Media Release: Community composting could save Auckland Council $100m

March 16, 2018 by  
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Every year Aucklanders produce over 110,000 tonnes of organic food waste. Fortunately 35% of Aucklanders are green fingered and compost at home, another 2% support community gardens but unfortunately 61% of us put food waste into Council bins destined for landfill.

The food waste that ends up in our landfill produces leachate, essentially acid, and in many of Auckland’s old landfills this can contaminate the ground water and also produces methane which is 21 times worse for greenhouse gas emissions than CO2. 

Through the Auckland Waste Minimisation Strategy Auckland Council has been working towards diverting food waste from landfill. Auckland Council is currently consulting on its Long Term Plan on a number of key local issues including a waste levy of $67 on kerbside food waste collection.

Auckland Council is currently in a RFI process with two waste companies to create a kerbside collection using diesel trucks delivering over 55,000 tonnes of food waste per year to two methane plants situated one in the far north and one in the far south of Auckland. These plants draw the water out of the bio mass burning the hydrogen producing electricity to run the plant. Under the proposed terms Auckland Council would be locked down by two duopolies for a long period of time and the contracts could potentially be worth $630m over twenty years.

One local councillor is questioning the methodology and saying focusing more on community composting would save Auckland Council millions over ten years.

 Waitemata Local Board member Rob Thomas says “Auckland Council spending over $500 per tonne for a region wide compost collection service is expensive when comparted to composting at home in communities or even taking in to the tip green waste service for $142 per tonne.”

“Thousands of diesel trucks movements a year will generate huge CO2 emissions in complete contradiction to Mayor Phil Geoff’s support of the C40 Climate Change Initiatives. The proposed service will be harmful to our environment and further drive the planet into climate catastrophe.”

Instead Mr Thomas is proposing an alternative mix of household composting, community composting and a scaled down version of the food waste collection service that could save Auckland Council over $100m over ten years with zero emissions.

 “Over 35% of Aucklanders already compost at home and I do not understand why Auckland Council would not be using some of the $67 a household to encouraging a greater uptake. If Auckland Council were to encourage 50% of Aucklanders to compost at home, which is not an unreasonable target, this could save ratepayers over $100m over the next ten years.”

Mr Thomas is quick to point out that a compost bin at The Warehouse costs $45 and with some additional training for $30 per household or searching for free on “how to compost” on YouTube could save the Council an enormous amount of money.

“If Auckland Council gave away free compost bins to households wanting to compost at home this could save Auckland Council $585 every ten years. It’s a no-brainer. “

However, Auckland Council is proposing to lock-in all households to the collection service and there is no option to opt-out for potentially decades.

Aucklanders should be able to opt-out of the service if they decide to compost at home or support a local community garden producing local food in the neighbourhood. I don’t believe Aucklanders should be locked down by a food waste duopoly that is expensive and environmentally harmful.”

Like many Aucklanders Mr Thomas lives in an apartment and understands that not every Aucklander can compost or are willing to participate which is why he is proposing a community collection service. Across Auckland there are over 300 community gardens in local neighbourhoods and through school programmes such as Enviro Schools & Garden to Table.

“Auckland Council has existing relationships with a large network of community gardens. Identifying a number with these groups and instead of burning micro biology out of the soil we could be growing food in our community.”

Kilmarna Garden in Herne Bay was recently awarded an Auckland Council waste reduction grant to use sustainable electric bikes to collect food waste from the surrounding area to grow food. Mr Thomas believes the proposal has the ability to create local employment, have a zero emissions operation, have an anaerobic large scale composting system to serve local households, grow local food, create revenue from food sales, act as a carbon sink and be sustainable. A similar service was run on Waiheke Island which supporting food waste collection for 150 households and the community market.

“Working in partnership with existing community garden would help to reduce food waste to landfill, reduce cost, create greater community engagement, create carbon sinks, educate our communities and deliver high-nutrition food into our community.”

Over the next 50 years major climatic changes will occur on the planet due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. There is a world-wide concern about food security and many communities around the world are taking action to take control of the production of soil and growing local food source. A European Union Report in 2012 called Sustainable Food in Urban Communities identified how food waste was being used to develop low-carbon and resource-efficient urban food systems in cities around the world.

“Other cities around the world are adopting food growing in urban communities. Auckland’s Communities need to also be resilient to the challenges of climate change. Decentralising the food waste model through composting at home and community gardens will create greater resilience and solutions to climate change.”

Auckland Council’s Long Term Plan is currently open for consultation.

