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14 June 2006
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Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill — First Reading

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Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill

First Reading

NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) : I move, That the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be considered by the Local Government and Environment Committee.

We live in a deluge of waste. About a tonne of waste per person goes to landfill every year in this country, and that is about as bad as it gets anywhere in the world. As a nation we are just stupid when it comes to waste. It is not just about the environmental impact, the toxic leachate that dribbles out of landfills, or the methane gas that escapes or flares into conflagration; it is about the waste of waste—the squandering of resources that landfills represent, and the resources wasted during production. It is estimated that about 90 percent of waste is generated pre-consumer, in resources wasted by our single-use mentality, and in the human resources wasted by ignoring the rich job opportunities in reuse and recycling.

It is a bit of an evolutionary intelligence test. Have we clicked on yet to the fundamental reality of life on earth—that we live on a finite planet with limited resources, and that our very existence depends on how we husband those resources? The very existence of waste indicates a failure of our understanding, because there is no waste in nature, only by-products that feed another part of the system. Humans must learn from the wisdom of life itself if we want to develop ways of living that are truly sustainable.

This bill is an attempt to move us in that direction. I do not claim any great wisdom for myself. I inherited the bill from Mike Ward, and I thank him for the valuable work he did. I also thank Lu White and Chris Teo-sherrell, who probably deserve more credit than any of the politicians do. But I most of all want to thank the pioneers of resource recovery in this country, the people who have invested their energy, their money, and their years to prove the economic, social, and environmental benefits of waste minimisation, the people at the Community Business and Environment Centre of Kaitaia; Waiheke Waste Resource Trust; Xtreme Waste, Whāingaroa; the Environmental Education and Resource Sustainability Trust in the Bay of Plenty; Environua Community Trust, Levin; Mana Community Enterprises; Innovative Waste Kaikōura; Hurunui Recyclers; TerraNova, Christchurch; WasteBusters Trust, Canterbury; Waitaki Resource Recovery; Whitehorse Recycling Trust; Ahuriri Resource Trust; Central Otago WasteBusters; Wānaka WasteBusters; the whole community recycling network; the Zero Waste Trust; Envision; the Recycling Operators of New Zealand; and all the others who have given so much.

Because of them, real progress has been made, but they continue to work in a difficult economic environment because landfills are unfairly subsidised by ratepayers. But now we are beginning to run out of space for landfills. Barry Carbon, when he was chief executive of the Ministry for the Environment, said that fewer than 10 potential sites for new landfills had been identified, and that positive action to reduce waste reduction had been needed 10 years ago—10 years ago! Well, we cannot reverse time, but we can take responsibility now.

This bill is a legislative vehicle to address the problem. Members may not agree with all its provisions; I understand that, but if they agree that waste minimisation is desirable, if they agree that economic instruments have a place, and if they agree that businesses need support to identify where waste reductions might be made, then they should vote for this bill.

The bill would establish a national agency to set and monitor targets for waste reduction, approve and monitor extended producer-responsibility programmes, and administer the waste minimisation fund. It would coordinate public education, and provide advice to the Minister. The bill would give territorial authorities more power in respect of waste minimisation. Operating singly or jointly as waste control authorities, territorial authorities would be empowered to enforce the provisions of the bill through by-law making and licensing provisions.

The bill would allow bans to be placed on the landfilling of materials that can be recovered. Let me be clear that any ban could be applied only where adequate recovery capacity already existed. The bill would create a landfill levy on every tonne of waste. That would disincentivise waste generation and provide funding for waste minimisation initiatives. The money would be split between local waste control authorities and the national waste minimisation authority.

The bill would require brand owners to take responsibility for the waste generated throughout the lifecycle of their products. How they did so would be up to them, subject to the approval of the waste minimisation authority, but the idea would be to encourage waste reduction in the design of production and distribution systems. Bearing in mind the waste hierarchy, I say that reusing and recycling is great, but reducing waste has to be the priority.

All organisations under the bill would be required to adopt and implement waste minimisation plans. Those would be phased in over time, to allow plenty of time to develop those plans, and organisations would be assisted with finance and advice by the waste minimisation authority.

Lastly, public organisations would have to consider waste minimisation in their purchasing, and they would have to report on their waste generation each year. Essentially, the bill would provide an economic engine to drive waste minimisation, through the levy. It would provide a body to provide national coordination and leadership, and it would give a mechanism to reduce the production of waste in the first place through the extended producer-responsibility provisions.

Members probably know that local councils, the resource recovery sector, and local community groups have been calling for a number of those things over a number of years. Local councils have statutory responsibility to manage waste, but they have very little power. The recent High Court decision in Carter Holt Harvey Ltd v is a case in point, because the court said that councils do not have the right to levy private waste operators except for the recovery of costs. That means that local councils are prevented from using a levy to disincentivise waste generation or to fund waste minimisation initiatives. Interestingly, the plaintiffs in that case supported the idea of a levy, as long as it was applied consistently on a national basis, and as long as its use was hypothecated for waste minimisation. They clearly said they did not want the money simply going into council coffers to be spent on who knows what. They wanted transparency, and they wanted the money to be tagged for a specific purpose. Well, the bill does that very thing. I understand it will need some amending to align it with any sector agreements that are reached, and I know that Local Government New Zealand and waste industry people are working, negotiating, and talking in order to discuss how such a levy would best work.

