wellington for its commitment to renewable energy – with wind turbines generating enough electricity for Wellington City’s domestic use (approximately 70,000 homes). These kept the city powered when an outage isolated Wellington from the national grid in 2009.

The index also found Wellington residents use less energy, generate less waste, and recycle more than the average across the surveyed cities.  

Mayor Wade-Brown says Wellingtonians can be justifiably proud of our strong environmental performance in the index. Many areas that the report highlighted for improvement are already being examined, and actioned, by the Council.

Recommendations included making our building codes more stringent and conducting more energy efficiency audits, increasing population density, and creating a single dedicated environmental authority.

“We’re already working on things like encouraging development along the city’s ‘growth spine’ and in and around key centres to bring together more intensive residential development, places of work, shops, other facilities and public transport,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.

Other initiatives such as Our Living City, which aims to improve our urban-nature connections and includes projects such as ‘Two Million Trees’, and partnerships with Victoria University and others, are also a key part of Wellington City’s ongoing commitment to improving its environmental practices.

“One area the report highlighted was our water use, as Wellington’s water consumption is the highest among the Australasian cities. Unlike many Australian cities where droughts regularly occur, Wellington usually receives abundant rainfall. As a region we also managed through the recent dry summer by cutting back on water use, despite one of the major storage dams being out of action for earthquake strengthening. However, this is an area we can work on, given the potential effects of climate change,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.

Mayor Wade-Brown says the index provides a useful comparison with Australasian cities and a starting point for working together to improve our environmental performance.

The Economist Intelligence Unit was commissioned by Siemens to conduct the Green City Index. The aim of the index is to contribute to the global debate on environmentally sustainable cities. The Australia-New Zealand Green City Index is the sixth and last in the series of regional reports.