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Associate environment minister Eugenie Sage, who oversaw the 2019 National Litter Audit, standing in front of an un-recycled pile of plastic (Radio NZ, Ana Tovey)
Associate environment minister Eugenie Sage, who oversaw the 2019 National Litter Audit, standing in front of an un-recycled pile of plastic (Radio NZ, Ana Tovey)

The BulletinNovember 28, 2019

The Bulletin: Minister tells dumpers they need to pay more

Associate environment minister Eugenie Sage, who oversaw the 2019 National Litter Audit, standing in front of an un-recycled pile of plastic (Radio NZ, Ana Tovey)
Associate environment minister Eugenie Sage, who oversaw the 2019 National Litter Audit, standing in front of an un-recycled pile of plastic (Radio NZ, Ana Tovey)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Minister proposes big jump in dumping levy, Reserve Bank declines to loosen LVRs, and timeline slips out on major Porirua redevelopment programme.

With the volume of rubbish being dumped continuing to increase, the government is planning to put a much higher levy in place, reports Anan Zaki for Checkpoint. With that, there are hopes that it will boost recycling efforts, but also fears that there will be an increase in illegal dumping. The construction and demolition industry is also being targeted with extended levies, as it is currently where a huge share of waste gets produced. It’ll mean different things to different businesses, and the story takes in views from one that it’ll really hurt, and one that will really benefit.

The new levy itself is proposed at $60 a tonne for landfill waste, which is a big jump on the current rate of $10 a tonne. But if that seems like an overly sharp jump, it’s worth going back a bit to the start of last year, when a raised levy was first discussed in the context of China blocking waste imports. Then Stuff’s Madison Reidy reported it could go as high as $140 a tonne. And what also jumped out of that story was simply that we were bad at doing rubbish and recycling – part of the reason China stopped accepting waste was because wealthier countries weren’t sorting it properly before sending it, making it basically useless for recycling.

On the point of both boosting recycling and cutting the amount of waste produced, the consultation document released by associate environment minister Eugenie Sage had plenty to say. Basically, an increased levy would be invested in systems to reduce rubbish. There were proposals to increase what can be done on-shore with recycling and manufacturing, and investments in better sorting and collection systems. It fits in with the government’s wider goals around waste reduction – an under the radar policy area in which they have actually set in motion some quite big stuff.

The plastic bag ban is the obvious example, but there have also been moves to start regulating product stewardship systems – that basically means that producers and manufacturers would be required to take some responsibility for the end of their product’s life. According to the latest consultation document, it is all aimed at one central point – to “reflect the full environmental, social and economic costs of waste disposal and encourage materials to be reused and recycled rather than sent to landfill.”

The Reserve Bank has declined to loosen restrictions on mortgages (LVRs), saying the in the current environment such a move is too risky, reports Radio NZ. High risk lending was among the things that led to the GFC more than a decade ago, after all. Governor Adrian Orr said with other countries along with New Zealand also cutting interest rates, there was more chance of “excess debt, investment risk-taking, and overheated asset prices.”

That’s not likely to be welcome news to many first home buyers, and the bad news is compound. Interest reports they’re already starting to see prices moving up at the lower end of the market, making those low interest rates less useful for first home buyers anyway. Speaking of first home buyers with low equity, it would be worth checking out this piece from Newsroom’s Nikki Mandow, which is about the effective first home buyer tax known as the low equity premium.

An interesting story out of Porirua, where a large scale housing redevelopment is taking place. Stuff’s Joel Maxwell reports that the timeline of new houses has slipped out at least a year, with state houses still ahead in priority of Kiwibuild and private houses. There have been long running concerns with this development in any case, and they’re given a wider airing in the story – local activists are worried that the redevelopment will result in the existing community being pushed out.

The Crown could end up paying hundreds of millions of dollars to decommission oil and gas wells in the coming decades. Radio NZ reports that comes from an MBIE estimate, freshly relevant in light of the situation with the Tamarind collapse in Taranaki. In that situation, the Crown might now end up paying the full cost of decommissioning, which would start to approach costs not a long way away from the total royalties the Tui field has paid out. Local climate activists say they warned before Tamarind bought the field that they might not have the financial resources to clean it up, and so it seems to be proving. Remember just a few minutes ago when you were reading about product stewardship? This seems like an extreme version of the same idea.

