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Towards sustainable living: NZ cities of the future

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A future where people can enjoy a high quality of life is largely dependent on the state of our cities. How can we adapt our urban landscapes to handle the changing climate? Authorities and research specialists in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington are actively looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact, and improve the standard of living.

As a result of technological advancements, we could one day have cities that are self-monitoring. Currently, a 3D self-monitoring system is being developed by a New Zealand research team and a high-tech company in China. Self-monitoring cities would deliver air quality, moisture and traffic information directly to engineers and authorities. The data would be captured through cloud computing, and sensors would be placed in water supplies to test its quality and on top of buildings. Might our cities of the future be more digitalised than ever before? At present, the technologies are being developed for Wuhan, the most highly populated city in China. However, Professor Sarrafzada, director of a high tech research network in China, believes that major cities in the world will eventually be mapped to use the self-monitoring system.

Auckland could be set for serious digital and tech changes to tackle climate change. It is estimated that by the end of the century, the city will exceed temperatures of 25C, resulting in an extra 40-60 days per year where maximum temperatures reach over 25C. One of the ways the council is looking to overcome the problem of rising temperatures, is by using ‘smart’ metres and electricity control systems on Auckland’s buildings to reduce their energy consumption.

Meanwhile, Wellington’s council officials have laid out an action plan to reduce 30 per cent of the city’s emissions 2001 levels, by 2020. This plan was created in 2007 and has regularly been updated ever since. This plan involves the promotion of electric vehicles and investing in travel networks to make the city even more compact and safer for people to walk or cycle. Also, the council is actively making plans for renewable energy and has supported large-scale projects like Makara’s Wind Farm. This is the first wind farm in Wellington and it was officially opened in 2009 and includes 62 turbines.    

Christchurch’s council has also committed to reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. It aims to cut it down by a fifth by 2020, measured against its 2008 levels. It is expected that climate change will increase sea level in Christchurch by 50-80 centimetres, so the council is determined to make way for sustainability and create a safer environment. The plans involve promoting cycling and walking and drastically reducing landfilled waste. The council also wantspeople to start growing their own food and has put aside $30,000 to encourage people to grow vegetables in public spaces and on private land.

It’s essential that we create energy efficient communities in our cities. The best ways we can do this is by reducing the energy produced from buildings and transport. These are the two key areas in cities that are contributing to climate change. With the increasing advancements of technology, we could see a future of ‘smart’ cities that are self-monitoring, able to alert authorities about problems and risks. Only by making substantial efforts, will we see long lasting sustainability in our cities in the future.

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