Transport pollution in Tauranga is higher than main centres such as Auckland and Wellington on a per capita basis, a new report shows.

Preliminary findings from a report commissioned by Tauranga City Council earlier this year reveals the city's transport emissions in 2015/16 per capita were higher than Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland and the national average.

Tauranga transportation contributed 511,761 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, representing 63 per cent of the city's overall emissions - 4tCO2e per person per year. By comparison, Wellington measured 3.4tCO2e per person per year and the national estimate was 3.3tCO2e per person per year.

Report author Maurice Marquardt of AECOM New Zealand said it was important to consider different geographies involved different factors and Wellington had higher public transport usage compared to Tauranga.

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Transport was the biggest cause of Tauranga greenhouse gas emissions but emissions from stationary energy, waste and industrial activities were all below the national average on a per capita basis, he said.

"Overall, Tauranga is doing well but transport is an area where the city could do better."

Council environment committee spokesman Councillor Steve Morris said Tauranga's rapid growth forced adjustments of planned investment to fund necessary infrastructure, and the council would consider the findings while developing its environmental strategy.

"This is going to be a huge challenge for the city as the impacts of climate change gather pace globally ... We need to look at what we can do as a city and as individuals."

Transport advocacy group Greater Tauranga's Heidi Hughes agreed and hoped to see more bike and public transport-friendly options.

Councillor Steve Morris says findings from a report showing Tauranga's high transport pollution rate will be taken into account as it develops an environmental strategy. Photo/file A_120816gn19bop.
Councillor Steve Morris says findings from a report showing Tauranga's high transport pollution rate will be taken into account as it develops an environmental strategy. Photo/file A_120816gn19bop.

Tauranga's ballooning population and high reliance on cars showed up the limitations in city planning, she said.

"Suddenly the carparks are full and the roads are full and the air is full of carbon, so the alternative is to keep building more roads and more carparks."

She also blamed New Zealand Transport Agency's focus on getting trucks to and from the port, resulting in traffic sprawl along motorways "... which are designed for cars and trucks, not for public transport".

Port chief executive Mark Cairns said although it supported roading investment, the port's first transport preference was always rail.

Half of the port's containers came in and out by rail, an increase of 64 per cent in the past two years.

"Tauranga is the main hub port in New Zealand, which means many containers change vessels at Tauranga and do not pass the container terminal gate. So while the port gets busier, it doesn't necessarily correlate to increased road traffic."

NZ Transport Agency's Harry Wilson said the agency needed to ensure there was efficient access to the port and outer areas but said the agency was also investing in public transport, with $45m planned to fund public transport services and infrastructure in the Bay.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which manages the effects of people's use of freshwater, land, air and coastal water, welcomed the report and was funding a $26,000 project to explore the findings further in the Bay.

How many Tauranga drivers are on the roads?

A Tauranga City Council survey released earlier this month revealed 64 per cent of motorists contributed to the city's traffic woes.

The telephone survey of 451 residents showed this number of drivers contributed to peak-time congestion. This compared with Census data that showed private vehicles were the transport choice for 91 per cent of Tauranga residents.

The survey, run by a professional polling company, showed 29 per cent of respondents did not work or worked from home and 34 per cent which said they cycled in Tauranga.

On September 11 Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless signed the Local Government New Zealand Climate Change Declaration, adding the city's support to address climate change.

By the numbers

In total, Tauranga recorded gross emissions of about 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (808,947tCO2e) and slightly more net emissions (815,539tCO2e). Of Tauranga's transport emissions, road transport contributed about 97 per cent from mobile sources. Diesel represented 57 per cent, petrol 40 per cent and jet kerosene av gas 2 per cent. Rail and LPG represented less than 1 per cent.