Trash cash for council in landfill profits

The cost of dumping waste at the Green Island landfill (pictured) is likely to be a hot topic at annual plan discussions this week. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.As Dunedin residents continue to complain about the cost of using the city's landfills, budgets reveal the dumps are scheduled to make a $1.5 million surplus this year.

Council staff say landfills have long made a profit for the council, and city councillors decided several years ago to let the landfill continue to make a surplus as a way to increase non-rates revenue and offset general rates.

While rates cover the cost of kerbside recycling, the cost of operating the landfills and the profit made from them is largely generated from user fees.

The fees are set to include the surplus, some of which is set aside for capital expenditure and investment, with the remainder - a budgeted $1.3 million this financial year - returned to the general rates pot.

In 2012-13, the actual solid waste surplus was $667,000, $183,000 shy of the forecast surplus of $850,000.

It appeared the 2013-14 year was also likely to be under budget until councillors agreed to increase the fees and booth operators at the landfill were asked to stop using their discretion for charging, moves that have been greeted with anger by many landfill users.

Council solid waste manager Ian Featherston said while the budgeted surplus from the council's total solid waste activities this year was $1.36 million, the surplus generated by the council's landfills alone was expected to be $1.5 million.

Should the surplus not be available to the council, the general rate would have to be increased, or services reduced, to meet the council's overall budget.

Mr Featherston said councils commonly used waste disposal, particularly landfills, as a way to make a surplus and he has previously told councillors Dunedin's landfill fees are lower than those of other cities.

He said some councils channelled profits into other areas. The Queenstown Lakes District Council, for example, used its landfill profits to pay for its recycling scheme instead of taking rates for that.

The decision about how much surplus was made was entirely up to councillors.

Cr Andrew Noone said he had not been exactly aware how much revenue the solid waste activity made, but it was one of the few areas where councils could make some income, when the alternative of increasing the general rate to raise that amount of funds was ''not very palatable''.

There was also a balancing act between getting people thinking a bit harder about their waste disposal while ensuring fees were not so high people turned to illegal ways of disposing of waste.

Another long-term councillor, John Bezett, said several people had said to him they did not think the methodology for fee-setting was fair.

''And if I wasn't a councillor I'd say I agree with that. I don't think it is fair, but there are other factors in there. My general philosophy with regards to council services is that user pays.

''I don't believe someone should be paying extra so the cost can be offset somewhere else, unless the people who are paying more are getting the benefits of the top-up, so to speak, somewhere else.''

Cr Lee Vandervis said it was an ''underhand way'' of charging some Dunedin residents higher rates. It was not obvious when it was signed off there would be such a surplus pumped back into trying to keep the rates down, he said.

''We should really just charge what the service costs and, if we are charging that much more, I believe that is not appropriate. It is a way of subsidising rates and making the rates look as though they are less, but that's not what we should be about.''

But Cr Kate Wilson said there were many council charges and rates that effectively subsidised other activities, for example, parking enforcement (which is budgeted to return $398,000 to the general rate this year) and library rates, which all ratepayers paid, although not all used the library.

''That is the nature of rates. They are very blunt, as are fees. They're not always fair or easy to work out.''

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the council had been making a surplus from solid waste activities for years, but it recognised it may not have set the fees quite right yet.

''We're trying to achieve fairness and the right incentives [to encourage waste minimisation and recycling as well as proper disposal] and we are not sure that we have got it right, so we'll keep looking at it in an effort to make it better.''

Councillors said charges and fees were likely to be the subject of discussion at this week's annual budget meetings.


The numbers

• Waste into Green Island landfill in 2012-13: 52,000 tonnes

• Cost to dispose of waste per tonne: $130 (2013-14) (green waste disposal costs not calculated separately)

• City landfill operating costs are covered and surplus generated almost entirely by fees and charges, (there are other smaller streams of income, such as compost sales and Recovery Store sales)

• Charges are the same at the Green Island and Waikouaiti landfills and the Middlemarch transfer station

• Actual surplus from DCC's total solid waste activities in 2012-13: $667,000 ($183,000 below budget)

• Total solid waste activities forecast surplus in 2013-14: $1,360,000

• Budgeted cost of operating the city's landfills in 2013-14: $4,971,400

• Budgeted revenue from landfills 2013-14: $6,247,700

• Budgeted return to general rate pot from solid waste activities surplus in 2013-14 (less other costs such as capital expenditure and investment): $1,293,000



Scrap recycling

The council says the tip fees help offset the cost of recycling. Simple, if recycling actually costs rather than saves money as it is supposed to be doing, then scrap recycling and lower the tip fees to avoid rubbish dumping in the bush, beach or street as is happening now. It seem as if no council in NZ has any idea of recycling. It does not work if it costs the recycler. Simple maths!

