From our Chair: Keeping rubbish out of our regional parks

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Why some people choose to dump rubbish in our regional parks, when the same effort taking it to an appropriate facility would see that waste responsibly and sustainably taken care of, staggers me.

Last year, Environment Canterbury spent more than $190,000 of ratepayer money to remove rubbish, clapped-out whiteware and old cars, from our three regional parks – money which could have been better spent elsewhere. Some abandoned vehicles were set on fire, creating an even greater environmental impact.

Whether it is simple laziness or a blindspot in the desire to take care of the environment on behalf of these ‘dumpers’, Environment Canterbury is cracking down.

Park rangers can now issue instant $750 fines

Anyone caught dumping rubbish in any of our three regional parks may now find themselves slapped with an instant $750 fine. Our regional park rangers have been given a warrant under the Resource Management Act to issue fines of this magnitude, which are well in excess of the cost of a visit to the transfer station.

Until now, the park rangers could only invoice offenders for costs after carrying out investigations. These were often not paid and the investigation resource also costs money.

Under the new rules, an alleged offender has 28 days to pay the fine. If that is ignored, a reminder is issued with another 28 days to pay up. Failing to stump up after that will lead to court action to recover the fine.

Offenders’ names and details will also appear on the regional council’s website for 12 months.

Our regional parks are important assets

If you’ve ever spent much time overseas, you will have seen how rubbish and litter there can ruin the landscape. Until recently, New Zealand was largely free of this blight, but bad habits seem to be creeping in and we need to do our utmost to educate transgressors and stop littering before it is too late.

Our regional parks are among Canterbury’s most important assets, with diverse, stunning natural landscapes to enjoy, and provision for a range of recreational activities.

These parks are located on the shores of Lake Tekapo and along the banks of the Waimakariri River and the Ashley/Rakahuri River. Each offers something for everyone, including walking, swimming, fishing, boating, mountain biking, bird watching, horse riding, motocross, gamebird hunting, or simply enjoying the view of some of New Zealand’s iconic landscapes.

Rubbish dumping has proven costly for ratepayers

As we have found out, unfortunately, some people see them as a dumping ground too. In the 2019-20 financial year, Environment Canterbury had to pick up more than 62 tonnes of rubbish in the Waimakariri and Ashley-Rakahuri parks.

As well as the $152,000 it cost to dispose of it properly, 98 vehicles were also discarded, costing another $40,000 to get rid of. Just 15 of these were dealt with by an insurance company or the vehicle owner.

On behalf of our ratepayers, we’ve had enough. It is time to get much tougher with those who choose to wreck our regional parks.

We all have a part to play in ensuring the parks remain clean and tidy for all. If you see anyone who is dumping rubbish, please send us a photo from your cellphone using the Snap Send Solve app or call the regional council on 0800 765 588.