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Rubbish is piling up in quiet corners of Dunedin as illegal dumpers discard household rubbish, green waste and even animal carcasses around the city.
However, the Dunedin City Council is defending its strict new approach to landfill fees, despite warnings the tough line could encourage more illegal dumping.
Instead, council solid waste manager Ian Featherston urged those considering dumping rubbish illegally to do the right thing, saying they risked potentially hefty fines as well as damage to the city's image.
His comments came after the council last month told its contractor to stop a long-running practice of lowering prices for less-than-full cars and trailers arriving at the city's landfill and transfer stations.
The change meant prices had, in some cases, nearly doubled, prompting complaints from those worried more people could take matters into their own hands.
The Otago Daily Times took a drive yesterday and, in little more than an hour, counted 20 individual piles of household rubbish and green waste dumped on the side of the road.
Most dump sites were found beside Flagstaff-Whare Flat Rd, near Three Mile Hill Rd, but piles of rubbish were also found in Leith Valley Rd and Burma Rd, in the city's green belt.
Most of the material appeared to be garden clippings and other green waste, but black rubbish bags and plastic bags full of material were also found, as well as discarded cardboard crates and empty alcohol bottles.
The most disturbing find was the discarded carcass of an animal, its decomposed rib cage protruding from the bush, surrounded by rubbish bags, beside Flagstaff-Whare Flat Rd.
Some of the material appeared to have been discarded some time ago, but other piles had been dumped recently.
However, Mr Featherston told the ODT the finds did not point to an increase in illegal dumping since the new approach to landfill fees was introduced last month.
There was also usually an increase in illegal dumping over the holiday period, when the council was less able to respond quickly, he said.
The areas visited by the ODT were also ''well-known dumping places'' spread over a wide area, he said.
''It's probably a bit of a build-up,'' he said.
He urged people to ''act responsibly'' or risk tarnishing the city's image in the eyes of tourists.
''I'm sure most people down here actually treasure the environment ... Having a lot of rubbish dumped around the place is not a good look for the city.''
However, he warned the council also had the power to issue infringement notices and individual offenders could be fined up to $7500 under the Litter Act.
Bigger penalties were also available for those who dumped commercial waste, and prosecutions were an option for more serious offences, he said.
The council relied on the public and contractors to report problems, and people had phoned in with the registration numbers of vehicles used when offenders were dumping illegally in the past, he said.
As a result, infringement notices had been issued, including a batch of about six $100 fines - with 28 days to pay - sent out by the council just before Christmas, he said.
His comments came after tip users, including Sue Tielkes, of Belleknowes, expressed concern at the high fees last week, warning they could encourage illegal dumping.
Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall agreed, saying: ''I think we can, sadly, expect to see more.''
Waikouaiti Coast Community Board chairman Gerard Collings defended the charges as necessary, and hoped people would ''do the right thing''.
Mr Featherston said the public criticism would not change the council's stance in the meantime, as the fees were set by councillors and it would be up to them to consider any changes.
The fees were based on average loads by vehicle type, and if the contractor had enforced them properly in the past, ''we may have been able to bring the prices down'', he said.