Minimal waste should be our goal

Minimal waste should be all our goals. If the DCC makes a profit good on them, the money will be injected back into the city anyway. I am always so surprised at how aggressive comments on here get. I think our recycling is great, 2 bins no confusion, easy to remember. If you want to dump waste think of alternatives first.. that's what Google is for. Simple

I don't have a problem with it

I don't have a problem with user pays and can see that tip fees may help people to think more about the amount of rubbish they produce.

But what I do object to is going to the tip with one medium size bag of rubbish in a ute and it costs $46 ($32 if going in a station wagon) but if I drove there in a car with the same size bag of rubbish it would only cost me $18. That's a bit like user pays for the size of your vehicle not the amount of rubbish you are dumping!

Some people only have a van, ute or station wagon. I wonder what they'd charge you if you parked your vehicle on the street and walked in?


Mikem says "We have an excellent recycling and kerbside collection service for normal household waste."

Oh no we don't. Having moved here from Christchurch, I know what an excellent system is. The three bin system they operate up there (large recycling, medium green waste, small general) is infinitely superior to what we have. The range of items that can be recycled is far greater, which is much better for the environment and results in much less actually going to landfill.



I have no issue with user pays, in fact I fully support it.

What I do object to is DCC discriminating against me based on the vehicle I drive.

I took 10 catcher loads of grass to the landfill last weekend. I could easily have put these in a wool sack in the back of my wife's small hatchback. However, as they represented two weeks of lawn mowing, I choose to put them on the back of my ute, then go to the tip when I had time.

For this privilege, I paid over 2.5 times more than I would have in the car. In what universe can the even remotely be considered fair?

Ironically, the poor attendant (who I feel very sorry for, having to be the face of this idiocy) said that if I had put the clippings in a bag on my ute, he may have been able to have some leniency. Doesn't that make it even more ridiculous?

Some waste has to go to the tip

Get real those of you who think trips to the tip can be eliminated entirely.   Try cleaning out a deceased relative's house.  Not everything is suitable for recycling.  

A simple solution...

For those unhappy with contributing to this profit, there's pretty straight forward solution.  Create less rubbish...  Resuse, recycle, minimise...

Totally Appropriate

I have no problem with being charged through the nose for putting waste in landfill. It makes us think twice about acquiring and disposing of our first world stuff. Still doesn't come close to reflecting the actual cost to the environment and future generations. Throwing things away is an elective thing. We have an excellent recycling and kerbside collection service for normal household waste.

If you create waste you should pay for it!

Stop complaining about how much it costs you to dump your waste in a big hole in our earth.  The DCC is making a profit on this, well good on them!  For those of us who work really hard to minimise our waste to landfill this profit is just a benefit to the operational costs of running our city.  It is ridiculous to think that it should be cheap to create waste and dump it somewhere.  It takes hundreds of years, probably thousands to break down and the pollution of the soil and ground water will continue for that long too.

Get a grip folks!  It should probably be costing us more if we were to actually put a price on the damage we are doing to our earth.

Don't like paying for it, then don't create it!  There is at least one elderly Dunedin resident who can teach you how to minimise your waste!

Tip charges way too high

How are people on low incomes supposed to afford these fees? I wonder if there will be more dumping of rubbish?  Anyone remember the Arlo Guthrie song "Alice's Restaurant" about being arrested for littering?  

It's a rip-off

This is so underhand!

How dare this council try and justify the recent increases in tip charges knowing full well they will be making a profit from the tip. Never mind this profit goes back into council revenue, it is still a very sneaky way of increasing rates without Dunedin citizens knowledge.

This council seems to have well and truly lost its morals! So it's no wonder many Dunedinites are now dumping rubbish illegally. 



What an absolute joke!

What an absolute joke! The landfill should be breaking even at best, making a profit on it only increases my rage of being charged $43 for dumping a old stereo and a bag of rubbish, hardly a tarp tearing load! All because it was rolling around on the back of my ute. If I had taken it in my partner's car it wouldn't have been half that, they need to let the operators use their discretion , this council needs to wake up.

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