Bales of mixed plastic in Wellington awaiting export (Photo: Nina Fowler/ Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: New Zealand is drowning in trash

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Spate of stories show rubbish problem is increasing, Don Brash Waitangi invite sparks boycott call, and bees struggling to get enough to eat.  

We’re not the tidy Kiwis we like to think we are. A range of recent stories show problems in waste management are mounting in New Zealand. Some of the stories relate to the tourism industry, but regardless of whether it is visitors or locals dropping the rubbish, the contamination is happening all the same.

The most recent story broke last night. The iwi that protects Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera say they’ve been shocked by the amount of rubbish being dumped in and around the lake, reports Stuff. Ngāi Tūhoe went public on it in an attempt to appeal to “commonsense and goodwill,” in the face of calls made on social media to shut access down.

But goodwill might not go far enough, when there are severe structural problems that contribute to waste being created. We covered the rubbish generated by campervans recently on The Spinoff. One key detail in the story is that the campervans come equipped with nothing, and users get charged for anything left behind. That means everyone who gets one is incentivised to stock up on cheap stuff, and then dump it somewhere at the end of the trip. The problem is the same at festivals, reports Newshub, to the point where one Raglan cleaning company said sellers of disposable products should shoulder some of the responsibility of paying to clean them up afterwards. In the grand scheme, these are small examples, but they’re highly symbolic of how wasteful production is encouraged.

Cities have problems with dumping too. The Country reported last week on a spate of dumping on roadsides, with the headline items a set of 13 computer monitors. The cost of disposing them properly at a recycling centre would have been $260 at most. But speaking of those recycling centres, they’re struggling over summer with heavy volumes of rubbish to process, reported Radio NZ. It’s been about a year now since China stopped taking many types of plastics from New Zealand, and solutions have been hard to come by. One short term fix was to send the rubbish to Malaysia instead, Radio NZ reported late last year. Many of the people there were understandably not thrilled by our outsourcing.

Up in Auckland, it was reported on Stuff in January that the council was looking at changes that could be made, after explosive growth in volumes of trash. Between 2010 and 2016, the volume going to landfills increased by 40% – that’s despite household waste per capita declining slightly in that period. There have also been calls in SunLive to reintroduce some sort of container deposit recycling scheme, to cut down on the “700 jumbo jets full of beverage containers dumped into the environment or landfills each year.” These plans look at ways of increasing capacity, and that’s probably necessary.

But just like with the Malaysia solution, just getting rubbish out of sight and out of mind isn’t really a solution at all. What is really needed is commercial, industrial and societal reforms that dramatically reduce how much rubbish is created in the first place. We live in a beautiful country, but our disposable society means we’re at risk of ruining that. If you’ve got ideas for how we can do that at a production level (I don’t mean things that involve individuals making better choices, I mean structural changes) please send them in – thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz.


Former National leader Don Brash is heading back to Waitangi, where he has been invited to speak at Te Tii Marae. Not everyone is happy about it, given Mr Brash’s history, and current role as a spokesperson for the Hobson’s Pledge role. Māori TV reports some people have heard enough from him, including Hilda Harawira, who says she’ll be boycotting his speech.

Meanwhile, Bishop Brian Tamaki from Destiny Church will also be attending Waitangi. The NZ Herald reports he’ll be holding a service at the same time as the Anglican service, led by Bishop Te Kitohi Pikaahu.


There’s not enough food to go around, after explosive growth in the number of beehives in the country, reports One News. The number of hives has tripled, to around 900,000, in the last decade. It’s leaving some bees in a battle for survival against each other, and has led to calls for significantly more manuka to be planted on suitable land.


Disgruntled Tūrangi residents are threatening legal action, over the amount of District Council cash Taupō gets, reports Stuff. It’s unclear if the action has any chance at all of succeeding, but it does show there’s a significant amount of resentment towards the relatively noisy neighbour of the region. Taupō mayor David Trewavas disputes the claim that Tūrangi gets ignored, and says the Council is willing to do their bit to help fix up ageing infrastructure.


A significant provincial growth fund package for Māori landowners has been unveiled, reports the NZ Herald. The reasoning behind it is that access to capital is one of the things that holds land development back for Māori, and the money will help increase the productivity of the land. $100 million has been allocated – around 10% of the annual PGF budget. More than $20 million has also been earmarked for the Kaipara region – the first cash injection for the area from the fund – and local mayor Jason Smith told Kate Hawkesby on Newstalk ZB this morning that it was “like going from zero to hero.”


Here’s a really interesting story about Palmerston North getting a bit of a facelift, from the Manawatū Standard. I like Palmy, but the cityscape is pretty brutal. New urban design rules have now started to make a difference to the look of the city, with an emphasis on improving the quality of shopfronts and public spaces. “We want to be seen and appreciated as a growing metropolitan city, not a provincial backwater,” said city planner David Murphy.


From the ‘just don’t do this’ files, people are endangering kauri trees in the Waitākere Ranges by using makeshift tracks, reports Radio NZ. Because of the kauri dieback disease, the tracks that are open have been extremely carefully chosen to prevent it being spread. Unfortunately, some aren’t following those rules, and as a result are risking the lives of the trees.


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Director Sir Peter Jackson sits in one of the giant chairs from his movie The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug in Beverly Hills December 5, 2013. (Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: Nicole Skews-Poole shares a personal story about how weed addiction affected her father and family life, in light of the upcoming referendum. Duncan Greive has thrown his hands up in despair at news of Sir Peter Jackson’s latest project. And I went along to the rally against the UN Migration Pact in Aotea Square over the weekend, and wrote this on the claims they were making about being the defenders of free speech.

Lastly, this from Friday is a must read. Emily Writes details the destructive effects hard physical work has had on her husband, in response to discussion around why people aren’t taking up forestry jobs.


You may have heard that a nuclear treaty between the USA and Russia has been suspended. If not, here’s a report from Al-Jazeera. On the face of it, that might not seem so worrying for this part of the world. Unfortunately, that theory might soon be put to the test.

Why? Because the USA may make a request of Australia to host nuclear weapons there, according to this analysis from The Strategist. They wouldn’t be aimed at Russia – rather, they’d be a projection of force against China. Here’s an excerpt that outlines how and why this could happen – note, the piece was written before the US formally withdrew from the treaty. 

That means before too long we can expect a preliminary approach about whether we would be willing to host some of them here. It would make a kind of military sense. Missiles at the upper end of the intermediate-range band based in northern Australia would be able to reach most of China, and would be much more secure from Chinese preemptive attack than missiles based in South Korea or Japan.

But to many in Washington, the real point of putting this request to Canberra would be political rather than strategic. It would not just be about reassuring Australia of America’s reliability as an ally, but also about testing Australia’s commitment to stand by America in the new cold war with China.


Rugby player Zac Guildford has been let go by yet another club. He’s struggled a lot with mental health, and this piece from Radio NZ’s Hamish Bidwell is a deeply thoughtful unpacking of how that has affected his life and career. Guildford says he’s taking time out to be with his family, and it’s not clear when, or for who, he’ll be playing again.

And both the Black Ferns Sevens, and All Blacks Sevens, have won their respective World Series events in Sydney. For the Black Ferns Sevens, the final was their 48th win on the trot, which is, all things considered, rather good.

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