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Decarbonising New Zealand's transport sector
There has been some debate about the use of helicopters in Tāmaki Makaurau, with residents of Herne Bay and other areas of the region opposing landings and take-offs from private properties. But the issues are much wider than noise and invasion of privacy. Helicopters are an amazing piece of technology. They can rush people from remote rural locations directly to hospital, pluck injured trampers off hillsides, or lift distressed sailors from a churning sea. But, when powered by fossil fuels, they are a very high emission form of travel. Where do they fit in when considering emission reduction plans? Yet, there is now a promise of Advanced Air Mobility, with ‘zero emission’ flying cars and planes set to transform urban and regional mobility. Is this a future we really want? Is it a green growth scenario that will create a whole set of new problems?
New Zealand’s public sector is being required to rapidly decarbonise. While the initial focus is on replacing fossil fueled boilers and electrifying the car fleet, emissions from aviation also need to be tackled. In Europe night trains are making a comeback. In New Zealand decarbonisation of aviation seems to rely on distant promises of electric and hydrogen powered planes. However, a low emissions night train between Auckland and Wellington could be introduced relatively quickly. A night train could begin a wider revival of a low emissions public transport network. Stronger government direction would be required to overcome the inevitable resistance, as political power tends to be held in New Zealand by the demographic who fly and pollute the most.