Directors lens on the transport sector

Freight and passengers will need to be moved in new ways if New Zealand is to reach the government's net zero carbon target.

Article author
Article by Institute of Directors
Publish date
1 Nov 2022
Reading time
2 min

Webinar Summary

Can the transport sector decarbonise?

Directors have highlighted the role of technology and a sense of purpose to successful climate action in the transport sector.

Speaking at a Chapter Zero event, directors and the acting chief executive of the Ministry of Transport highlighted practical aspects of reducing emissions and expressed optimism that new ideas would emerge to facilitate lower emissions in the transport industry.

Abby Foote, CFInstD sits on the board of Freightways. She says the freight sector recognises it has a role to play in New Zealand meeting its emissions targets. The government has announced a goal of net zero for the country by 2050.

The industry faces challenges when it comes to improving its low-carbon infrastructure, she says.

“The options to replace existing assets are limited and expensive,” Foote says. “The freight industry is struggling with the challenge of progressing options, as they currently exist, in a way that is meaningful and also makes sense commercially.”

For example, freight agencies in New Zealand are interested in the possibility of converting fleets to hydrogen power, but this is not yet commercially viable. Similarly, electric vehicles present problems when faced with large loads and difficult roads.

“We do have a pretty optimistic view that some of these technologies are going to develop in a way that provides real options.”

Christchurch Airport director Kate Morrision CMInstD said the board had a “strategy reset” in 2016 included becoming kaitiaki, guardians, of the business, the city and Aotearoa. That focus on sustainability and guardianship had an unexpected benefit in terms of organisational culture, she says. Spinoff benefits included “galvanizing our people around purpose” and helping the organisation to attract, and retain, good staff.

In terms of emissions, the airport has an aggressive strategy to become a net-zero operation by 2030, ahead of the government’s target for the country. In 2020, Christchurch Airport became the first in the world to reach highest carbon certification an airport can achieve under the Airports Council International carbon accreditation programme.

Bryn Gandy, acting chief executive of Te Manatū Waka – Ministry of Transport presented an outline of the Ministry’s plans for emissions reduction in the freight sector.

He described a shift in approach from the Ministry as it seeks to support emissions reductions across a range of transport modes. This includes implementing longer-term planning which is aligned with other government agencies, and focussing more on public transport and “active” modes such as cycling and walking.

A major piece of work is exploring the viability of a fast passenger rail service between Auckland and Hamilton to enable sustainable transport choices.

Gandy suggests new technology and innovative ideas are likely to emerge over the next decade.

“I remember when I started someone came and talked to be about a business model of dumping a bunch of scooters on a footpath and hoping for the best. That sounded a bit crazy, but it wasn’t. What we have seen over the past few years is very rapid growth in those sorts of micro-mobility options.”

The webinar was hosted by Sarah Bogle, director, sustainable value at KPMG New Zealand.