To submit your feedback visit:



Decentralising the Food Waste Model


Media Contact

Rob Thomas, Elected Member, Waitemata Local Board





October 17, 2016 by  
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Auckland’s Inner-City Ward is a highly contested political stomping ground. You don’t have to go much further than the efforts of National’s Nikki Kaye vs Labour’s Jacinda Ardern to understand the effort, commitment and resources that are spent to firstly support the community and secondly contest the electoral seat.

Despite the confusing political alliances that are formed in #Auckland #LocalGovernment, such as Team Waitemata, C&R, City Vision, Auckland Future, Affordable Auckland and the independent candidates; this is a highly represented and contest local community.

Here are the trends as I saw them in the 2016 elections:


-Waitemata & Gulf Ward Councillor-

In the Councillor seat Bill Ralston was almost 1,000 votes earshot of MikeLee, the closest result in three terms of the Super City. While being an independent is a major challenge my voter base grew by almost 1,500 this election and has almost doubled in two terms. With Mike Lee’s 30+ year political life and my fledgling 6.. it’s just a matter of time and change is the wind.



-Waitemata Local Board-

The Waitemata Local Board has had a refresh with just four incumbents remaining. Members Pippa Coom and VoteRobThomas were the clear front runners with over 8,000 votes each while Shale Chambers received over 7,000 votes. City Vision new comers Adriana Avendaño Christie and Richard Northey along with Auckland Future candidates #MarkDavey, and former #WaitemataLocalBoard member Vernon Tava making the cut. There were just 10 votes separating Jonathan Good and Vernon, followed by four other candidates within 500 votes. Former Auckland City Councillor and Local Board member Greg Moyle polled in twelfth place. With former Local Board Members Christopher Dempsey and Deborah Yates deciding not to stand for re-election.


The centre left once had a commanding lead in #Waitemata but the margin has now narrowed by over 10% of the overall vote and this is a clear shift towards a great balance of decision making across the political spectrum. Fresh faces provide both an opportunity for new thinking but also a challenge of continuity. New members Adriana and Mark are business #entrepreneurs and should bring a greater depth to the decision making process.

Waitemata Local Board Election Results

The next chairperson will need to be collaborative and act fairly to bring members together. In my view the workloads across each portfolio, business association and committee delegation can no longer be held by one group but will need to be shared to get the best outcomes for our community.



-Waiheke Island Local Board-

It was a great result for independents on #Waiheke Island with newly elected #BobUpchurch leading the charge, independent new comer Cath Handley, independent incumbents Shirin Brown and John Meeuwsen and former chairperson Paul Walden.


-Great Barrier Island Local Board-

With such a small population, the voting is always close on Great Barrier Island with just 276 votes separating first and last place. #IzzyFordhammaintained her commanding lead followed by new comer Luke Coles for local board, Sue Daly is back on along with #JeffCleave and ecologist #ShirleyJohnson.

Overall there was a feeling of change and this was reflected in the number of new faces and a string of independents successfully elected across the ward.

*election figures taken from, Auckland Council, and Wikipedia.

Auckland’s Land Use Plan

September 16, 2016 by  
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There are prime sections of land all across our city centres that are underutilised; either vacant or used for car parking. The Council and the Government received very little tax revenue from leaving these prime sections under developed. Rather than focusing our attention of Greenfield sites that require hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure projects that the Auckland Council cannot afford, there needs to be a focus on sites with existing infrastructure with greater land yield return.

My land use plan for Auckland:

  • Auckland Property Development Agency Panuku to identify prime development sites in central city/town locations and work with owners/developers to incentivise growth with a maximum five year rates pay back period for Council.
  • A key focus of new developments are for housing; support housing shortages.
  • Auckland Council identify site that incorporate further social housing.


Case Study: Hobsonville vs UpTown

Hobsonville will eventually have 3,000 dwellings contributing $6-7m in rates per year. The infrastructure cost for Hobsonville was $535m for a mains pipe and $110m for local roads. The cost of the overall infrastructure in this community is likely to be paid back over 100-120 years and therefore this is not a financially sustainable growth model for Auckland Council.

UpTown (Upper Symonds Street) could eventually have 12,000 dwellings contributing $16m per year. There is little to no infrastructure cost and incentives of up to $80m would be paid off in five years. Plus this area will have greater economic growth than Hobsonville and greater government tax generation. After this Auckland Council earns an additional $16m per year and has a greater and more vibrant community. Win win win win win win.