I recognise that the bill might be too prescriptive in places, and I am comfortable with the idea of negotiating amendments. I am comfortable with the idea that the bill will go to a select committee and that we will hear from the public, local government, waste sector people, resource recovery people, and the community sector, and as a result of that we will amend the bill. That is what the select committee process is all about. But, in principle, let us recognise that this is a sound approach to reducing our waste deluge. I look forward to engaging actively and widely with other political parties across this House, with the public, and with different sectorial groups, and I look forward to cooperating with all of those players to make this bill as effective, practicable, and achievable as possible.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) : The Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill is a garbage bill. It is PC rubbish that deserves to be thrown straight in the trash can. It is about wasting money, wasting paper, wasting energy, and—most important—wasting time.

Let me identify some of the stupid provisions in this bill. Clause 59 requires that every single business and other organisation in New Zealand has a waste management plan. That amounts to 200,000 plans that will have to be produced around New Zealand. Let us take a typical small business. People who have one-employee businesses will be required, under Nandor’s bill, to prepare a waste management plan that determines the methods by which their waste hierarchy will operate within their business. It will require them to identify and separate all their rubbish at source and to determine the fraction that is reusable, recoverable, or recyclable.

That measure is a farce and a joke, and I cannot believe the Labour Government would be so stupid as to back such garbage. Only last week I heard Lianne Dalziel rabbiting on about reducing compliance costs for business. How could requiring 200,000 small businesses not only to write a waste management plan but also to have it approved by their local council do anything other than add to the red tape and bureaucracy we have in New Zealand?

But it gets worse. Let us look at clause 59. It requires that every single product sold in a store must have—and I will read from the clause—an information sheet that is “41 cm by 29 cm” with “a minimum print font size of 24 points” explaining how the product can be recycled, reused, or disposed of. I asked staff at my local supermarket how many products it has. It has 16,000 products. The length of the poster wall at my local supermarket would need to be 6.6 kilometres long to be able to meet the requirements of this bill. It is truly extraordinary and truly wasteful. A 6.6-kilometre poster would be required for that business to be able to meet the requirements of this bill.

Lindsay Tisch: I seek leave and ask for the indulgence of the House for the member who is speaking to have a slight break so he can get his voice back, and to then resume his speech without time being deducted.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave has been sought for that course to be followed. Is there any objection? There is no objection. The member may rest for a short while.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I thank the members of the House for their indulgence.

STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) : I am happy to help the tonsils of the member opposite. I do not find this a laughing matter, as I am sure Nick Smith does not. If Dr Smith had come to the Environment Bay of Plenty Sustainable Business Awards last week, he would have realised that businesses themselves are paying great attention to waste minimisation. In 2002 this Government set up the New Zealand waste strategy, and it is moving really fast on the targets for improving waste recovery and management. The strategy presented a vision for minimising waste and managing it better—that is what we are all hopeful of, as is the member promoting the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill, Nandor Tanczos. The strategy also has a practical programme of both large and small actions, for the medium and long term, for the commitment of all to reaching those targets. The targets also cover five main packaging materials—paper, plastic, aluminium, steel, and glass—by weight of consumption. The strategy has been a bit slow to get off the ground, but it certainly now has the traction the Government intended in order to get local governments to desire more effective and efficient waste management and minimisation. We now have wider public concern about our growing waste stream, and that was part of the movement behind the strategy.

A lot of progress has been made. One example is the new packaging accord to reduce packaging content, and another accord is to improve recycling. There is a very good partnership between the Government and the packaging industry. Action plans have been prepared for those five main packaging materials. Other examples include the development of web-based local waste exchanges to facilitate the exchange or trading of wastes amongst businesses, the establishment of a scheme for tracking used tyres, and the development of a New Zealand standard for the production of organic compost to support the diversion of organic material from landfills. We all take the challenge ahead very seriously. The Government is working in partnership with the industry to develop schemes to look at things like unwanted agricultural containers, silage wrap, and electronic waste. Good progress is being made.

The purpose of this bill, as Labour sees it, and the principles behind it are broadly compatible with Labour’s waste policy, as articulated in the waste strategy, though this bill is concerned only with solid waste, which we find quite interesting. The provisions of the bill cover a number of existing policy elements, such as waste management plans—and I think that is a good thing—and they provide the statutory basis for some new elements that are currently already under consideration by the Government, like waste levies and product stewardship. The bill establishes a centralised agency—and I know that that was wanted when the strategy was first set up—dedicated to minimising the use of material resources and avoiding waste production. This agency would have a coordinating, educational, and facilitation role, as well as being tasked with providing advice to the Minister. The agency would be responsible for setting and monitoring targets. Even though lots of local authorities say they are meeting the targets, we could go a bit faster, as we could in respect of the reduction of waste disposed of in landfills.

