Staff step up to keep city rates low

By Wayne Thompson

A sign on the lift saying "Please use the Stairs" is part of a plan by North Shore City Council that has cut its energy and waste expenses by $1.2 million in the past 12 months.

Reducing lift use by staff in its buildings is one of 60 projects underway to try to reduce the council's power bill, said its corporate sustainability manager Michael Field.

"Each lift uses the same amount of electricity a year as seven average homes."

The savings result seems a drop in the bucket when compared with the council's annual $250 million operating expenditure.

But every $1.5 million spent adds 1 per cent to the rates bill.

Ratepayers benefit from the $200,000 reduction in energy use, which Mr Field said was enough to power 100 homes for a year.

"This was achieved by looking at where we were using energy, how it was being used and introducing efficiency measures."

The overall savings from the sustainability plan - now in its third year - are not just a result of changing staff behaviour in recycling, energy use, or the type of office light bulbs, said Mr Field.

It includes sharper negotiations with suppliers, introduction of new technology and new ways of dealing with old problems.

For example, fitting management units to the gas boilers that heat swimming pools has saved $150,000.

About $80,000 a year has been cut from the job of removing seaweed from beaches after storms. The weed is now sent to industrial composter EnviroFert, instead of being tipped into a landfill and incurring a $10 a tonne waste levy.

Other council organic waste is fed to the council's worm digester, taking care of 40 per cent of council rubbish.

A report to the council on 2008-09 progress notes reductions in electricity use of 3.5 per cent, gas use 10 per cent and vehicle fuel 10 per cent.

Savings by switching to small cars cut the council's fleet running costs by $135,000.

- NZ Herald

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