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Challenge To Encourage Better Travel Habits Launches For Another Year

Two years since the Wednesday Challenge first piloted in Tauranga the initiative kicks off again the week in Tauranga, Tairāwhiti and in an increasing number of businesses across New Zealand, encouraging people to choose more environmentally friendly and healthier travel modes to and from work and school on a Wednesday.

Since piloting the programme in Tauranga there has been increasing interest from other cities in New Zealand and now Australia, keen to also engage in the Challenge. This year businesses, with offices across New Zealand, are also signing up so their teams can participate wherever they are.

Project Director Heidi Hughes says the focus this year is on the primary daily commute of participants with points and rewards up for grabs.

“Whether it’s getting to and from work or to and from the school gates, we want to encourage as many people as possible to ditch jumping in the car by themselves and instead opt to bike, catch a bus, walk, run, scooter or carpool. We’re also awarding points again for those that choose to work from home on a Wednesday. Ultimately, we want to see how far we can shift the dial to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion and improve the health and wellbeing of people and communities.”

Mercury and Craigs Investment Partners have been the first to sign up their national teams to the Challenge, determined to lead by example, engage their teams nationally and encourage other businesses to follow suit.

Mercury is also partnering with the Wednesday Challenge this year to support the schools programme. Through their support Wednesday Challenge schools will be competing for their share of prizes each term and grand prizes at the end of the year. The winning schools will be able to spend the cash prizes on school resources of their choice.

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We’re absolutely thrilled and humbled by Mercury’s support,” says Heidi. “With motivation, encouragement, rewards and prizes, we look forward to seeing more and more school students and teachers choosing a better mode of travel to and from school.”

Executive GM Sustainability, Lucie Drummond, says the Challenge aligns well with Mercury’s focus on taking care of tomorrow. “We are going through a significant energy transition, and we want to contribute to how this transition will show up in the communities we are part of” she says. “Backing the Wednesday Challenge in Tauranga and Tarāwhiti is just one way we can support the transition for the community by reducing emissions and congestion in a fun and achievable way.”

Craigs Investment Partners has entered a team into the challenge since its launch in 2022. This year they’ve signed all their offices up, across the country, as members and are encouraging their staff to participate.

Tauranga general manager Hayley Nelson says the challenge aligns with Craigs’ own sustainability focus to promote the use of low or carbon friendly methods of travel for its people.

She has set herself the goal of traveling to work on Wednesdays by as many transport modes as possible – starting with her paddle board. On Wednesday Hayley will set off on a three-kilometre journey from the Avenues waterfront to the Strand, over water. Hayley says the idea came from a recreational weekend paddle to watch development at 2 Devonport Road – the site where Craigs’ new head office is being built.

“I joked with a couple of colleagues that perhaps I could paddle board to work one day. When the Wednesday Challenge started promoting this year, I decided that now was the time,” she says.

Since launching the Wednesday Challenge has seen over 444,000 journeys logged and last year over 15,000 people took part. The Challenge team are now fielding enquiries from town and cities across New Zealand interested in the outcomes the initiative can provide.

Discussions are also underway with New South Wales. With Active Travel to School becoming a major focus of the NSW Government and a push to introduce hard and soft infrastructure, at scale, to change travel habits, the Wednesday Challenge initiative is being explored for cities across the state.

A major attraction for many participants in the Challenge is the combination of environmentally friendly habits and improved health and wellbeing.

Statistics show that running for 15 minutes a day can help reduce depression by 26%, 70% of physically active people report better sleep, and mild exercise is enough to reduce anxiety, and depression, improve self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercising on workdays can boost time management skills and daily completed workload by 72%.

“People really get it,” says Heidi. “They understand that this is an initiative by the people, for the people. They see that, as individuals, we can make a difference, have some fun, reap the benefits and lead by example. It’s a movement for change and we can’t wait to see what we can achieve in 2024.”

The Wednesday Challenge launches again this Wednesday, February 21st and runs throughout the year.

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