Hamilton Airport has achieved another goal in flight towards net zero carbon emissions.
The airport, part of Waikato Regional Airport Ltd (WRAL), has been awarded Level 4 airport carbon accreditation from Airports Council International (ACI). The globally recognised accreditation programme measures how airports manage and reduce carbon emissions.
Hamilton is one of only a handful of New Zealand airports to reach Level 4 -but chief executive Mark Morgan said it was just one initiative in WRAL’s sustainability agenda.
WRAL established a formal carbon and sustainability programme in 2021 based on its three-pillar strategy – people, profit and planet, he said.
“We’re aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – that is a very clear goal, set by our board with our emissions calculated and reported annually. We’ve seen a 20 per cent reduction in emissions since 2019 and we’re aiming for a 46 per cent reduction by 2030. We’re on the right track but we don’t underestimate how much more we can and should do.”
He was proud to lead an organisation that sought sustainability, “rather than just tinkering around the edges”.
“We’re absolutely committed to this from the board down and that’s reflected in our priorities and investments.”
One of those investments was a $1.5 million solar energy farm, commissioned before Christmas. The solar farm powers the airport terminal and ancillary buildings during the day. It has provided immediate energy savings of about $100,000 a year and that will ramp up when the next stage is completed over the next two to four years. Stage two will enable solar powering of EVs plus more energy.
Other sustainability initiatives go right across WRAL, Morgan said. Jet Park Hamilton Airport hotel, part of the group, has a silver environmental accreditation from Qualmark, New Zealand’s tourism accreditation scheme, and is working towards gold.
“We factor carbon emissions reduction into all our planning and the refurbishment of our terminal building in 2022 is a good example of that.”
“Sustainability was a key driver for decision-making on that project. Energy saving measures have driven a five per cent reduction in energy use. During the build itself, 45 per cent of demolition materials were recycled and readied for reuse. Those were deliberate choices.”
WRAL was “laser-focused” on spotting opportunities thanks to in-house sustainability champions whose role is to drive and implement green initiatives.
“Our café, for example, uses local Kaipaki Dairies milk on tap. We’re supporting a local business and we’re cutting back on plastic, so everyone wins.”
If you’re going to be committed, you must walk the talk every day, Morgan said. The aviation industry, often criticised for its carbon emissions, had even greater responsibility to act.
“I think as a publicly owned regional airport company, we should show some leadership – fiscally, socially and environmentally. Some initiatives like the solar farm will have a financial payback and others will provide different benefits over the long-term,” he said.
“Fundamentally however, our driver is that reducing carbon is the right thing to do. We are kaitiaki and we have a responsibility to play our part in protecting our environment for future generations.”
As part of Level 4 accreditation, WRAL is now required to work with other stakeholders to help support their own emissions initiatives.
“We’ve got some other projects in the pipeline alongside partners which are really exciting. We have a long-term commitment to a very clear goal and while we’re making progress, there’s a lot of work to do yet.”