Part 7: Activities to reduce and manage greenhouse gas emissions

Local government: Results of the 2010/11 audits.

This Part reports on the extent to which local authorities have:

  • measured, reduced, and offset greenhouse gas emissions from their activities in the year ended 30 June 2011; and
  • taken a broader approach to, and drawn up plans for, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their territories, rather than just reducing their own emissions.

This Part also:

Last year, we reported on these matters for the first time. This year, we have compared this year's results with last year's, where we can. We have been monitoring to see whether local authorities consider the environmental effects of what they do and whether the ETS is making a difference to this.


The Local Government Act 2002 requires local authorities to promote environmental well-being. There is no explicit requirement for local authorities to measure or reduce the environmental effects of their activities. However, some local authorities have chosen to measure the greenhouse gas emissions for their activities, consider their waste management practices, and act to mitigate the environmental effects of those activities where it makes business sense to do so.

The three aspects to managing and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions are:

It is generally accepted that it is preferable to reduce emissions than to offset them.

Measuring emissions involves collecting information about matters such as fuel use, mileage, electricity/gas consumption, and use of raw materials. Data can then be converted into carbon dioxide equivalents using conversion and emission factors available from agencies such as Landcare Research New Zealand Limited or the Ministry for the Environment.

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme

In August 2011, we published guidance information on the ETS. Our guidance, The Emissions Trading Scheme – summary information for public entities and auditors, provides background information on the scheme and gives public entities and auditors our views on how to account for and audit ETS matters.26 We published this guidance to inform entities and their auditors about relevant ETS obligations and opportunities, particularly because there are critical deadlines that public entities might need to factor into their financial decision-making and planning in 2012.

The ETS is relevant to local authorities. As well as bearing price increases for fuel and energy, some local authorities and their CCOs will take part in the scheme because of forestry interests or because they operate landfills.27

Waste and the Emissions Trading Scheme

In 2013, when the waste sector enters the ETS, many local authorities will become participants through their operation of waste disposal facilities. (Under the Climate Change Response Act 2002, the operator of a waste disposal facility must take part in the ETS. We expect that most, if not all, solid waste disposal facilities that local authorities operate will meet this definition.) Operators of waste disposal facilities had to register as ETS participants by 31 January 2012 and will be required to pay a cost per tonne of methane emitted from January 2013.

Waste disposal operators already have to report their waste tonnage to the Ministry for the Environment to determine the waste disposal levy under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. Therefore, additional compliance costs to meet the reporting requirements of the ETS should be minimal.

Local authorities will need to accurately forecast the ETS cost implications to determine any required increase in user charges. They will need to work out the best way to increase the charges. These financial implications should be included in the 2012-22 LTPs.

In 2011, an expert panel reviewed the ETS. In September 2011, the panel made recommendations to the Government. The panel recommended exempting some types of landfills from the ETS. The Government is considering its response to the panel's recommendations.

Measuring greenhouse gas emissions

Nineteen local authorities measure their greenhouse gas emissions. Another seven local authorities intend to start measuring their emissions in 2011/12.

Most of the local authorities that measure emissions focus on vehicles, air travel, electricity, and waste.

Some local authorities took part in the voluntary Communities for Climate Protection New Zealand (CCP-NZ) programme, which provided a structured approach for reducing emissions from a local authority's corporate activities (corporate emissions) and district-wide emissions (community emissions). This programme no longer operates, but some local authorities still use action plans introduced under it.

Some local authorities measure emissions from how employees commute to work, and from buildings and insulation.

Some local authorities use the greenhouse gas information in a sustainability report in their annual report and/or to get or keep sustainability certifications.

Monitoring and reporting on how local authorities generate and dispose of waste

Our auditors noted that 24 local authorities monitor and report on the production and disposal of waste that they or their communities generate. This was an increase from last year, when 19 local authorities did this. We set out some examples in paragraphs 7.20-7.23.

Christchurch City Council promotes information about community waste collected (kerbside organics, recycling, and rubbish) on its website.28 The information shows the proportion of organics, recycling, and rubbish sent to the landfill over time. The Council also uses the information to show the effect the Council's kerbside wheelie bin service has had on waste.

For many years, Hamilton City Council has collected waste from its main council office building. The Council collects information on energy and natural gas consumption throughout council-owned and operated facilities to report against waste reduction targets. It reports the results in its annual report.

Nelson City Council has an agreement to sell landfill gas (methane) to Meridian Energy. Under the agreement, Meridian Energy measures the amount of landfill gas collected and reports the result to the Council. Nelson City Council also completes sustainability monitoring on its fuel, electricity, and water use and includes the results in its LTP and annual report.

Northland Regional Council reports on waste sent to landfill and has active recycling programmes for organic and inorganic waste. The objective of these recycling programmes is to minimise waste going to landfill.

Plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

This year, 22 local authorities had a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This was fewer than last year, when 28 local authorities had a plan or a draft plan.

Local authorities that took part in the CCP-NZ programme plan to keep working on reducing emissions.

