Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Green’s Party spokesperson Gareth Hughes announced plans that include a quarter of all schools having their lights replaced with LEDs, a sustainability contestable fund and a plan to improve the environmental sustainability of all schools in the future.

“Tackling climate change is a key priority for this Government and it requires practical policies and action from all sectors, including education,” Hipkins said in a statement.

“Schools make up a significant part of the Government’s property portfolio and we are supporting schools to do their bit to reduce environmental impacts."

A total of 550 schools across New Zealand are set to have LED replacement lighting over the next three years.

“LED lights can cut schools’ energy usage on lighting by over 50 per cent,” Hipkins said.

"The savings on power bills can be used to reinvest in other resources for teaching and learning."

Hipkins said schools will also be able to apply to a $5 million contestable fund for sustainability initiatives that reduce their environmental impact.

“This funding will support innovative energy projects in schools, for example installing solar panels, replacing inefficient heating systems and removing coal boilers to help speed up change,” he said.

The Ministry of Education is set to run energy efficiency trials in 60 schools, and trial ways of reducing water use and carbon emissions to help develop an Environmental Action Plan.

“The plan will set out the steps and actions to improve the environmental sustainability of all schools,” Hipkins said.

“This $16 million package is part of our broader programme of work to modernise all schools, including making them sustainable and energy efficient by 2030.”

Gareth Hughes said students themselves are calling for fast action on climate change.

“These young people are the future. We’re delighted to help in the creation of sustainable learning environments for them and for future generations,” Hughes said in a statement.

“Something as simple as introducing LED lighting reduces schools’ overall energy use significantly, and eases the demands on our electricity system overall.”