Regional | Tairāwhiti - East Coast

Zero Waste Tairāwhiti: Submitters views on waste

Submitters on the Gisborne District Council three-year plan want a zero waste goal rather than future-proofing waste disposal. Photo: NZME

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Instead of future-proofing waste disposal, what about aiming towards a zero-waste future?

That was one of the main messages from submitters to this week’s Gisborne District Council Three Year Plan hearings regarding waste management.

It was reported earlier this year that illegal rubbish dumping has been on the rise.

The council said the volume of illegal dumping increased from just over 150 tonnes at the end of the 2021 financial year to nearly 350 tonnes at the end of the 2023 financial year.

Indications for this financial year are for 700 tonnes.

Tairāwhiti Environment Centre (TEC) committee member Jo McKay, in her presentation at the hearings, said that nobody wanted waste.

“It’s not something communities want, not something businesses want nor council itself,” she said.

“We spend a lot of time blaming the council and (saying) that they have a responsibility for the waste, but I feel for you. It’s all our responsibility.”

McKay said TEC supported a couple of things in the plan - establishing a resource recovery centre in Gisborne and greater education and awareness around waste.

“But we have to stop disposing of our waste.”

She spoke about how the Tirohia landfill in Waikato was closing and would stop accepting waste between 2032 and 2035.

“We need to start thinking of solutions to that and I think a landfill in our region [is a solution], and as part of building that landfill there’s an opportunity to take our community on a journey to say we are going to do everything we possibly can to not fill that landfill.”

She spoke of how in Vancouver there was a landfill situated in a way that people had to go through different recovery options before getting to the disposal.

“If you choose disposal you get fined because you had an opportunity and incentive to divert the waste.”

She also asked what was happening with the Waiapu landfill as the consent ended in June 2025.

“We need to start thinking about what waste is out there. The landfill itself needs a plan. That’s the next Fox River (landfill flooding disaster in Westland in 2019) in my mind. The wise ones up the Coast say we’re two weather events from that landfill being exposed.

“We need to start planning for what we do with that site now,” she said.

“Zero waste hubs around the country are being called community resilience centres and that’s the transformation or shift in mindset we need.”

The Te Araroa dump breached its walls in 2020, causing waste to go into the Awatere River, questions are being asked about the Waiapu dump as its consent ends in 2025. Photo / Aaron Van Delden NZME

The third point from McKay was that there needed to be long-term thinking and planning for this.

“I’ve called it a Zero Waste Tairāwhiti 2050 vision plan and map. We want a community working group to work alongside the council and businesses to achieve this and come up with the plan and strategy.

“If we are only thinking in three-year or six-year time frames, we are not going to achieve the outcomes,” McKay said.

Pine Campbell, of Tokomaru Bay, spoke about the necessary behaviour changes and education needed for the region to achieve zero waste.

The council’s view on “future-proofing waste disposal” should be buried in the landfill and replaced with “preparing our community for a zero waste future”, he said.

“The money saved in decreasing the cost of future-proofing waste disposal can be spent on the continued education for zero waste. If we don’t give attention to our waste disposal and recycling strategies the road ahead will be fraught with problems.

“The community should work together in looking at ways of dealing with waste material. Waste disposal strategies should be the task of us all (to) look at appropriate ways of disposing and dealing with it and not leave it to others.”

Natasha Koia, of Penu Marae near Ruatōria,, said there was a need for a recovery centre up the Coast.

“There’s a lot of whānau up the Coast who are ready to ‘do the do’. It’s going to take communities taking direct action and responsibility for their own waste.”

Koia said decisions made by the council should be mokopuna decisions – meaning that what is decided upon today should be in the best interests of their mokopuna (grandchildren) and the world being left for them.

“Each decision we make today affects their future - take responsibility.”

GDC’s statement on waste disposal in the three-year plan is that:

  • By 2025, improve household kerbside collection to separate waste.
  • Deliver a new Resource Recovery Centre.
  • Improve waste management locally to control our own waste.
  • Increase awareness and education around managing waste, illegal dumping and expanding recycling services to be more accessible.

“In doing this work, we will reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and at the same time it will increase our resilience,” it states.

Decisions will be made in June.

Matai O’Connor, Ngāti Porou, has been a journalist for five years and kaupapa Māori reporter at The Gisborne Herald for two years.

- NZ Hearld

Public Interest Journalism