The landfill levy is an interesting component of the bill, and I know that it is a little bit contentious. I look forward to the debate at the select committee about how we get an equitable levy. Some councils say they are meeting their targets—are bang on, are ahead—and will not cross-subsidise another authority that is way behind the eight ball. The working group that is advising the ministry on the development of the waste strategy floated the same idea of a levy. In New Zealand this is a really important role for district councils and city councils to have, and it gives territorial authorities more power, which is an interesting aspect that we need to look at. I point out that 82 percent of local authorities already have waste minimisation plans, so great leverage is happening out there in the industry.

One of the things the select committee is certainly interested in looking at is the responses it will get to the bill. The bill is broadly compatible with the plans the Government has in place now, and an enormous amount of work has been undertaken by this Government, local government—who are really buying into it—industry, and lots of voluntary groups in the community. All of those sectors will have views on the bill, and I am sure they will wish those views to be considered. I really look forward to chairing this bill through the Local Government and Environment Committee.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) : I thank the House for its indulgence for giving leave for me to resume my speech, given the difficulty I am having with the flu. The point I was making in my speech in response to the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill is that it will do exactly the opposite of what it seeks to achieve in minimising waste. The bill would, frankly, be far better termed the “Waste Maximisation Bill”, and I will refer to some of its specific provisions to explain why I hold that view.

The most cumbersome of the provisions in the bill is the requirement that every business—every organisation in New Zealand—have a waste management plan that must be approved by its local authority. That will amount to over 200,000 waste plans. Even if we were to assume that it would take only a couple of hours to write such a plan—and the bill is very prescriptive about what must be in it—we would be looking at tens of millions of dollars of wasted money and wasted time, in terms of that bureaucracy. There is enough concern in the community right now about the processing of 50,000 resource consents a year through councils under the Resource Management Act, let alone about the processing of the 200,000 waste management plans that would be required. This bill states that if a business does not have a waste plan, then it will be fined $10,000 and banned from operating. I ask the House to reflect on the fact that we are a nation of small businesses, and also on the sort of compliance cost requirement that that will impose.

I also point out the nonsense requirements that are provided for in clause 59 of the bill with regard to consumer information. It requires that at every place of sale an A3-sized poster—41 centimetres by 29 centimetres—be provided on every product sold at that store. The practical effect of that provision for a supermarket with a typical range of goods is a poster sign 6.6 kilometres long. Why would anybody in this House want to vote for a bill that contains such ridiculous provisions? It is a nonsense; it is a waste.

I listened with interest to the weak, politically correct nonsense from the Labour member Steve Chadwick, who said Labour would support the bill. That position contrasts so sharply with Labour’s weasel words about reducing compliance costs for business. This bill will do more to add to the compliance costs of businesses in New Zealand than any other issue before Parliament at this time.

The Labour member also made reference to the Government’s waste plan. The plan is a joke, it has not succeeded, and many of its recommendations have gone nowhere. For the Government to somehow believe that having a strategy will solve a problem says so much about what is wrong with this Government and its left-wing views on how we approach issues of this sort.

I could agree with one area only of Nandor Tanczos’ contribution, and that was in respect of the stupid way in which councils subsidise waste; that is, they use money from rates to subsidise their landfills, thereby providing an incentive for us to produce more waste. I would absolutely support this bill if it had a legal requirement that all waste services be fully costed so that the right economic signals go through the system.

I am also concerned about the bill’s provisions in respect of the waste levy. The bill states that that levy will increase by 50 percent, compounded each year, if the waste minimisation targets are not met. That levy will snowball into huge costs for families and businesses, and I really do wonder where the benefits are.

Every time I go around New Zealand I hear people saying they have had enough of ridiculous red tape, they have had enough of stupid political correctness, and they have had enough of increased bureaucratic requirements. The bill has stupid provisions like a 6.5-kilometre poster board at the local supermarket, and a waste plan that may consist of someone stating: “I have a round tin in the corner of my office. I throw the paper in it. I take it to the tip.” That could amount to the plan that every single small business in New Zealand may have to write, get approved by the council, and ensure is consistent with some bureaucratic, central government waste minimisation strategy.

This bill is garbage, and this House should reject it. There are far more sensible things we can do to ensure that we properly manage waste in this country. The bill will achieve exactly the opposite of what it sets out to achieve. It will waste money, it will waste paper, it will waste energy, and it will waste time. We should not waste further time on it.

PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) : The member who has just resumed his seat, Dr Nick Smith, has made a very valuable contribution. He has certainly highlighted some concerns that New Zealand First shares. Having said that, we are prepared, conditionally—and I emphasise that—to send the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill to the select committee. We are not prepared even to suggest that we will support the bill going any further than the select committee stage, because the member opposite has identified some concerns that we share.

