Electrifying New Zealand’s Pacific Coast Highway

Electrifying New Zealand’s Pacific Coast Highway

Region-wide network of electric vehicle chargers confirmed after government announces $251,000 in funding

Tairāwhiti is driving towards a cleaner, greener future with the government’s announcement that it will co-fund a fast charging electric vehicle network across the region.

Several months ago Eastland Group, the regional infrastructure company that owns Eastland Network (the lines company for Gisborne, Wairoa and the East Coast), applied to EECA’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund. This fund was established to encourage innovation and accelerate uptake of electric and other low emission vehicles.

The application has been successful, with the government committing $251,000 to the total cost of the project. The remainder will be covered by Eastland Group ($181,000) and their shareholder Eastland Community Trust ($100,000).

EV charging stations will be built at six strategic sites that are best suited to EV range limitations and network infrastructure.

“This is a major leap forward for the region,” said Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd. “It’s all part of the vision to ensure Tairāwhiti is leading the way in emerging technologies, for the benefit of the community, the economy and the environment.

“The East Coast section of the Pacific Coast Highway travels through some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand. But, until today, it’s been a key gap in the rapidly expanding national EV charging network.

“This project is critically important. It will further open up the region to tourists, and encourage local uptake of EVs as they’re a genuinely viable, cost-effective, low emission option.”

Mr Todd added that local businesses could now seriously consider switching to EVs, as they will be able to travel throughout the district and further around the North Island with convenient charging stops on the way.

New EV charging stations by end of the year

Three 50kW fast charging units will be installed at Wairoa, Putorino/Kotemaori and inland at Matawai, along with three 25kW units at Tolaga Bay, Te Araroa, and Morere.

“The aim is to have them all installed and operational by Christmas,” said Mr Todd. “We’re working closely with Unison and the relevant local organisations.”

Unison Networks, electricity distributor for Hawke’s Bay, Taupo and Rotorua, supported Eastland Group’s application and is providing technical assistance. Unison Relationship Manager Danny Gough welcomed the chargers.

“These chargers will help to bridge another significant national travel gap for EV drivers, allowing drivers to travel between the Tairāwhiti region, Hawke’s Bay, Taupo and Rotorua in an EV without range anxiety.”

(‘Range anxiety’ is a term given to concerns from EV drivers that the car’s battery will run out of power and is one of the most significant barriers to EV adoption.)

Supported by ECT and local councils

In a letter of support that accompanied Eastland Group’s application, Mayor Meng Foon said that the council “believes that the fast charging infrastructure will be a great benefit to both our community and our region.”

He noted that it would encourage more tourism, by opening up the route around the East Coast to visitors in EVs.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little congratulated Eastland Group on their successful application.

“This is about future proofing our district, because we need to be prepared for the increasing number of electric vehicles that will be hitting our roads in the future. Locals and visitors will certainly benefit with Wairoa and the wider East Cost being a viable destination for travellers in electric vehicles.”

ECT’s $100,000 funding contribution comes as part of a wider contribution to the emerging energy technology conversation with the community, via Eastland Group, and was integral to the application being approved.

New ECT chief executive Gavin Murphy said that this will have significant, long term advantages for the Tairāwhiti community, and ECT is pleased to be partnering with Eastland Group and the government.

“Norway and the Netherlands are planning to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, with France and the UK following by 2040. Here in New Zealand, the government is aiming to double the EV fleet each year, reaching 64,000 EV registrations by the end of 2021.

“Eighty percent of New Zealand’s energy comes from renewable electricity, and EVs are far cheaper than petrol vehicles to run. This is the future of transport, globally and here in Tairāwhiti, and we need to be ready.

“ECT will continue collaborating with Eastland Group to promote the use of EVs and help reduce the amount of money our community spends running traditional vehicles, as well as encouraging EV visitors to the region.”

Potential multi-million dollar savings for the community

It’s estimated that the Gisborne region spends around $120 million a year on petrol, diesel, repairs and insurance for transport and travel – that’s without even considering the cost of the vehicle. If the total Gisborne fleet moves from internal combustion engines (ICE) to electric vehicles (EV), up to $60 million every year could stay in the pockets of locals.*

The six new chargers are in addition to the region’s very first 50kW EV charger, in Gladstone Road, which was officially opened by the mayor on Tuesday.

Eastland Group’s Electric Village, a unique community-focused new energy hub, is due to open in the CBD within the next few months.


*Sources: Automobile Association, Ministry of Transport, Eastland Group analysis.