Having multipul high-yield development site will start generating $100m of dollars in addtional rates within 5 years. This will allow the Council to pay off debt and/or pay for infrastructure projects like transport.

Transport Plan for Auckland

September 16, 2016 by  
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Auckland needs to encourage greater population growth around our major rail, bus and ferry hubs/towns/city centres. We need to provide seperated heavy rail, lightrail, bus and ferry services that are frequent, reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly that connect these hubs.

This electoin I support:

  • A direct Rail Connection from the Auckland Airport via the Puhinui Station.
  • Delivering the Central Railway Line project with stricter controls and governence to prevent esculating cost.
  • Championing for the second harbour crossing to have Rail to the NorthShore.
  • I will continue to suppor the role-out of cycling & walking projects to make it safe for commuters and recreational users.
  • A greater focus on clean technology to reduce air pollution from our public transport.





Residential Parking roll-out

August 11, 2015 by  
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Every morning thousands of commuters from across the Auckland region park their cars on the surroundings streets of Freeman’s Bay, Grey Lynn, Ponsonby, Grafton, Newmarket and Parnell to make the most of free parking. To put the issue into perspective the surrounding streets of Freeman’s Bay have more carparks than Aotea Centres’ Civic Carpark, that’s a lot of free carparking. Having door knocked over 16,000 homes in the innercity suburbs Residential Parking is the No. 1 issue for locals.

The frustration for residents is that many heritage properties lack off-street parking which forces them to park on the road. The vehicle on street occupancy rates in some streets have hit 90-100% which force residents to walk across the city to access their own property. Commuter parked in our leafy suburbs also prevent visitors to the area and being able to find parking to shop in the business districts. All that is about to change.

Residential parking will be rolled out over the next year that will see congested streets turned back into calmer residential streets. Freeman’s Bay will be the next community to see the residential parking scheme implemented.

Resident only parking zone

What is a residential parking zone?

A residential parking zone is a parking time restriction that applies across a residential area and is typically two hours, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm, Residents and business within he area can apply for permits and coupons that give exemption from the time restrictions.

Benefits of residential parking zone

  • Fair share access to on-street parking among residents, business and visitors to a community.
  • Reduce the stress associated with living and working with in an area of high parking demand.
  • Free up on-street parking for visitors

When is a resident parking zone considered?

  • On a regular basis, over 85% of car parks in an area are occupied during the days four busiest hours.
  • There is support from both the local community and the local board.

Parking permits 

  • A permit costs $70 and is valid for one year.
  • The number of permits issued is capped at 85% of the total number of parking spaces with in a zone area.
  • Residents can apply for as many permits as there are vehicles registered to their address, however permits will be allocated on a priority basis until the cap is reached.
  • Businesses can apply for one permit.
  • Properties built after the notification of the Proposed Auckland unitary Plan in September 2013 are not eligible for permits.
  • Permits are ‘paperless’ instead a vehicle license plate is linked to an electronic permit.

Permits are issued in order of priority 

High to Low

  • Houses on a single title without off-street parking, or apartments built before 1944 without off-street parking
  • Houses on a single title with a dedicated off-street parking spave
  • All other houses or townhouses
  • Apartments
  • Businesses located with the zone


  • A coupon cost $5 and is valid for one day.
  • Any residents or business within a zone can register to purchase a coupon from Auckland Transport.
  • There is no restrictions on the number that can be bought.
  • On registering, resident living within a zone will receive $0 free coupons. Businesses are not eligible for free coupons.
  • Coupons are ‘paperless;. Instead a vehicles license plate is linked to an electronic coupon.


Auckland Transport’s parking enforcement team uses license plate recognition to monitor parking vehicles. The technology identifies whether a license plate’s linked to a valid permit or coupon and issues an infringement notice if needed.

Check out the St Mary’s Bay Parking Permit system: 


Previous posts:

9 September 2013 – Media Release – Rob Thomas promises to kick commuters out of residential streets

1 June 2013 – Column: Parking in Auckland’s Inner-City

25 July 2012 – St Mary’s Bay Parking Trial


Big win for cycling in Auckland!

July 23, 2015 by  
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It’s like all my dreams have come true, well almost.

Over the next three years the Government and Auckland Council have committed to spending $90m on cycling infrastructure. The inner-city is a big winner. There are some notable projects that include the Grey Lynn Greenway, K’Rd, Victoria Park and Hobson Bay.