The penalties for the offences, in a range of areas, are horrendous. Clause 32(1) states: “Every Waste Control Authority that contravenes section 21(b)”—whatever that states—“is liable … to a fine of $10,000 and a further fine of $10,000 for each month that the offence continues.” Clause 32(2) states: “Every Waste Control Authority that contravenes section 27(3)(b) or (c)”—whatever that is—is fined $10,000, plus $10,000 for each day that the offence continues. I do not know where these waste control authorities will get that money if not by levying the consumer or increasing the levy on a regular basis. We think a large portion of the bill indicates that bureaucracy is about to go mad. I do not want to be unkind to the member, but we believe that this bill represents, to some reasonable degree, bureaucracy going off the rails.

Having said that, we recognise there is a problem in this country in dealing with waste and in the creation of waste. Only very recently I personally found out that there is a 15,000-tonne stockpile of glass bottles in this country, which is likely to grow to 17,000 tonnes by the end of this year. That is a problem, and for a member just to say that this bill is stupid or ridiculous and to hope to dismiss the problem—as the honourable member did earlier—is not being responsible. One of my colleagues says it is downright irresponsible.

However, New Zealand First members believe that in the first instance this bill should go to a select committee. We believe that the issue is important enough to discuss, so we will support the bill going to a select committee. We want to get to the depth of the problem facing New Zealand when it comes to waste, and we think this is an opportunity to achieve that. We believe that the levy, which is being set at $25 per tonne, is far too high. That equates to 2.5c per kilo, if my mathematics is correct, and that is far too high. I have to say that it seems to New Zealand First to be in large measure just a levy geared around supporting a bureaucracy that is, as I said earlier, somewhat out of control.

Having said that, I believe that this is the first bill to come before the House that has actually touched on the issue of controlling waste.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Makes more waste.

PETER BROWN: The member said that it makes more waste. This is the first opportunity New Zealanders will have to come before Parliament, by way of making submissions to the select committee, to outline their concerns on how the problem should be addressed. New Zealand First’s position is that to simply dismiss this bill and throw it in the wastepaper basket right from the onset—which is what the Hon Nick Smith has indicated he thinks should happen with it—would be the wrong approach. We should be prepared to say that there is an issue out there when it comes to the handling and disposal of waste. This bill is a vehicle for identifying the depth of the problem and is a methodology of how to handle it.

However—and I want to emphasise this—New Zealand First thinks this bill is over the top. It is very complex legislation; it is far more complex than the average member’s bill that comes before the House. We believe that the select committee will have quite a task in slimming it down and making it workable and practical, but that is the task that New Zealand First believes that Parliament has to come to grips with. We have to acknowledge that there are concerns about waste in New Zealand, and this bill is a vehicle to address the issue in the first instance.

New Zealand First members debated this bill at some length. We came to the conclusion that it is worth supporting the bill going to a select committee, but we have strong reservations in a number of areas, which I have endeavoured to illustrate in my contribution this evening. New Zealand First will support this bill going to a select committee, but we cannot guarantee to support it any farther than that.

TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker, tēnā tātou katoa. From the Māori Party perspective, our responsibilities to care for our ūkaipō, our tūrangawaewae, takiwā, and rohe are central in expressing the authority that whānau, hapū, and iwi have over our ancestral land, our resources, and well-being. Within this we exercise the responsibility we have towards the environment, certainly on behalf of those who will benefit from the legacy of this care, but we do so also out of respect to Papatūanuku—Mother Earth. This sort of thinking has been passed down from generation to generation. We inherit the land from those ancestral links. In our world view, waste disposal can reduce or destroy the life-supporting capacity of soils. It damages the mauri and tramples over the life essence of the land, and we must do what we can to protect the environment and improve our capacity to live sustainably.

To this end the Māori Party supports this bill and commends Nandor and others whom he mentioned earlier for their initiative in bringing forward strategies to ensure a dramatic reduction in waste disposal by homes, businesses, and public organisations. We are pleased to endorse the approach of making producers responsible and of encouraging the design of environment-friendly products, and we endorse the ultimate aim of a minimal waste society. Tangata whenua have always been concerned about the release of pollutants, such as sewage discharges, construction and demolition wastes, and hazardous wastes, into the environment. We have an intense interest in the issue of discharges on to land and in the effects those discharges have on the mauri of water, wāhi tapu, and taonga, such as food and weaving resources.

Indeed, so strong is our disgust of the amount of solid waste disposed of in landfills, clean fills, and incinerators that our people often talk about it by asking: “Are you happy to treat your mother in that way?”. We teach our babies not to trample on Papatūanuku—Mother Earth—and to pick up their litter. That is a responsibility we can all take on to ensure the well-being and future health of the environment.

