Sustainability theme in council plan comments - Timaru Herald

A sustainability theme runs through many of the submissions to the Timaru District Council's annual plan. The council will consider submissions on the plan on Tuesday, and among the 48 received are a number raising the issues of rising fuel prices, alternatives to electricity, and energy efficiency. Submitters have asked the council to reduce or eliminate the building consent cost of installing a solar water heating unit, encourage wise use of water resources, and consider alternative means of transport such as rail and cycling. Smart Energy Ltd suggests the council follows the lead of other progressive councils and waives the fee for solar hot water installations. "Energy demand/supply/reliability/cost issues are having a big impact on New Zealanders and the council should be looking at encouraging, not impeding, energy efficient initiatives and solutions. "Zero fees for solar hot water will ensure maximum systems are installed correctly with a building consent." Timaru resident Stu Jackson said he was amazed it cost more to apply for a permit to install a solar unit than it does for one for a wood burner. Typically, a permit to install a solid fuel heater will be $145, and a solar water heating unit $237, reflecting the extra inspection work required. The South Canterbury branch of National Council of Women of New Zealand suggests the council should consider providing solar water heating in new social housing units. Steven Earnshaw will ask the council if it should be campaigning for the reinstatement of the passenger rail service from Timaru to Christchurch and Dunedin. "With rising fuel prices, increasing congestion and a need to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions I am sure that this would be popular and well-supported. It may also reduce the need for some of the additional spending on roads and airport upgrades. We should also be pushing to increase the use of rail freight for large users of road transport." Mr Earnshaw also suggests that rather than looking for additional water supplies, efforts should be made to reduce demand. "I note that although rural customers on the Downlands water scheme (myself included) cope quite adequately with 1000 litres per day or less, the average water consumption by urban households is considerably higher than this. It would make sense to look at ways of reducing this, perhaps by considering water metering or flow restriction." EnergySmart is asking for $25,000 from the council -- 4 per cent of the overall project cost to retrofit insulation to a further 200 homes in the region this year. "Provision of a warmer, drier home not only improves the general living environment for the individual, but can lead to reduced energy bills. On the macro level the more efficient use of energy resources is beneficial to the district and the country as a whole." A number of submissions ask for priority to be given to making the roads cycle friendly, producing urban cycling route maps, putting bike racks on buses, and encouraging employers to provide bike and shower facilities. Cycling advocates' network group Squeaky Wheel says Timaru is ideal for walking and cycling with its relatively gentle hills and flat areas. "With the increased public awareness and interest in health and preventing increased carbon emissions, it is important that the council continues to show increased leadership in helping people to change to more sustainable forms of transport where possible. "Instead of building our way out of congestion through building more and wider roads, viable alternatives such as walking and cycling provide a cheaper, cleaner, healthier alternative that benefits the community as a whole."