One project missing from the list which needs to be addressed is the Parnell Rail Trail. This is our once in a lifetime chance to open up the former rail tunnel, former home to the glow worms, before the land is developed and the opportunity lost forever.

Auckland Transport have a major challenge ahead of them with their current project management capacity to deliver all projects in three years. Time will tell but the direction looks good.
big win for cycling
There is more information on Auckland Transport’s website.


Minister gives support for Newmarket Playspace

July 23, 2015 by  
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Newmarket ViaductThey say don’t count your chickens before they hatch but I’m certainly lining up all my eggs in a row.

Newmarket has the highest concentration of school age children in the country with 8,000 registered pupils. However there is no recreational playspace. As the population continues to grow in and around Newmarket there will be increased pressure on public open space.

Late last year an opportunity arose to negotiate land from NZTA under the Newmarket Viaduct. Last financial year the Waitemata Local Board committed $4k to investigate a design for the space. With the assistance of our new Local MP David Seymour the design was presented to the Minister of Transport Simon Bridges who in principle supports the idea. The idea has also been presented to the Minister of Youth Affairs and Local MP Nikki Kaye and to the Waitemata Youth Collective. Negotiations are underway with NZTA.

These are the concept plans for the playspace.

Newmarket Playspace design

To download the PowerPoint presentation click here Newmarket Playspace.


Helsinki – What makes a liveable city?

July 23, 2015 by  
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Helsinki Ciy CouncilNokia, Sauna and Santa Claus Village are words you might associate to Finland but what makes Helsinki, Finland one of the top five livable cities of the world?

On a self-funded trip to Finland I wanted to find out what makes Helsinki unique. I had the awesome opportunity to meet Marko Karvinen the Head of Strategy for The City of Helsinki. In 2011, Helsinki was voted the most liveable city in the world and continues to be recognised as one of the top five cities in the world.  As an Elected Member of Auckland Council these are learnings I can take back to help improve the quality of life for our own community. My note book is packed with great ideas that are likely to be a big hit in Auckland.

Now there are some fundamental differences between Helsinki and Auckland:

Delivering outcomes

Helsinki is proud to have “basic services” and have a broader responsibility for education, health, social services, housing and transport for their 600,000 residents. Through this holistic approach to governance they are able to heavily influence the mechanism of creating a liveable city. This includes the provision of a large portfolio of housing. These are policies and outcomes shared between local government and central government.


There are also two major differences in city funding and economic development:

There is no property tax but 18% income tax (half of all personal tax) which generates 53% of all city revenue. The outcome of this approach is that if salaries are strong so is the city. This creates huge city competition in Europe to compete attract and retain large business.

In Helsinki there are 100 companies owned by the Council with the strategic and political intent to regenerate areas. Their approach is centralised and creates a social system of expectation for service as opposed to a western approach of decentralisation. Public Private Partnerships are almost unheard of due to this social expectation. One of the major challenges of their centralised approach is the level of bureaucratic cost which they cap through budgeting so that funds are directed to delivery services – a big challenge for most Councils!


When asked, what was the number one change you made? He said “Light Rail”. The large investment in city infrastructure has been in Light Rail which has improved the livability of the city providing people with easier access through and across the city. He mentioned that other European cities had made that investment to improve the quality of livability.

Thank you to the City of Helsinki for your warm welcome and sharing your experience.

Costley Reserve – One person can make a difference

July 23, 2015 by  
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Tucked away from the bustling streets on Ponsonby Road you will find the tranquil respite of Costley Reserve. The reserve is inconspicuous to many but a huge asset for local residents who walk their dog or release their kids on the playground.

Rob Thomas and Andy Smith at Costley ReserveIn 2012, local resident and Walk Auckland advocate Andy Smith took me through the reserve highlighting concerns; a treacherous narrow stairwell leading to the park; the overgrowth creating safety issues; the rotting wooden fence and high retaining wall; poor lighting; and the dilapidated and mouldy play equipment. It was clear that the playground and park had been neglected.

There’s only so many times you can duct tape a broom handle before it needs to be replaced. In the case of Costley Reserve it had undergone maintenance work over the years but the visual signs of the ongoing bandages were starting to show. One resident told me how he leaned on the fence and broke it. This wasn’t simply a case of the squeaky wheel getting the oil because when Costley Reserve was ranked against other projects it was a high-priority for safety reasons.