It makes one wonder why it has taken so long for such a sound and sensible idea to make it to this Chamber. It is all very well to have the New Zealand waste strategy, but it is a waste of words if it lacks teeth. More weasel words are found in the packaging accord, where people can choose whether they want to reuse, repair, or recycle materials—or to just keep on going to the landfill. Well, we need to get real. This bill will help to put incentives in all the right places, so that producers and users—not just the wider community—get real and pay the costs of the waste they produce. Having a landfill levy and other economic instruments such as a refundable container deposit are simple ideas that could help reduce our waste by as much as 85 percent—that would be a good idea for the GDP and even better for the genuine progress index.

The Māori Party is astounded that good ideas like these, and their economic benefits and health and well-being outcomes, have been simply considered so trivial to this Government. This House must recall with shame the 30 years of neglect associated with the Ivon Watkins-Dow plant at Paritutu in New Plymouth, which is one of the largest historical polluters in New Zealand. The Māori Party repeatedly asked the Government to take seriously the health problems that have resulted from dioxin contamination, including birth defects, behavioural problems, diabetes, and the strong association between the exposure to dioxin and cancer risk. Then, just a few months ago, the UN special rapporteur Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen referred to the situation in my electorate of Waiariki, urging: “The Crown must take an active interest in supervising the compliance of the paper company in cleaning up the waste site at Kawerau and the waste disposal build-up at Maketu.”

Again, those are not new issues. The Kaituna claim, which was first lodged back in 1978, was another one. The Motunui Waitara report of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1993 dealt with the discharge of effluent on to shellfish-gathering beds that were of significance to the Te Ātiawa people. In a lot of the reference to Gisborne earlier, we are aware of the ongoing anger of tangata whenua about the offensive discharge of sewage, domestic and industrial waste water, and solids from an outfall pipe flowing into the Poverty Bay area, which is a problem that dates back to 1964.

Mana whenua have consistently presented their objections about environmental abuse, the contamination, and the waste disposal build-up. The ideas are not new, but it took an expert from overseas to point it out—then he was treated with a barrage of abuse for telling us how it is. We in the Māori Party are extremely pleased to support the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill in order to reduce the production of wastes at source, to minimise wastes in production, packaging, and transport, and to encourage all New Zealanders to take responsibility for Aotearoa now—before it is too late.

GORDON COPELAND (United Future) : When I discovered that Nandor Tanczos’ Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill had been drawn from the ballot I was pleased, because I think everyone in this House would like to see waste in this country minimised. Like other nations, we have made great efforts as a nation in recent years to get rid of waste, to clean up our act, and to clean up our rivers, lakes, and streams. Indeed, in this Parliament, as part of our confidence and supply agreement with the Labour-led Government, we are addressing issues specifically around water quality and agrarian runoffs. So United Future as a party is strongly committed to the minimisation of waste.

In his usual helpful way, Nandor was good enough to send me a memo that set out the provisions of this bill. He made seven points, so I read through them one by one. The first one proposed the establishment of an energy efficiency and conservation authority dedicated to facilitating the move to a less wasteful society. I wrote alongside that “No”. New Zealand needs that like it needs a hole in the head. We already have too much bureaucracy in this country, and United Future is not interested in creating another bureaucracy to tell people how to run their lives. The other note I made was that that was like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

The second point proposed that each of the territorial authorities would establish by law a waste control authority. Again I wrote “No”, with much the same thinking—that that was really not a good process. The third point proposed a ban on materials going into landfills. I wrote “No” alongside that. We do not get rid of waste by banning it from landfills. If waste exists it needs to be dealt with in an appropriate way. Banning it will not actually solve anything.

The fourth point proposed a landfill levy. I wrote alongside that point a sort of conditional “Yes”. I have no problem at all—and this is exactly the same point that Nick Smith made—in saying to local authorities that they should cost their landfill activities separately and accurately, and recover that cost from their ratepayers on a levy basis so that there is an economic signal that says to people that they are taking up public resources in terms of waste. I am all for that, but this bill does not do just that; it goes a bit further. In any event, it is really the Government’s responsibility to look at the landfill levy proposal. I have said to a couple of people who have raised this issue with me to please make submissions to the Minister of Local Government about that.

The next point proposed extending producer responsibility. Again, at best I give that a question mark. I am not sure whether I like that idea, either. The next point proposed organisational waste minimisation plans—every organisation was to adopt and implement a waste minimisation plan. Yeah, right! Is a family an organisation? Are two people who are flatting together an organisation? Will every business, every charity, and every household in the country have to, by law, put together a waste minimisation plan? Alongside that one I put “Get real.”

The next point proposed public procurement policies. It stated that we should have green procurement policies. I thought that this now was really about politics; it was about the Green brand. Why have green when this bill is in fact bright red? I would describe process in this bill as the Sovietisation of waste management. Really, it is right in that category. This bill is bureaucratic and top-heavy, and it proceeds—as, unfortunately, some of these bills do—on the assumption that somebody knows better than the average New Zealander how to control waste.

