Sustainable paving selected as ‘top venture’

The Alps to Ocean pavement design concept was one liked by Timaru residents in Imogen’s survey. Photo: Imogen McRae.

A sustainable paving project sponsored by Venture Timaru, with support from AgResearch via the Thriving Regions programme of the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge, has recently been announced as one of the top 24 ventures in the 2022 Food, Fibre & Agritech Supernode Challenge.

The top 24 ventures have now been selected to move into an Accelerator programme. Participants are developing ideas that will solve problems in the sector, positively impacting the future of Aotearoa New Zealand as they support a cleaner and greener environment and facilitate more efficiency.

The paving project, part of Venture Timaru’s ‘Sustainable is Attainable’ initiative, is by University of Canterbury product design student Imogen McRae, and seeks to solve the problem of Timaru CBD’s slippery tiles, with replacements made from waste-materials from the food industry. The Accelerator programme could see the pavers eventually developed commercially, if they prove sustainable and fit-for-purpose.

Imogen has been developing pavers made of waste material sourced from South Canterbury – diatomaceous earth, a by-product from the beer brewing industry which normally winds up in the landfill, and polypropylene plastic, a waste product in many food processing and manufacturing businesses.

Her idea was developed using a community-based design approach to ensure it promotes an attractive, sustainable urban environment in Timaru. Imogen says she is keen to involve the community in her research, and in September last year held a street-side activity, as well as a survey.

“People were able to create designs with miniature pavers I set up on Strathallan Corner,” says Imogen.

“From the ideas I received, I created three layout concepts which I included in the survey – the ‘Tukutuku Inspiration’ and ‘Alps to Ocean’ designs were the most popular.”

The concept design Imogen has proposed is a synthesis of the two layouts: ‘Ki uta ki tai’ (from the mountains to the ocean). She intends to work with Ngāi Tahu to embody this concept.

Imogen says she enjoys the project as it aligns with her personal values of sustainability, waste-based design, and regeneration of the community. She said she was initially inspired by the Gjenge Makers, a social enterprise founded by Nzambi Matee in Kenya, who use waste plastics and sand to make pavers.

“The waste products used by the Gjenge Makers are not that dissimilar to the diatomaceous earth and polypropylene combination for these pavers.”

Sustainable is Attainable is a project by Venture Timaru started in 2019 to sustainably manage the by-products and waste from South Canterbury Food Processors and Manufacturers.


Read more about the Thriving Regions Programme.

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Date posted: 1 April 2022