A project to investigate and test a community bus service run on waste vegetable oil will start in June in the Far North.
The "affordable" service aims to reduce single-occupant car trips, cut the number of unregistered and unwarranted vehicles on local roads and set up a district-wide collection system for waste vegetable oil.
At the same time, backers of the project want to raise public awareness of environmental damage done by irresponsible disposal of waste oil.
Clean Stream Northland, a joint venture partnership between the Kaitaia-based Community Business and Environment Centre and Te Runanga o Te Rarawa, has been granted $90,000 by the Environment Ministry's Sustainable Management Fund to trial the use of a community mini-bus powered by waste vegetable oil sourced from commercial and domestic collections.
The collection system will use Clean Stream's existing recycling collection fleet and staff, with waste vegetable oil collection points set up at 12 refuse transfer stations around the Far North.
Oil delivered or diverted to Far North recycling centres currently operated by Clean Stream will be filtered and purified so it can be used to power a leased mini-bus converted from diesel.
The processing system does not require chemicals to treat or separate the waste oil.
Project manager Simon Millichamp says there is already some commercial collection of waste cooking oil from shops but, with no publicised collections, much of it is poured into vehicle waste oil collection tanks at district transfer stations.
Domestic oil, with no collection system, is simply poured down sinks or into the back garden, which has the potential to pollute local waterways.
Apart from an Auckland-Kaitaia daily bus service, there is virtually no public transport in the Far North. Mr Millichamp says because setting up a bus service in the district would be only marginally profitable, a pilot programme needed to be established to attract business and commercial sponsorship or contributions to keep it going.
Contributions by businesses could include waste or used cooking oils.
Who will get to use the cheap bus service and where it will operate will involve community consultation with groups like Grey Power, Age Concern, local iwi and ratepayer associations.
"We'll be targeting people getting into work with transport difficulties," Mr Millichamp says, "and older people wanting to come into town but who don't have the confidence any more to drive on the open road."