Approach to climate change balances New Zealand’s only smart city

Whanganui District Council’s approach to climate change has helped the city gain international recognition as a model of economic and social development – for the seventh time.

Te Pūwaha, the Whanganui Port Revitalization Project, is an example of how organizations are working together to improve the city, says one of the players involved in moving into the smart city.
Photo: Provided

Whanganui has again been named Smart21 City by US think tank Intelligent Community Forum, and is the only New Zealand city or town to make this year’s list.

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All 21 communities around the world can now compete to become one of seven finalists and be named Smart Community of the Year.

Economic development agency Whanganui & Partners, which is funded and follows the strategic direction set by Whanganui District Council, said initiatives in areas such as work, innovation, equality and Inclusion were key elements of Whanganui’s bid, but the council’s approach to sustainability and its digital strategy have shifted. the balance.

Following consultation and discussion with the community, the council declared a climate emergency in 2020 and pledged to act on climate change.

A climate change strategy, written in collaboration with iwi, set out the board’s priorities and objectives, including:

  • lead by example
  • work together
  • increase resilience
  • and encourage all members of the community to play their part.

The strategy was funded in December 2021 with the appointment of a City Councilor on Climate Change.

The council’s digital strategy, adopted in 2019, builds on the early rollout from 2012 of superfast fiber, which puts Whanganui ahead of most of Aotearoa, Whanganui & Partners said. The strategy has an ambitious vision to “harness digital opportunities to empower and enrich our community”.

The council appointed Connected Community Advisor Jo Buckingham in April 2021 to lead the strategy’s action plan. Buckingham created the Smart21 City app with support from Lou Tyson Walker, Chief Strategy Officer of Whanganui & Partners.

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Lou Tyson Walker
Photo: LDR / Moana Ellis

Tyson Walker said one of the first benefits of participating was going through the application process itself.

“It provided a snapshot of our community’s global competitiveness.

“It was really good to go through the process of reassessing where we are as a community. You’re compared to all the other candidates, so to be able to come out in the top 21 is humbling.

“Being advertised as a smart community means we are one of 21 global communities that are models for the growth of local economies, societies and culture, and the things that can really make Whanganui a great place to live. , raise whānau, build a career or business, and advance the next generation.”

WhANGANUI - FEBRUARY 22: The Watt Fountain on Victoria Avenue on February 22, 2013 in Wanganui, New Zealand.Wanganui was selected as one of the 21 smart communities in the world for 2013.

Wanganui Center
Photo: 123RF

She said they could still apply to be Smart Community of the Year with new collaborations already underway, which would make the city a contender.

“Being a smart city means applying technology to make that city work better, faster, cheaper and all those sorts of things. But “smart” means something more: it involves collaboration in planning and realization of our innovations and our projects.

“We can see that with the Te Pūwaha port project. It’s bringing different organizations together to work together to really create change.”

Te Pūwaha is the Whanganui Port Revitalization Project. It operates under the legal status of the Whanganui River as Te Awa Tupua and is a partnership between Whanganui River hapū and iwi and four other groups invested in development – Whanganui District Council, Horizons Regional Council, Q-West Boat Builders and Whanganui district. Employment Training Trust.

Tyson Walker said the application process itself was gathering information from local government and outside organizations.

“It was collaboration across organizational boundaries and that’s seen as one of the success factors for communities in the 21st century,” she said.

Whanganui was first named a smart city in 2013. Since then, it has been on the list every year until 2017 and then again in 2020. In 2016, the city was among the seven finalists. The 2022 selection marks the start of an eight-month process that will culminate in the nomination of the 2022 Smart Community of the Year in October.

The 2022 Smart21 communities are: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia; Alexandria Lakes Region, Minnesota, USA; Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK; Binh Duong Smart City, Vietnam; Curitiba, Parana, Brazil; Durham Region, Ontario, Canada; East Central Region, Minnesota, USA; Elefsina, Attica, Greece; Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada; Township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada; City of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada; Markham, Ontario, Canada; New Taipei City, Taiwan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Prospect, South Australia, Australia; Rochester, New York, USA; Seat Pleasant, Maryland, USA; Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia; Townsville, Queensland, Australia; Wanganui, New Zealand.

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest information service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air.

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