Fly-tippers give two-fingered salute to ratepayers

Fly-tipping is an affront to our environment – and to ratepayers forced to pick up the bill.

Hutt River Ranger Joby Mills reports that in the year to June 2023 there have been scores of cases of rubbish dumped along Te Awakairangi, diverting council staff from pest control, planting and other community tasks and costing $113,000 to deal with. 

A page from the GWRC report to councillors.

Two or three times a week he’s coming across household rubbish, piles of old tyres, broken ovens, mattresses, even offal and commercial waste such as pallets and broken up concrete.

That’s a cost on regional council rates bills but Hutt City Council ratepayers aren’t off the hook.  HCC is currently spending $3000-$5000 per month on illegal dumping, with 364 significant litter cases in the last 12 months.

Thanks to the city’s move to wheelie bins for rubbish and recyclables, cats/dogs breaking into plastic rubbish bags is no longer an issue and wind-blown recyclables is much less of a problem. 

There is conclusive evidence, too, that the economies of scale from everyone using the one rubbish system means it is significantly cheaper for most families than if the previous system had continued.  The exception is very low waste producers, and future options when we move to government-mandated kerbside collection of food and other organic waste could correct that anomaly.

Landfills generate 7% of Lower Hutt’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the potent atmospheric warming of methane from rotting organic matter a particular culprit. The gas-to-electricity plant at Silverstream landfill, and the flare installed in 2021, is now dealing with 90% of that methane.

The excuse trundled out most often in response to the fly-tipping scourge is that council is greedy about landfill fees, charging everyone now by weight of material dumped.

The fact is, Silverstream landfill is filling more quickly than expected, despite more green waste (branches, lawn clippings) being diverted to composting.  As well as meeting tougher operational regulations, we’re having to expand it sooner than planned.

Another $13.6m has been added to the long-term budget (until 2031), bringing the total estimated cost of work over the next eight years to $68.9 million.  Borrowing to do that is paid off by landfill user fees, not rates.

We must preserve space at Silverstream for as long as we can.  Building a new landfill is incredibly expensive and difficult to gain consent for – even if we could identify a site.  Our fees can’t be out of kilter with the region’s other landfills, or we get increased out-of-district material filling up our facility.

We’re doing what we can to reduce costs and encourage re-use.  Tip users who recycle metals, serviceable household goods, etc., at the landfill resource recovery sheds (a better facility is coming) get a voucher for a discount on their next tip visit.

We shouldn’t tolerate fly-tipping.  Essentially that’s someone saying, “I don’t want this crap I generated – fellow residents should pay for disposing of it for me”.   If you see someone dumping rubbish in our environment, try and get vehicle details.  Fines of up to $400 apply.

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