Paragraphs 7.27-7.32 include examples of what local authorities are doing or planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Several local authorities calculate their energy-related emissions using e-Bench, a full energy and utility software and environmental management database system. e-Bench models an organisation's core business (buildings and processes) and allows users to work out how efficiently they use energy and utilities, and how this relates to their core activities.29

Hamilton City Council's Local Action Plan focuses on reducing emissions from the Council's activities and those of the community. The Council's emission reduction activities are included in programmes such as introducing environmental systems at major facilities, trying out energy-efficient street lights, and an internal campaign to use water more wisely. The Council carries out regular audits to identify further opportunities to reduce emissions.

Nelson City Council has a sustainability co-ordinator, who is responsible for activities and initiatives that the Council has identified as part of its annual plan, and for ensuring that the Council talks with the community about sustainability and reducing waste. The Council's climate change action plan lists tasks for the Council and the community. The sustainability action plan includes involving Council managers, staff, and external partners (including other local authorities and Nelson City Council's CCOs).

Kapiti Coast District Council's energy policy focuses on reducing emissions from Council activities and within the district. For example, the Council plans to use what it saves from using a boiler fired by wood rather than diesel to dry sewage sludge to pay for energy-efficiency projects (25% on Council projects and 75% on community projects). The Council is preparing a Carbon and Energy Management Strategy that will focus on the Council's activities. Actions to reduce emissions in the wider community are included in the LTP and upcoming economic development strategy. The Council has signed up to be a certified organisation under Landcare Research New Zealand Limited's CarboNZero Programme,30 which requires measuring the local authority's emissions to the ISO 14065 standard.

In June 2010, Wellington City Council agreed to a Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP). This is the Council's second climate change plan, with the first having been produced in 2007. The CCAP has seven action areas, six of which cover emissions reductions, while the seventh involves preparing for the effects of climate change. The six mitigation areas are buildings and energy, land transport, Council operations, forestry, aviation, and waste. The seven action areas cover emissions from both the wider community and the Council.

Greater Wellington Regional Council has a Climate Change Mitigation Corporate Action Plan, which includes:

  • preparing a Regional Water Strategy with territorial authorities in the Greater Wellington region;
  • carrying out regular summer water conservation campaigns; and
  • formalising a corporate energy strategy.

The Council reports on its internal sustainability initiatives from time to time.

Targets for reducing emissions and how these are reported

A plan to reduce emissions needs targets and measures to assess and report progress. In 2010/11, we noted that 13 local authorities had targets for reducing emissions (in 2009/10, 18 had such targets) and that reporting practices vary. We set out some examples in paragraphs 7.35-7.38.

Although Waitomo District Council does not have targets for reducing emissions from its landfill, it has informal targets for reducing organic waste sent to the landfill. It reports to the Ministry for the Environment on the quantity of emissions generated from landfill waste.

Wellington City Council has targets for reducing emissions for the city and for the Council's operations. The emission results are reported internally and externally. For Council emissions, the information is reported internally, following international best-practice standards. Internal reporting for city-wide emissions began during 2010/11, with expert input from external agencies. The same information was reported externally in the statement of service performance in the annual report.

Environment Canterbury Regional Council reports its emissions for its vehicle fleet, office electricity, and waste to the landfill in its annual plan and annual report.

Kaikoura District Council has Green Globe certification, which recognises its commitment to protecting the environment and working towards sustainability for its community.31 The Council reports its achievement against targets in its annual report and in its Green Globe report. Australian-based Earthcheck Proprietary Limited independently audits the Green Globe benchmark report. Kaikoura District Council also applies the Earthcheck standard, and this is discussed in its annual report:

The Earthcheck standard is an international framework for tourism operators and destinations to measure and manage their environmental impact ... the Kaikoura community first measured its environmental impact, called benchmarking, and then adopted and implemented strategies to reduce its impact, called certification.32

Offsetting emissions

Eleven local authorities are offsetting emissions or plan to, through their forests or plantations. Some local authorities are participating in the ETS through their forestry holdings, but see this as separate from offsetting activities. Others have decided not to offset, but to focus on reducing emissions.

Next steps

We intend to continue to monitor and report on the activities of local authorities in managing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using the year ended 30 June 2010 as a baseline, with a view to reporting to Parliament on:

  • the nature and extent of commitment by local authorities to these activities; and
  • the effects of the ETS on these activities.

26: Section B of this report includes a summary of the content of the guidance information on the ETS.

27: Several local authorities with forests have registered as participants. They include Wellington City Council, Hawkes Bay Regional Council, Mackenzie District Council, Southland District Council, Ashburton District Council, Marlborough District Council, and Kaikoura District Council, and subsidiaries of Dunedin City Council, Invercargill City Council, and Gisborne District Council.

28: See

29: See

30: See CarboNZero is the world's first internationally accredited greenhouse gas certification scheme under ISO 14065. CarboNZero-certified organisations have measured their organisation's greenhouse gas emissions so they understand what their effect is on the global climate. They then make a commitment to managing and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by creating an emissions management and reduction plan. Any remaining emissions that the organisation cannot avoid are then offset by purchasing verified carbon credits.

31: See

32: Kaikoura District Council, Annual Report 2010/11, page 8.

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