Have you been wanting to do your bit for the environment, despite living an urban existence, but have been put off by the potential bureaucratic minefield you might have to navigate to make some positive changes?   We provide four tips for living a more sustainable and/or eco-friendly life without moving to the country.

1. Composting – Be Considerate

There are no legal requirements affecting your ability to compost your organic waste, including food scraps, grass clippings and similar.  However, general rules relating to causing a “nuisance” will apply.  So if your compost is causing a nuisance to your neighbour such as being smelly, not contained or is otherwise unpleasant, you may have to remove it.  Any complaint by a neighbour will need to be confirmed by a council officer. The key point is that your local council can provide you with lots of information to help you compost correctly which will hopefully assist in preventing a neighbour complaint.

Have you thought about composting but it seems impossible because you’re an apartment dweller? Well, perhaps not.  Some councils, for example Wellington City Council, run a Kai to Compost (or similar) initiative which involves using a separate plastic-bin for food scraps. They do the composting for you! The bin is collected from you each week for a minimal charge and they even clean it for you! Contact your local council to see whether it is available in your area.

2. City Chicks – Check with your local Council

You may have already established a vegetable garden and are getting a taste of being self-sustainable.  Are you now thinking of taking it to a new level? How about fresh eggs for breakfast from your own chickens? Even if you’ve thought it, you may have discarded the idea because you live in the city. Good news! You may not need to. 

The extent of the regulation in relation to keeping chickens differs between cities.  For specific information relating to your area check out your local council’s website. 

In general, the rules do not get more cumbersome than limiting the number of chickens you can have and/or governing the distance from your house (and your neighbour’s) that they can reside. 

Some councils in fact have no rules.  In these cases nuisance rules still apply which, as already mentioned, includes noise, smells and free ranging on to neigbouring properties without permission, they may be removed.    If you have tolerant neighbours (an egg or two from time to time may assist) and/or apply commonsense city chicks may be for you. 

3. Solar panels – Beware the Building Code

The slightly more serious amongst you might even be considering installing solar panels.  Solar panels not only benefit the environment by cutting greenhouse emissions, but by all accounts they’ll benefit you as well – by slashing your power bill. However, if you are thinking of installing them you need to be aware that there are rules relating to their installation and use. 

Regardless of what type of system you choose and who you engage to install it you will need to comply with the New Zealand Building Code and that means you will need a building consent from your local Council.  Further, once installed, the Building Code contains other requirements regarding its operation. You need to be aware of and comply with those requirements.

Your system’s efficiency will directly correlate to how well it has been installed, so use an accredited supplier/installer listed at www.solarsmarter.org.nz.  However if, once installed, your system does not perform well, do not hesitate to ask that any issues be fixed. Even if it’s after the maker’s warranty has expired you’re still covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act for both manufacturing defects and lack of skill by the installer.

4. Know the Rules and Go For It!

There are many other things you can do to help preserve our clean, green existence for future generations.  However there are often rules governing how you go about it.  Remember to check your local Council’s website, and if in doubt contact your legal advisor, to make sure you are within your rights to make the changes you want to.