I am all for public education around controlling waste. Wellington is a city of recyclers. Everybody does that very, very well, and it has made a huge difference. I mention, incidentally, that I was recently at Auckland University in a debate with Nandor, and people raised the issue that the Auckland City Council will not give the university recycling bins. Why? The council says that the university does not pay any rates. That is madness, and I take this opportunity to say that the Auckland City Council should get real. If we want people to recycle, of course we need to provide them with the relevant bins, and so on and so forth.

I would also like to venture this suggestion to the House. To my knowledge, commercial organisations are putting forward projects and so forth to utilise waste. Waste has a commercial value, and I for one have much more confidence in addressing waste in that manner—recycling it and using it for electricity generation and those kinds of things—than I have in this immense bureaucratic, Soviet-style legislation that United Future will oppose.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) : I congratulate my colleague Nandor and all the other Green members who have worked on the waste bill over the years. It has been passed from hand to hand. One of the things Rod Donald was looking forward to was picking it up after the election, when Mike Ward lost his seat. Nandor has done it and we have finally had the bill introduced. I thank colleagues in the House who are supporting this bill going to a select committee. Although they recognise that some things in the bill are debatable and some things will need to be changed, they are prepared to have that debate and work constructively on it at the select committee rather than just trash it for political reasons. I thank the Labour Party, New Zealand First, and the Māori Party for their support for us having that debate in a democratic way, which is what Parliament is about.

This is actually a very overdue bill. It reminds me of when, 30 years ago, I set up the first local authority recycling scheme to actually make a profit for a council. That was in Devonport in 1976. I thought naively at the time that once it had been demonstrated that a local authority recycling scheme could make a profit for a council and a community, one would not have to do anything more—that everyone else would pick it up and run with it. Well, nobody ever really did to the same extent, but a lot of non-governmental organisations, private groups, and charities around the country, such as Xtreme Waste and the others that Nandor mentioned, are now doing a superb job in a difficult regulatory and legislative environment.

In Devonport we managed to keep two-thirds of waste out of the landfill and re-route it into paper recycling, steel recycling, aluminium recycling, tin can recycling, and, with the organic waste, compost making. It was highly supported by the public, partly because it kept the local tip open for years when it otherwise would have been closed and people would have had to drive their waste to Rosedale Road, which was a lot further.

We learnt a lot of things from that project. We learnt that design is the key to minimising waste. Once somebody has made a product that has five different incompatible materials in it, there is nothing we can do to reuse or recycle it. Therefore, we need extended producer responsibility to make sure that products are designed to be reused and recycled. We learnt that the community—contrary to what everybody told us—was very keen to cooperate with a scheme like this, but there needs to be a system to cooperate with. People cannot recycle their waste if nobody is providing a recycling system. We learnt that there are jobs, profitability, and money in recycling industries but that they need certain economies of scale in order to work. Therefore, there need to be incentives for people to use them. We have learnt over the years, I believe, that volunteerism on its own is not enough, and that there need to be incentives and some level of compulsion.

I am surprised that National, which in the past has advocated a waste authority and which advocates market mechanisms, is opposed to the market mechanism of a waste levy, just as it is opposed to the market mechanism of a carbon charge. Apparently it wants the careful to have to subsidise the waste of the careless. It reminds me of the debate that occurred when I introduced the Energy Efficiency Bill. National said it was Stalinist to set minimum energy performance standards for products. Well, we have had huge changes in energy efficiency in New Zealand as a result of those minimum energy performance standards. Consumers are much better off because they are getting quality goods, and the number of petajoules saved is very substantial compared with the cost.

The Business Council for Sustainable Development told me a while back that it strongly supports the levy powers and is keen to see the bill proceed, though it does not agree with every part of it. The select committee will undoubtedly get rid of some of the more draconian details, and we are open to working with colleagues on that. There is no doubt at all that this bill can take us forward environmentally and economically. I commend it to the House.

NICKY WAGNER (National) : I am very pleased to see this bill come before Parliament, because it deals with an increasingly important issue—the management and reduction of waste. We need to be talking about this issue because there is no doubt that the increasing amount of waste is threatening the health of our people and the health of our environment. Being wasteful is costly, too. By its very nature, waste is the result of using resources inefficiently. Individually and as a nation we cannot afford to waste our resources.

National has no argument with the intention of this bill, which is to protect the environment by minimising the amount of material resources used and the amount of solid waste disposed of, but we do not support the methods proposed in the bill. In fact, we believe they are wasteful in themselves. We do not like the mandatory nature of the bill, its heavy-handed, over-the-top rules, and the complex and expensive bureaucratic framework it proposes to create. We believe there has to be a better and a simpler way.

This bill proposes two very thick layers of bureaucracy—a central government - controlled waste minimisation authority, and then local waste control authorities as part of each local territorial authority. This is really only a supercharged version of the structure that already exists. At the moment, the Ministry for the Environment manages the present waste strategy centrally, and territorial authorities are responsible for waste management locally. Why do we think that merely by changing their names we will have any better results?

