NZ first nation to join Smart Cities programme

Hamilton - 21st in recent Smart Cities top 50.

New Zealand has become the first nation in the world to have all of its local Council’s join the Smart Cities Council (SCCANZ).

This means that councils across the country will be given the opportunity to engage in the most up-to-date smart-city information and have the opportunity to develop their cities into more user-friendly models that are both sustainable and easy for citizens to live in. 

“We are excited to continue to build and showcase to other nations how New Zealand is using technology and data to enhance liveability, workability, and sustainability,” says New Zealand Director for SCCANZ Jannat Maqbool.

What is a Smart City?

A smart city is designed to make the most comfortable living experience for its citizens, utilising collected data to design a workable and sustainable community. 

While NZ is still in the early stages of developing smart cities, Singapore leads the race, as the number one smart city in the Top 50 Smart City Governments.

Singapore is currently building a ‘forest town’, called The Tengah project, which will include five residential districts (Garden, Park, Brickland, Forest Hill, and Plantation) across a 700-hectare site which will incorporate suburban living “at home with nature,” with citizens enthused to ride their bikes and walk wherever they need to go. The heart of the city will be ‘car free’, with only pedestrians and cyclists allowed. 

Artist impression of the Park District town centre at Tengah – Photo courtesy – The Housing Development Board, Singapore

What was formerly a military-restricted area, will include a natural forest, computer-simulated buildings which optimise wind flow and minimise heat, smart lighting – which will react to human movement and automated waste collection, utilising pneumatic waste conveyance systems or high-speed air to transport household waste down to the main waste areas. 

New Zealand 

The Hamilton City Government was recently placed 21st in the Top 50 Smart City Governments of the world.  Only two other cities applied, including Wellington – which was placed 33rd and Christchurch, 10 places back at 43rd out of 230 municipalities around the world. 

While Hamilton hasn’t quite made it to such lofty heights as Singapore’s Tengah Project, it is living up to its futuristic name of ‘Hamilton, City of the future’, by making some progress, in terms of sustainable infrastructure. 

The city has rolled out LED lighting throughout the city, cutting down on the cost of replacement, while lowering the light pollution that spreads to neighbouring homes, by installing ‘warm-light’ LED bulbs. Trials have also taken place for ‘smart parking’, with sensors installed on all metered parking bays, giving citizens the chance to link their smartphones to the Pay My Park app, which allows users to check parking availability, get reminders when their parking is due to expire and pay for parking via their mobile device.

Last year, Hamilton City pitched the idea of a 20-minute city revamp, which is about linking existing destinations with walking, cycling, and public transport connections, creating a city where “most residents can safely access most of the things they need within 20 minutes, without relying on private vehicles,” says Chair of the city’s Infrastructure Operations Committee – Cr Angela O’Leary.

Christchurch has made the most of the earthquake rebuild by developing a variety of smart-city programmes including EQRnet – which was developed by Canterbury Seismic Instruments Ltd (CSI) and includes sensor stations positioned 200 apart which allow for EQRNet to estimate the intensity of the shake, how it affects certain buildings and when evacuations should take place if an earthquake was to occur.  Sensor stations positioned within 200m of each other allows EQRNet to confidently and accurately estimate shaking between sensors. Real-time information can be sent to building managers as well as a ‘shake map’, which both emergency responders and the general public can access. 

Auckland was recently awarded Outstanding Smart City Project for Smart Buildings, in the IDC Smart City Asia Pacific Awards, for the Auckland Hospital Digital Twin project, which uses smart technology to create a ‘digital twin’ of the hospital and all of its assets, to enable hospital managers to work out what resources they need to carry out the best care to their patients. The system was developed by Microsoft and Asbuilt and captures data from the intelligent Internet of Things (IoT). 

Data security 

With large amounts of data comes a great deal of power and part of the reason that smart cities are not being developed quickly, is because of concerns about data breaches and privacy rights. 

SCCANZ is the region’s leading authority in smart cities and has been involved in a lot of discussions about how data is utilised and how personal information will be kept private. 

“We regularly discuss the need for data leadership in ‘activating data’ and the five principles – data purpose, privacy, security, ethics, and governance. This is essential before we can truly leverage technology and data for the benefit of our communities,” says Maqbool. 

Now that New Zealand has partnered up with SCCANZ, councils will be given the chance to work alongside the Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM) and SCCANZ to further develop our cities.  “We are excited to be collaborating with the Smart Cities Council to develop smart cities, towns, and regions across New Zealand,” says ALGIM CEO, Mike Manson. 

“From a smart-cities perspective, it looks like New Zealand is on the right track,” says Maqbool. 

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