Closing and capping the district landfill
About 90% of emissions allocated to Rotorua Lakes Council is from the district’s landfill. Organic waste (food scraps and garden waste) buried in landfill rots to produce the potent greenhouse gas methane and a highly polluting leachate.
In 2018 the district landfill was closed and capped. This cap collects the methane and burns it, to produce CO₂ and while CO₂ is a greenhouse gas, it is about 25 times less potent as methane in warming the planet. Capping the landfill has prevented about 3,500 tonne of CO₂e going into the environment each year.
Our district’s waste is now taken to Tirohia landfill which is a modern facility that collects the majority of the methane generated by the waste and uses it to produce electricity.
Transport yourself actively
For a number of years Rotorua Lakes Council has been building shared paths, encouraging people to walk, bike or take up other alternative transport modes like scootering.
As of December 2022 there are more than 60km of shared paths, safely connecting neighbourhoods with schools, the inner city, facilities and recreational spaces. Council staff survey the number of cyclists using the paths and automatic counters are active at four locations year round. This information shows a 30% increase in commuting cyclists since 2016. These cyclists are calculated to be saving more than 100 tonne CO₂e going into the environment every year!
Check out the Rotorua Urban Biking guide to map out your next shared path journey.
Light the streets
Street and traffic lighting is the third biggest user of electricity for Rotorua Lakes Council (behind the Wastewater Treatment Plant and the waste and stormwater pump stations).
In 2021 all streetlights were changed from high pressure sodium (HPS) lamps to LED.
LED has twice the energy efficiency of HPS and can also last up to 10 times longer, so there’s less maintenance replacing bulbs. After switching to LED, Council saved about $120,000 a year in electricity costs, with a corresponding drop in carbon emissions of more than 30%. This means about 140 tonne of CO₂e is saved from entering the atmosphere each year.
Resilience of our district
Do you know what happens to your waste once it’s flushed or goes down the drain?
Managing drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater is an important part of a functioning city, but is not often thought about, unless it stops working.
The Rotorua Wastewater Treatment Plant currently treats about 20,000 m³ of sewage water per day, and has the capacity to treat up to 44,000 m³. Extreme rainfall events are expected more frequently in future with these events having the potential to overwhelm the Treatment Plant and cause overflows, which may pollute waterways.
An upgrade of the Wastewater Treatment Plant, with work beginning in 2023, will increase the plant’s capacity to 72,000 m³ per day, increasing resilience to extreme rain events in the future.
Many Council staff need to travel around for their day-to-day work and in 2018 one fleet vehicle was replaced with five E-bikes to give staff a greener travel option. As at September 2022, collectively these bikes have clocked up more than 18,000km, saving about 3.5 tonne CO₂e from entering the environment and saving about $3,000 in petrol costs.
When replacing vehicles for the Council fleet, efficiency is carefully considered. In 2019 an electric vehicle was purchased and since then has prevented nearly 5 tonne of CO₂e from entering the environment. Two hybrid vehicles were the latest renewals in 2022 and it’s calculated these will save more than 1 tonne of CO₂e emissions annually.
Reducing our waste
Minimising the district’s waste is a long term goal of Council.
After sewage is treated, water and dewatered sludge (known as biosolids) remain. These comprise dead microorganisms and a bunch of nutrients, and prior to 2012 this material was landfilled. Biosolids now go to Kawerau where they’re mixed with wood pulp waste and earthworms and used as crop fertiliser. From 2012 to 2021 this has saved 89,000 tonne of biosolids going to landfill, preventing nearly 23,000 tonne of CO₂e emissions.
Council is now setting its sights on reducing the organic waste that fills household rubbish bins. Inspections in 2020 and 2021 showed nearly 60% of what Rotorua households throw away is compostable i.e. food scraps, garden waste, paper, dog poo etc. This waste rots in landfill and produces methane gas.
It is possible to compost your own household waste and Council runs workshops to teach people. At present only about 10% of household’s compost so alternatives are needed.
In 2022 public consultation on a proposal for kerbside organic waste collection showed the community is overwhelmingly in favour. If this gets the green light by elected members, organic collection has the potential to save more than 10,000 tonne of compostable material from entering the landfill each year. If only a portion (70%) of this waste gets diverted, we’re still saving 2,000 tonne of CO₂e emissions per year.
An area of plantation pine at the district’s landfill was harvested in 2021 and the funds from this were used to enhance biodiversity and reduce erosion of the area.
In mid-2022, 3.87 hectares was planted with 6,600 native plants, purchased from two local nurseries. After 10 years of growth these plants are expected to remove 100 tonne of CO₂ from the atmosphere.
Preparing for the deluge
Council has been preparing the district to be more resilient to the more frequent extreme weather events occurring as a result of climate change.
A stormwater detention dam in Linton Park is designed to collect stormwater and safely manage flows beyond this. The dam was modernised in 2022 to better protect people, property and the environment downstream from the effects of stormwater during severe weather.
The edge of the dam is a popular walking route for locals and the area where stormwater ponds inside the dam makes up part of the natural wetlands in the park. Council has also been considering ways to enhance the wider reserve including:
- removal of pest plant species
- planting more natives
- extra drainage for sports fields
- restoration of wetland areas
- upgrades to nearby play spaces
- new connections to existing shared paths to better connect residential areas.
This is creating a space that is resilient to extreme weather events, supports biodiversity, and enhances the wellbeing of the local community.