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People who litter or dump rubbish illegally in Dunedin could soon be fined up to $400, after the Dunedin city councillors backed a plan for extra enforcement powers.
Councillors at yesterday's infrastructure services and networks committee meeting voted in favour of the new measures, which will be publicly notified ahead of a final vote at the next full council meeting on May 1.
The policy, once in place, would allow officials to issue infringement notices bearing fines of between $100 and $400 depending on the seriousness of the incident.
At present, council staff needed to pursue a prosecution through the courts if a culprit was identified - a process which could be time-consuming and costly.
Under the new approach, first-time offenders dumping smaller amounts of litter could face a $100 fine, but penalties would rise for repeat offenders or incidents involving larger amounts of rubbish.
The new rules would apply to all public land the DCC was responsible for, but not that governed by other public entities, such as the NZ Transport Agency or Department of Conservation.
However, the rules could also apply on private land, and footage from CCTV cameras could be used to identify culprits, council solid waste manager Catherine Irvine told yesterday's meeting.
The Litter Act 1979 allowed councils to adopt litter compliance policies, subject to public notification, which would allow fines to be issued in Dunedin from July 1.
Ms Irvine, responding to councillors' questions yesterday, said strong evidence would be needed before someone was issued with an infringement notice. That could include a witness to the dumping, or the discovery of personal items among the rubbish that clearly identified the culprit, she said,
People could still object to a fine, triggering a hearing, and the new policy also left room for discretion, she assured councillors.
Cr Mike Lord, speaking yesterday, questioned whether the policy could still backfire. He said he sometimes collected rubbish dumped on or near his Taieri farm, which he usually then put in public rubbish bins.
He worried people like him, who were doing the right thing, could be fined under the new policy, but Ms Irvine said that would be covered by officers' discretion.
``There has to be some discretion around it.''
But, after repeated incidents of illegal rubbish dumping across the city, the council needed to show it was serious about the problem, she said.
``We need to show we are really going to take action here,'' she said.