People working on the ground in waste management currently—in recycling and in resource recovery—are already saying that the present administration is overcooked, that there are too many different people and too many different organisations, and that the processes are too laborious. They already feel that any possible effectiveness or efficiency has been micro-managed out of the system. They point to other places where simpler structures have been more effective. They talk of the Waste and Resources Action Project in the UK and of the very effective systems employed in British Columbia. They say that complexity and bureaucracy is already stifling progress in waste minimisation in New Zealand, and they are convinced that if we can just set the right incentives in place and stand back, the market will take care of it.

At present when we are dealing with waste we reward the wrong behaviours. Dumping is subsidised, while recycling and resource recovery have to stand on their own two feet. If people were to feel the real costs of their waste disposal behaviour they would soon change. The true, total, and transparent costs of managing wastes would be a powerful deterrent for individuals and businesses—and to do that would be fair, straightforward, and simple. Complex rules, hundreds of bureaucrats, and layers of administration just cost money and create uncertainty.

This bill requires businesses and all organisations to produce waste minimisation plans, which have to be approved by local government. But plans, however laudable, are just bits of paper that mean nothing in themselves. Let us get people actively doing the right thing, rather than just shuffling papers. The key to getting real change in behaviour is to reward people for reducing their waste streams. If it costs us real money to dispose of waste, whether as an individual or a business, we will think twice before we accept bulky packaging or unnecessary products, and when we are ready to part with something, we will be much more likely to recycle, reuse, or find a way to recover value from the item.

In summary, the bill is good in concept but bad in process. The structure it creates is bureaucratic and expensive, dictatorial and heavy-handed, and there is no guarantee that it will work. I say to Nandor Tanczos that I am sorry but, as much as National supports the principle of protecting the environment by the wise use of resources and the minimisation of waste, we cannot support the wasteful methods he is suggesting.

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) : I rise to support the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill going to a select committee. I think waste minimisation is an incredibly serious issue, and I am very grateful that it has come forward in a member’s bill to be discussed. I feel very sad about both of the speeches from the National Party, because it is not good enough to say there is an issue, then reject the opportunity to discuss it at a select committee. There are some issues inside the bill that I would love to tease out and go through, and I will talk about some of them there.

Waste minimisation is an area where we as a Government have been working. I just heard Nicky Wagner say that it was quite important to use a good example from British Columbia. That is something that should be discussed at a select committee. We can have a look and analyse whether there are simpler ways of doing it. I think this is a serious issue, and we have the opportunity to do that. That is why Labour members are supporting the bill going to a select committee.

Waste is an issue on which the Government has been doing some work. Yes, I accept that the strategy was voluntary. For me, that is the style in which I used to work—that is, we start, we gather momentum, and we move onwards. I think the momentum is gathering, and work was being done. It will be found, if the Ministry for the Environment becomes involved, that quite a lot of work is being done on product stewardship. We have been teasing out the ideas contained in this particular bill. Progress has been made. There are some simple things about agricultural and farm waste—be they some of the poisons in farm sheds, or be they things like plastic silage wrap, which is being collected. Work has been done on electronic waste, and it is growing. The people from Vodafone and HP New Zealand have done some tremendous work.

Work is being done on packaging. I want to tell members something about that, because people spend a lot of time saying packaging is just stupid and nothing has happened. Let me give an example of something that came out of design. The packaging accord people always have a prize-giving at the end of the year. About 2 or 3 years ago a young man, who worked for Cadbury’s, designed something to reduce by a third the amount of packaging around chocolate Easter eggs. Three trucks could be filled instead of four, or two trucks instead of three—with less petrol being used—to get the goods from Dunedin to the markets in Auckland. It was really excellent work. That is clever design. That is the idea around waste minimisation. The packaging accord was going out of its way to promote that work.

These are all encouraging moves, but we need to move further. We need to offer a few more rewards and incentives. I heard Nandor Tanczos ask whether we accept that waste minimisation is a problem. Yes, we do. Do we accept that economic instruments have their place? Yes, we do. Do we accept that businesses need support? Yes, we do. He also asked whether we have been working on that. I recognise that some industries ride on the coat-tails of others. I got involved in the used oil negotiations—I will never forget it—and then the glass negotiations, and they were horrendous. We had business people running those negotiations, not bureaucrats, not politicians. We had people from industry—such as the man in charge of Griffin’s—running those things and trying to do some work to get through negotiations about how we manage glass. There was a history there of fairness in business procedures that was causing some of the blockages. But let me make the point that we have to have a furnace for glass in the South Island, and I draw people’s attention to that issue. If we are taking all our glass from Invercargill to Auckland, that is a waste of energy. So, again, we have to be clever in how we design the process.

I have a bit of a problem with having a national agency, and I need to work my way through that. I really want to listen. I know that it was put up by the working committee in 2001, but there was a feeling of central versus local, and it was also about industry collaboration somehow fitting in there. A lot of people wanted to do things, and they were almost didactic in their wanting to do that, versus bringing others along. I know that my philosophy was playing a part there.

