Sweeping Changes in Napier

The city streets of New Zealand’s central business districts are, to a large extent, the urban planner’s palette. Locals and tourists might flock to the country’s beaches, mountains and parks for their recreation, but it is the cities they head to for shopping, dining, entertainment and more often than not, employment. 

The look and feel of a district’s CBD is relative to a city’s success as a destination location, something the city planners of Napier are well aware of. 

“We take pride in Napier being a major tourist city,” says Phil Tilbury, services cleaning manager for Napier City Council. 

“And we therefore put a huge effort into keeping it clean and tidy both for tourists and ratepayers.” 

While street cleaning might not be the sexiest topic, the council’s discuss when they are considering CBD improvements – it doesn’t have the popular appeal of a new playground upgrade or the wow-factor of a historic building overhaul – it is, nonetheless, a critical maintenance factor councillors must take into account each fiscal year. Street sweeping is necessary to keep roads safe for pedestrians and drivers, to cut down on dirt and other contaminants (such as zinc and copper) reaching surface water and to keep a city looking clean and beautiful.

Early street sweeping devices were little more than simple mechanical brooms designed to make street cleaning easier. Urban legends chronicle the tales of early 20th-century entrepreneurs, armed with elaborate drawings of strange looking sweeping machines, besieging the offices of manufacturers and city planners trying to convince them of the benefits of motor-driven street cleaners. Since those early days, hundreds of patents have been granted for street sweepers of every size, model and colour – leaving today’s city councils with seemingly endless options when it comes to choosing appropriate street cleaning technology for their municipalities.

Tilbury and Lance Titter from Napier City Council say this is the reason they spent almost five years investigating street sweepers before making the decision to purchase a Green Machine 636 from Tennant Company. 

“We are more than pleased with the results from the 636,” Tilbury and Titter say. 

“It is quick, versatile, and able to get into tight places. The height of the machine is such that it fits under shop signs and verandahs. It is also narrow enough to travel on and clean footpaths and to clean right up against shop frontages, walls and fences. It will pick up just about everything – litter, cans, bottles, dust, leaves – and can even be used on grass.” 

Tennant, a large American company that has a long history of successfully selling indoor cleaning equipment, acquired the Scottish company Green Machines in 2008 as a means of expanding into the city cleaning market. The company became active in New Zealand in September 2009, opening a head office and spare parts warehouse and employing salespeople based in Auckland and Christchurch. New Zealand sales manager Paul Braid says the company saw a huge market potential for Green Machines in New Zealand because: “the machines are so unique; they have a lot of features that other machines being sold here don’t have. They are also extremely compact, which makes them perfect for the narrow streets found in most New Zealand cities and their stainless steel construction suits coastal towns because the machines don’t have any rusting problems.”

Another major selling point from Napier City Council’s perspective is that the Green Machine 636 “transports itself from one site to another” unlike other sweepers that “need trailers to transport them to and from jobs.” The 636 can travel up to 40k/hour allowing operators to move quickly from the depot to cleaning sites. The machine also has a full suspension system (built to automotive standards) and full-time four-wheel drive, which allows it to effortlessly climb kerbs and ensures that it is safer out on the highway – in any weather conditions – than two-wheel-drive machines. 

Safety and operator comfort were critically important to Tilbury and Titter when choosing a street sweeping machine. They say: “the City and staff have benefited from this great little machine. It is actually a major step up from our previous walk behind vacuums and gets the staff away from the wet and dust, which is very important as we work 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.” 

Paul Braid says: “operator comfort is primary in the 636. Large windows set operators at ease with all-around visibility. Seats are padded and fully adjustable for different operator sizes and heights and the controls are ergonomically designed. The machines also come with air-conditioner, radio and CD player options to enhance the operator’s working environment.” 

Braid says that the Green Machine 636 also assists city cleaning managers in “attending to public health issues.” He believes one of the driving factors in cleaning CBDs “is safely removing the ‘morning after’ human waste left in front of bars and clubs each night.” 

The 636 has a high pressure water wand that operators can get out and use to hose down particularly dirty places on footpaths, under benches, and around rubbish bins. The wand, in addition to the 636’s Cloudmaker fine spray technology, leaves the streets of Napier looking wet, clean and fresh every morning. Best of all, the machine can operate in “whisper mode” allowing it to do its job in the wee hours of the morning without waking the residents who live in Napier’s central city apartments. For all of these reasons the Green Machine 636 has lived up to its promise to be a “radical step forward” in street cleaning technology for this city-by-the-sea.