Saturday, June 5, 2010

Palmerston North - another world first in innovation?

The Palmerston North City Council has voted in favour of procuring a battery operated mobile library bus, to replace the ageing diesel powered library vehicle.

Using state of the art lithium derivative batteries, the Palmerston North mobile library will be wheel-chair and child friendly and will be designed for easy access; without corresponding transport emissions.

Equally important is that the Council's micro hydro electric and electricity generated from sewage gas will power the vehicle; showcasing the use locally generated power to drive local transport. It is noteworthy that a good ninety years after the Palmerston North Borough Council approved the purchase of 5 Walker Electric Trucks from the A R Harris Co. Ltd to haul rubbish, the City has again harnessed locally produced energy. In the 1920's an alternator powered by the City's incinerator - the Destructor was used to charge batteries that powered the rubbish trucks.

Palmerston North again is at the forefront of innovation and sustainability. Oil shocks of the 1970's helped  engender  innovation to the fore in Palmerston North. John Galbraith, Bus Manager and engineers from the Council's Albert Street workshops wrote the "book" on conversion of heavy vehicles to natural gas piped in from the Taranaki field. The Council's fleet of over 300 vehicles were converted to be run on natural gas. Engineers from Palmerston North were invited to Japan, Malaysia and Thailand to help transfer technology and skills to convert heavy vehicle fleets to natural gas.

Sometimes dubbed as "Knowledge City", Palmerston North is  home to Massey University, UCOL, International Pacific College and a number of research and development institutions. A number of businesses in the region have developed technologies that are world class and are deployed in global markets.

Palmerston North's City Library calls itself the Living Room of the City. That it is - centrally located, user friendly and provides access to a rich variety of resources. A team of dedicated staff and volunteers work under the leadership of Anthony Lewis, City Librarian since 1980 to make the Library a focal point of life in Knowledge City. The Mobile Library, which makes 39 stops a week will be soon become a zero emissions vehicle. Congratulations to the Palmerston North City Council for putting into action in a very visible manner the principles of Sustainable City.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Electrical Vehicles Recharging

Hot on the heels of the Sydney announcement for EV charging infrastructure, here is some information from Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA.

The Manawatu Tram Trust has called for a Green Transport Pilot in Manawatu; lessons learned through the Auckland University's participation in the Chattanooga programme will be invaluable.

Chattanooga's CARTA has been operating a fleet of electric buses for free transportation in the city. Now they take an integrated approach to EV recharging as this news source from Chattanooga reports:

"Chattanooga is a key focus of "a very fast track" effort to set up a system in Tennessee to make it more feasible to operate electric vehicles, CARTA Executive Director Tom Dugan said. 

I don't think Chattanoogans understand how huge an effect this is going to have," he told the CARTA board.

Mr. Dugan said steps are rapidly being taken to set up electric vehicle charging sites at locations in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville.

He noted that Tennessee was the only state in the East selected for the ETEC demonstration project......"

Chattanooga is moving forward towards sustainable transport funded partly by President Obama's $2.4 billion fund announced last year.

Friday, May 14, 2010


DP logo1 Big.jpg

Palmerston North has unique characteristics that make a gondola system a viable, effective and future proof public transport option for the City. Massey will be the first University in the world linked to an aerial ropeway. The public transport benefits are significant, however, the largest benefits relate to economic development and marketing for the region.

Powered by renewable energy, passengers are silently transported over cityscape and scenic vistas to and from the University in just 9 minutes. People can board or disembark at any of the four terminal stations. A modified ‘feeder’ bus service could transport people to and from their destinations. There is virtually no waiting time with a cabin arriving every 30 seconds. The system could move up to 1500 people an hour in both directions; further capacity can be easily added to accommodate for future growth.


Palmylink would be a unique and pleasant commuter experience. The system works and is economically viable because:

  • 12,000 people travel to the university daily, mostly on a single corridor.
  • A large number of students live within close proximity of the route.
  • It bridges ‘town and gown’ while reducing road traffic.
  • There are significant advantages over other transport options available in Palmerston North.


Palmylink presents opportunities for transit orientated development (TOD), that is, increased housing density and attractive urban spaces around public transport hubs. TOD is proven in European and American cities and is gaining ground in New Zealand. TOD has been attributed to vibrant, liveable and sustainable communities with a defined sense of ‘place’.  These characteristics could develop around terminals, each creating a hub of activity; prime land for commercial, retail and residential/visitor accommodation. These opportunities represent a value proposition for stakeholders, and a value add for our community.

Palmylink is a ‘state-of-the-art’ public transport system; the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The technology is proven and tested in thousands of applications around the world – its uptake for urban transit is well established in some cities. Palmerston North would have a significant ‘point of difference’ to anywhere in New Zealand, even the world.

Other benefits include:

  • The system has a low carbon output with carbon trading opportunities.
  • Small land footprint; minimal property acquisition and reduced environmental impacts.
  • Enhanced access to Palmerston North Girls High School, Lido Aquatic Centre, the Victoria Esplanade and River Track, as well as multiple sports fields and facilities.
  • A flood proof route across the Manawatu River.
  • Reduced congestion on local roads, offsetting the need for upgrades.
  • More social interaction and vibrant streets.
  • Health benefits as the system encourages walking and cycling.
  • An improved public bus network.

