Dumping in paradise: The efforts people go to avoid tip fees

Rubbish dumped on Department of Conservation land at 8-Mile Valley near Rapahoe on the West Coast of the South Island picture. Photo / Doc
Rubbish dumped on Department of Conservation land at 8-Mile Valley near Rapahoe on the West Coast of the South Island picture. Photo: Doc
New Zealand's clean, green image is being tarnished by "idle people" who choose to dump their unwanted whiteware, furniture and old car parts in some of the country's most beautiful spots.

It's not uncommon for a Department of Conservation ranger to come across a trailer-load of rubbish dumped at a secluded site instead of one of the nearby council-owned dumps.

Rugs, tyres, soiled nappies, carpet and rugs, corrugated iron, abandoned vehicles, broken fridges and mattresses are among the items found cluttering the country's wildlife parks and reserves.

At Doc's Tiwai Rd site in Invercargill - 100 vacuum cleaners were uncovered among loads of other trash.

Doc's deputy director-general for operations, Mike Slater, said rubbish dumping at scenic reserves, beaches and some national parks was a nationwide issue.

"Egmont National Park is an example, with our people aware of some particular hotspots where they'll find anything from bags of weeds and garden clippings to old whiteware and furniture. Often the rubbish is ditched at the end of isolated roads, so the dumpers have obviously gone to some deliberate effort to get rid of this stuff.

"It's incredibly frustrating for us to have to deal with this and it reflects pretty poorly on the small percentage of people in our communities who are treating public conservation land as places to ditch their waste."

One dumping hot spot frustrating Doc's Hauraki senior ranger Bill Horgan is the track at the Maratoto Wires Track at the end of the Old Maratoto Rd, off SH26 in the Hauraki Plains.

Kauri trees tower over the lush forest on the uncomfortable 2km drive up a pothole-riddled dirt road.

To the left, a clear stream is flowing and two swimmers are cooling off from the hot sun in a sparkling watering hole in the Coromandel Forest Park.

They are blissfully unaware that just metres away rubbish is festering, ruining the country's clean, green image.

Just after Christmas a ranger discovered about one cubic metre of household items including an old fridge and mattress dumped on the concrete slab - one of the few reminders left of the site's mining history at the site.

The rubbish was removed by a kind local - most likely a pig hunter - but remnants of broken glass and pipes can still be found embedded in the grass.

And while some of the rubbish dumped - such as fish frames, offal and weeds brought in from garden waste - comes at an environmental cost, there's also an unnecessary cost to ratepayers.

Horgan's team of six manages the 1100 assets such as huts, camps, tracks, road, amenities areas in the Hauraki area and collecting rubbish prevents them from more meaningful tasks such as maintaining the sites and improving the visitor experience by resupplying huts and taking care of kauri dieback and kauri protection.

"We've got far more important things than clean up after other people who dump rubbish," he said.

"You are always going to get 5 per cent who think it's okay to dump rubbish. But as we become more mindful about the environment and global warming and conservation in general, it's a bit of a no-brainer to dispose of your waste appropriately, particularly in an area where other people are coming to. It's frustrating they are a bit idle, some people."

Festering rubbish next to a glistening stream within the native bush does nothing to promote New Zealand's clean, green image, he said.

"In terms of visitor experience, after your swim you go for a walk. You are relaxed, enjoying nature and there's what people do - it's someone's crappy old washing machine - it doesn't add to the visitor experience."

Doc is looking at ways to deter people from using the country's usually pristine parks and reserves as tips.

It has successfully stopped a walking track in Waiomu from being a dumping ground for household items and fish frames - by restricting vehicle access with the use of a forestry gate. A similar solution is planned for Old Maratoto Rd.

Avi Holzapfel, Doc's Hauraki District operations manager, said an increase in illegal dumping in some cases seems to be connected to the influx of visitors in the summer holiday season.

"Elsewhere, sadly sometimes year-round, we are encountering the dumping of household and industrial waste on public conservation land, in particular at road-ends. Our view is this is being done by local residents, which is particularly frustrating. This is their community and district.

"As well as [being] illegal and unsightly, illegal dumping often presents health and safety issues for the public and risks for our staff doing the clean-up. It compromises the ecosystems of these areas."

On the other side of the Waikato, the Te Toto Gorge, just south of Raglan, is another magnet for rubbish.

Doc's Waikato District biodiversity and recreation/historic supervisor, Glyn Morgan, said rubbish dumping at the culturally significant site was an ongoing issue for Doc and mana whenua and was "grossly disrespectful".

He said, "We've found some disgusting stuff dumped out there – used nappies, bags of household waste, construction materials, and even 180 old tyres, which we removed in a joint operation with Waikato Regional Council."

Dumping on public conservation land in Greymouth, Reefton, a Tiwai Rd conservation site, Gordon Park in Whanganui and Egmont National Park, in particular, is also causing rangers headaches.

Depending on the amount staff clean it up or if there are large amounts diggers are used to bury it.

The dumping of rubbish on Public Conservation Land is illegal and when possible Doc will prosecute. Under the Conservation Act, an individual can face up to two years' imprisonment or a fine up to $100,000 for contaminants, while a corporate can face up to a $200,000 fine. Under the Litter Act, an individual can be fined up to $5000 and a corporate up to $20,000.

People who see illegal dumping on conservation land can report it 0800 Doc HOT and if possible should provide information such as vehicle registration numbers and/or photos.

 

Comments

I used to come across garbage left behind in abandoned hunter's camps when I was a ranger in Whirinaki Forest. It was heartbreaking.

Councils could look at their so-called "user pays" dumping charges. Is it laziness to dump elsewhere, or is it avoidance of yet another high charge on top of rises in rates, parking and every little thing councils use to collect extra $$? Add restricted hours, the tip may not be open at hours when people were able to borrow a trailer. Refuse collection of household waste is core business isn't it?
If the cost of cleanups were balanced against income from landfill fees a better solution might be found.
In Dunedin the student quarter is supplied with free (rates-paid) skips for the end-of-lease period, acknowledging that students can't be taught. ONLY the student quarter. Students are too broke to abide by the rules other low-income, time-poor people are expected to abide by - though the quality of much of the throw-out is higher than many people's "good stuff".
Follow-up of evidence eg letters with names and addresses on them, found amongst rubbish deposits in the countryside, is low priority. Why?

It's called pollution.
Maybe people prefer to despoil the countryside rather than pay for services.

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