I want to say also, in respect of waste minimisation plans, that people should go on the web and have a look at Govt3. I will give a simple example: Cabinet took its recommendations on board, and all our Cabinet papers are now printed on both sides. It drives Trevor Mallard mad because he cannot read them as easily while riding his bicycle, but it has cut paper usage by half. That is from the Govt3 waste minimisation plans.

We have a problem. National gives us no way through to solving that problem. It is not enough to say there is a problem and we will do nothing about it. We have a problem, and this bill is a chance to put that problem on the agenda and find some solutions.

NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) : I want to begin by thanking members for all of their contributions during this debate. I want to echo the words of my co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons when she acknowledged particularly those parties that have indicated their support for this bill to go to select committee, because—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry to interrupt the member—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave for the member to finish his right of reply so that the bill can be wrapped up.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave has been sought for that course to be followed. Is there any objection?

Gordon Copeland: I am sorry but I could not quite hear what the member said.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I am seeking leave for Nandor Tanczos to be able to finish his right of reply and for the vote to be held prior to the rising of the House for the dinner break.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave has been sought for that course to be followed. Is there any objection? There is not.

NANDOR TANCZOS: Waste is an issue that needs to be taken seriously, and I appreciate the comments made by all the members who said that this bill should go to a select committee. The bill has things in it that perhaps need to be addressed, but let us get it to a select committee, discuss it, and give the public an opportunity to have their say on it. I think that that is an important consideration.

I thank Steve Chadwick for her comments. Her contribution was a very useful one. She said the Government is making progress and that the bill is a convenient legislative vehicle by which these matters can be taken to a select committee so a start can be made on working them through. She said the bill is broadly compatible with where the Government wants to go, and that a significant amount of work has been done. I appreciated those comments.

I also appreciated the comments made by Marian Hobbs, who I think hit the nail on the head when she said that these are the big issues that need to be discussed. So let us get them to the select committee where they can be discussed and worked through, because I do agree that there are issues that need to be teased out and worked through.

I want to thank Te Ururoa Flavell for the comments he made, and the Māori Party for its support. Again, Mr Flavell pointed out the importance of the issues for tangata whenua all over the country. I have had discussions with people from Ngāti Wai, who are having real trouble getting some recycling happening around Whangarei and are facing resistance from the council there. Hopefully, this bill will help work some of those issues through. He pointed out the inadequacy of the voluntary measures and the need to have some teeth—which, of course, is what this bill intends—and the contribution this will make towards the genuine progress indicators.

Peter Brown pointed out in his comments that he had some serious reservations about part of the bill, and I acknowledge that. But I thank New Zealand First for supporting the bill going to the select committee to allow us to work some of these things through.

I was disappointed to hear that United Future will not be supporting the bill. Although I did provide a summary of the bill, I am not sure Gordon Copeland fully understood all of its provisions. For example, he was concerned about the things that were banned to landfill. His opposition was that he wanted waste to be dealt with appropriately and did not think that bans were the way to do that. The point is—and I tried to emphasise this in my first speech—that this would happen only where there was capacity to deal with materials in another way. For example, it is totally inappropriate that organic waste should go to landfill. In most cases, that waste is the main source of toxic leachate and methane gas out of landfills. So if there is a capacity to deal with organic waste outside of landfill, let us make sure that that waste does not go to landfill. To me that seems pretty obvious.

I refer to the issues around extended producer responsibility. Jeanette Fitzsimons made the point about why it is so important that we actually provide a basis to design waste out of the system and that producers when they are designing their products actually take account of the effect of their products when it comes to recycling, disassembly, and the like. So it seems to me unfortunate that United Future took the position it did.

I want to refer to the UMR Insight Ltd poll published by the Business Council for Sustainable Development, which pointed out that 49 percent of voters with a current voting preference say they would be more likely to be attracted to a party that places an emphasis on preserving New Zealand’s quality of life. Peter Nielson has said that the message to smart policymakers is that voter support can be driven to parties that propose to do more about waste reduction. Fourteen percent of voters say that this would make them much more likely to switch their vote.

In that light it is interesting to consider the words of Nick Smith to the National Party lower North Island regional conference, where he talked about National’s need to communicate to New Zealanders a commitment to protecting the environment. He criticised the Government in a number of ways, including its position on waste, but then decided to oppose this bill without demonstrating any solutions on how we are to address this problem. It just demonstrates that for all Nick Smith’s fine environmental words, the reality is that National is determined to do absolutely nothing about it.

If National wants to be taken seriously on the issue of environment, then it has to put up some solutions and understand that MMP changes the way things work. One can support legislation going to a select committee, and move amendments both there and in the Committee of the whole House to change the way a bill works. I thank all members, and you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am pleased to see that this bill will be going to the select committee. Let us work it out there.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill be now read a first time.

Ayes 68 New Zealand Labour 50; New Zealand First 7; Green Party 6; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1.
Noes 51 New Zealand National 48; United Future 3.
Bill read a first time.
  • Bill referred to the Local Government and Environment Committee.referred to Local Government and Environment Committee