Getting Auckland’s Waste Sorted is the first Auckland-wide waste management and minimisation plan (WMMP). It is driven by a number of pieces of legislation including the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 (WMA), the Local Government Act 2002 and the Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Act 2010. With the amalgamation of the former councils, Auckland Council has seized the unique opportunity to create an integrated suite of waste services across the region in order to significantly reduce waste1 in the medium term, with the long-term aspirational goal of Zero Waste. In a world faced with many major challenges now and in the future, this plan takes a precautionary approach to conserving Auckland’s natural resources and doing it in an economically efficient way.
Any potential change will be done carefully and in stages over the next few years. This will allow time for further collaborative discussions with the waste industry and communities, and to enable an extensive education programme before, during and after any change. At all stages the council will remain open to innovative and creative ideas from both industry and the community.
The plan, including a comprehensive list of actions, is based on the findings of the Auckland Council Waste Assessment2, and feedback from a range of community and industry stakeholders. It also reflects the goals and directive of the Auckland Plan.
After analysing current waste services, and the nature of the industry and waste management infrastructure, the Auckland Council Waste Assessment concluded that it will be challenging for the council to achieve a significant reduction in waste to landfill under present ownership, governance and operational arrangements. This will need further consideration over time.
This plan focuses on the approximately 17 per cent of the waste stream that the council currently influences (the remaining over 80 per cent is largely controlled by the waste industry, with limited council influence). The plan outlines specific actions that the council proposes to achieve consistent, streamlined, efficient waste services across the Auckland region in the domestic market that it influences and a considerable reduction in waste to landfill. Although the council does not control the services provided by the private sector, it will work collaboratively with the sector in order to achieve an overall reduction in waste to landfill under the legislative requirement to “promote effective and efficient waste management and minimisation within its district”.
Creating a consistent, streamlined service means first addressing the different methods of waste collection, suites of services and funding models operated by the seven former councils. This fragmentation, along with lack of council influence over the waste stream, failed to fully meet the intent of either the WMA or the objectives of the former councils’ waste management plans.
Standardisation of service (with the exception of the Hauraki Gulf Islands, rural areas, some scenic and coastal holiday areas and multi-unit properties) is one way to solve these shortcomings. The council recognises, however, that standardisation does not necessarily mean one size fits all, so will work with local boards and communities to reflect local needs as far as practicable. Working with industry, commerce and the waste sector is also vital, as is understanding the drivers of people’s behaviours. Environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts of changes to waste services must also be considered. The complexity of Auckland’s waste situation needs a multifaceted WMMP. Whatever decisions are made, however, change is inevitable, and the changes Auckland must make need to be managed carefully and progressively, particularly changes to refuse payment. The approach taken in this plan is to help communities across Auckland to reduce, recycle and reuse as much as possible – only then will householders have to directly pay for what is left over that will go to landfill.
A wide range of initiatives are outlined in the plan. Some can be implemented immediately. Existing contracts that expire at various points over the next few years mean other initiatives will have to be introduced over a longer timeframe. The council is conscious that ratepayers, while being mindful of their environmental and wider responsibilities, want rates to be kept as low as possible. The net cost (excluding growth and inflation) of the ultimate package of measures to reduce waste to landfill, including the new measures, is not to exceed the net rates requirement for 2014/2015, bearing in mind that all households will have the potential to substantially reduce the disposer-pays component of their waste if they use the full suite of services.
Local government amalgamation has presented Auckland with an excellent opportunity to redesign the way waste is managed across the region and to become a leader in waste minimisation and resource efficiency. In doing so, Auckland can position itself among other leading edge, innovative cities around the world working towards Zero Waste goals3.