The external benefits are significant. While further economic analysis is required, the external benefits to the regional economy from both direct and indirect spending, increased productivity and ‘quality of life’ metrics are considered to be significant.

A successful outcome will be a result of a dynamic partnership among key stakeholders. Councils, Massey University, local business and the community working together can ensure this. Our partnership will be crucial to get Palmylink to the “investment ready” stage.

Palmylink has the potential to become an efficient public transit system, City icon and growth driver. This concept provides a catalyst for Palmerston North to become a more vibrant and progressive City with a distinct ‘point of difference’.


Monday, January 4, 2010

ENM Guardian article re Tramtrust

Manawatu Tram Trust – Back to the Future for Sustainable Transport

Palmerston North has an inspiring history of innovation in the use of sustainable energy for transport.  Back in the 1920s the Destructor, a rubbish incinerator/generator on Maxwells Line, generated enough electricity to power a fleet of electric rubbish trucks and the Rongotea Dairy's battery operated delivery vehicles.

The oil shocks of the 1970s prompted the Council to convert its fleet of over 300 vehicles to CNG (compressed natural gas). In the early 1980s, Palmerston North could boast the first all natural gas bus fleet in the world. Under the leadership of Mayor Brian Elwood, Bus Manager John Galbraith and Engineer Roy Bodell devised a technical strategy for vehicle conversion all of which was done in the Council's Albert Street workshop. Even the Mayor's Jaguar was converted to be powered by natural gas.

The Manawatu Tram Trust aims to bring sustainable transport back to Palmerston North.  The idea of an iconic heritage style tram to help people move around the city centre emerged in 2000, and the Tram Trust was born.  Trustees decided that the Manawatu Tram should showcase sustainability, local innovation and, most of all, uptake of locally generated energy in an iconic tram format. The Manawatu Tram Trust was registered under the Charities Act in 2007.

The Tram is currently being designed in Palmerston North-based Coachworks Central. Funding applications are in place which, if successful, will see the Manawatu Tram operating as early as next year.

The Tram Trust works closely with Horizons Regional Council, Palmerston North City Council and Manawatu, Rangitikei and Tararua District Councils to make green transport a reality. Lessons learned so far and the local expertise developed in this project will help the Manawatu Green Transport Pilot, a call to reduce transport sector emissions using energy generated from our landfills, bio-methane from organic waste, wind energy and hydro-electricity.

As Prime Minister John Key and Environment Minister Nick Smith meet and greet their fellow leaders in Copenhagen, the Tram Trust is working hard to make Green Manawatu Greener by promoting greener transport technologies. More information and a discussion forum, Tramlines, can be found at You can follow Tramtrust on Twitter, become a friend on Facebook, or comment at

"MG" Gopalan

Project Manager, Manawatu Tram Trust



Photo captions:


One picture is the CNG Bus. In the foreground are John Galbraith Bus Manager, Mayor Brian Elwood and Bill Birch, Minister for Science and Technology.


The other picture is in the yard of the Rongotea Dairy Co-operative. The Dairy operated a fleet of 22 battery operated delivery trucks. Picture is circa 1918.


All pictures are courtesy the Ian Matheson Archives, PNCC.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Transport for Suburbia

Transport for Suburbia

Beyond the automobile age

Talk by Dr Paul Mees
Wellington - 2 October 2009

I was in Wellington to attend Dr Mees' talk. He has been retained by NZTransport Agency (now unofficially called the NZ Roading Agency by some Wellington wits)  to study and report on the Auckland transport issues.

With scathing humour he cites the example of the richest city in the world - Zurich where residents spend less per capita on transport than those in comparable cities. This success of the public transport system he attributes to a strategy underpinned by governance, funding and service planning policy. 42% of Zurich workers arrive at work on public transport while in Auckland 6% do. And yet Auckland's roading investments in the last 20 years and expenditure proposed by the Minister will make Auckland no 1 in the world for per capita road outlay! Auckland behaves as if it is the richest city in the world with its chronic overspend on roads.

Zurich's example shows that you can be rich and save money, time and effort by riding public transport. Auckland is a global statistic of road spend and poor transport efficiency at higher per capita costs worn by taxpayers.

In most of Europe the model has been adapted to suburban, urban and  rural transport networks to provide a genuine alternative to single occupancy vehicles. Taking us on a virtual tour of the world he cited other examples from Europe, Canada and Brazil, including successful network planning and utilisation for small towns and low density rural areas.

I was particularly delighted that some of the proposals made by the Tram Trust regarding the current public transport network in Manawatu reflect aspects of Dr Mees network design model for small towns. There is much to learn from Dr Mees forthcoming publication on the subject.












Kingsgate Hotel (110 Fitzherbert Avenue)

Come along for a “taste” of the upcoming

Palmy Farmers Market

and the

Mai Farm

Festival Naturally

Bar will be open plus items to purchase

Please pass this on - all welcome

RSVP to Heather 358 0087 or

Sponsors – Kingsgate Hotel, Palmy Farmers Market, Mai Farm