The local neighbours on Wood Street and Costley Street rallied behind the need for Costley Reserve to get a do-over. The initial concept design was pulled apart by residents saying that they didn’t want to see a grand design but an affordable and simple solution. The design was scaled back and Auckland Council took the playground design in-house using its own experience and expertise to save on project cost. The Waitemata Local Board approved a renewal budget of $114k and a top-up of $142k through our local improvement budget. This would enable a high-quality urban park for our every growing inner-city population.

Costley Reserve OpeningThe Costley Reserve playground and entrance renewal was officially opened on Saturday 27 June 2015. Unfortunately Andy Smith was unable to attend the opening so we handed the honour of cutting the ribbon to one of our youngest residents and playground users Oliver.

The revitalised park now boasts safer entrances and a significant re-grading of the slope and footpaths for easier access for prams and wheelchairs. The new wooden play equipment includes a basket swing for children with disabilities, and a fort with climbing ropes, swing-bridge and slide.

Thank you to local residents, Council’s Parks Team, contractors and the Waitemata Local Board for your support. It was John F Kennedy who said “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try”. In the case of Costly Reserve, we need to thank Andy Smith for his pragmatism and fortitude. Its local leaders like Andy who pick up the reins and make all the difference.

Previous blogs

10 September 2013 – A promise delivered

4 April 2013 – New plans for Costley Reserve, Freemans Bay

27 March 2012 – Costley Park review

The Junction – The $0 Park

January 21, 2015 by  
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Before and After Symonds Street

Auckland Transport purchased the land at 257 Symonds Street for the CRL project. The land was to be used for the Newton Train Station but this was moved to Mt Eden to save $150m and allow for grade separation of the track at Mt Eden Station. The land has been kept as part of the project because there is uncertainty if the land will be need for air ducting or construction.

As the Waitemata Local Board representative on the UpTown Business Association, representing 950 businesses in the area, I have been involved in the local area planning consultation which includes what to do with the land at 257 Symonds Street and the neighbouring property which is the Chinese Community Centre.

In November last year I approached Auckland Transport asking what they were doing with the vacant land at 257 Symonds Street with the idea to turn it into a public space. The project has been split into two parts, the initial phase is to open the space into a pocket park and the second is to ask the public what they want and find local residents who would like to help deliver the project. The key principles for the site is that everyone has access and that there is no cost to Council.

In less than two months leading up to Christmas we were able to develop an initial design to revitalise the area, sort sponsorship to pay for the entirety of the project, earth works undertaken by contractors, and coordinated a volunteer day with the community. There has been overwhelmingly positive feedback to the new pocket park and the community have already started to assist with watering the garden and providing feedback into stage two of the site development.

This has truly been a project for the community by the community:

  • Phantom Billboards came to the party by paying two years in advance for the advertising rights which has covered the design, earthwork and building costs to date of $36,000. Phantom Billboards pulling down their tired advertising panels which had become a major eyesore on the Symonds Street Mainstreet. This is a very exciting partnership which has enabled us to build a temporary park for the community at no cost to Council.
  • Auckland Transport contracted the design work, signed off with AT board and contractors to landscape the area in preparation for the volunteers. This occurred in one month.
  • UpTown Business Association supports the project and local business Bamboo Kitchen provided free lunch on the volunteer day.
  • The Rotaract Club of Auckland lead the volunteering with Auckland Transport
  • Around 30 volunteers with included local residents, business owners, the Waitemata Local Board and the chairman of the Business Association.
  • The volunteer day involved building planter boxes (using the wood from my election signs), laying the walkway and seeding hundreds of wildflower seeds down the bank.

Group photo3

There are two parts to the project:

Stage 1

To build and maintain a small pocket park over summer until the community confirm what they want to achieve for the entire site, with the key principles FOR EVERYONE, FOR FREE! There is a community notice board in the pocket park and people can post up ideas. They key suggestions to date are community gardens and some entertainment space such as outdoor cinema and/or music.

Stage 2

Once the community have agreed on what to do with the site we are seeking local residents to get involved in building and maintaining the park.

The space will be temporary available for the residents until the CRL project can determined if the land is required for the project.

The Auckland Council has spent millions of dollars acquiring properties throughout the inner-city with no guarantee of the timeline to deliver the CRL project. We need to make hay while the sun shines and we can’t wait around to see these sites rot away.

Many of the businesses in UpTown are unsure of their future with the billion dollar CRL project bearing down on them. There is general support for the CRL project because of the long-term benefits to rejuvenate this part of town, but the reality is in the short term that the project will be hugely disruptive. The Junction pocket park is an opportunity for the public to get involved in helping shape the areas future.

Post your idea on the community notice board today!

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