A range of organisations are raising concerns about the lack of vaping regulations, reports One News. That is seen as a problem for two reasons by those 60 groups who signed an open letter on the matter. First of all it is holding back efforts to use vaping as a less harmful quit-smoking tool. But secondly, it has also created a void where nicotine companies can market their product to young people, and get them addicted on something else early. Legislation on the matter is now about a year later than first announced, but is intended for this term.

Parts of the South Island, particularly those in the shadow of the Southern Alps, are unusually and dangerously dry ahead of summer. Radio NZ reports there is an elevated fire risk in typically dry areas, including Northland, Coromandel and the southern Hawke’s Bay in the North Island. The largest wildfire in 50 years took place last summer, and there are fears of more such burns this season.

From our partners: Z Energy has been trying to change their business to be more sustainable for almost a decade now. But they also sell petrol, and acknowledge the effect that has on climate change. So do they really want to change, or is it just greenwashing? I sat down with Z Energy CEO Mike Bennetts to put that question and more to him.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at

Ngahina Hohaia Paopao ki tua o rangi 2006. Sound, photographs, poi. Courtesy of Pātaka Art + Museum

Right now on The Spinoff: Madeleine Chapman writes about the measles outbreak in Sāmoa, and how misinformation about vaccines right now could be deadly. Māia Abraham reviews an exhibition currently showing in Christchurch that brings to the fore the rich moving-image practices of Māori artists. Fa’anana Efeso Collins, a former researcher in youth gangs and currently a Councillor for Manukau, writes about the danger of armed police. Dr Nessa Lynch – another subject matter expert in case Simon Bridges is keeping track – writes about how “National’s youth justice policy is a solution in search of a problem.” Alice Neville talks to Everybody Eats founder Nick Loosley about cutting food waste and bringing people together.

And you might find yourself tempted over the next few days to buy some crap from the Black Friday sales – the American shopping tradition which for some reason we now do too. Jihee Junn has written about how it got here, and whether the deals are really all that great.

For a feature today, a furious blog against the expansion of the Wellington Airport. The topic hasn’t always generated headlines, but it has generated plenty of anger in certain parts of the city. Inside Wellington blogger Ian Apperley is warning that the latest expansion plans are just the beginning. Here’s an excerpt:

Plans show that more of the community will be impacted as the rest of Bridge Street is swallowed up, more car parking is put in, SH1 is “realigned” to make the airport wider, a gateway precinct is developed, the southern extension is still on the cards, and a northern extension as well. WIAL has tried, unsuccessfully, to spin this concrete sprawl that will destroy homes and displace residents and, in my opinion, failed dismally. You’d think at least they could be honest about it.

The latest proposed changes will guarantee two things for the city. Much increased congestion on the city to airport route, which has reached epic proportions as air travel has grown, it is not unusual to see commute times of more than forty-five minutes. It will have a devastating impact on the Southern Miramar community as well, with several streets impacted. Those residents are stuck in the middle of a situation beyond their control with no support from their local Councillors.

English cricketer Jofra Archer has expressed disappointment that other members of the crowd didn’t intervene in a racist abuse incident, reports Stuff. It’s a fair enough call – if he heard it, then other people would have as well. Speculation has now turned to the possibility that the culprit was an English supporter, which wouldn’t make much of a difference regarding the previous point. NZ Cricket head David White formally apologised in person to Archer.

Sticking with cricket, this is an excellent read on a timeless knock. 30 years ago (as of a couple of days ago) Mark Greatbatch played one of the great defiant test innings against Australia, and journalist Ben Stanley has put together an exhaustive account of it on the NZ Herald (paywalled.)

Finally, another big announcement in the world of sports broadcasting rights. This is breaking right now this morning by the way so there’s no story to link to, but Sky TV and TVNZ have partnered on the Olympic rights for next year. It’s a big deal for the state broadcaster, and will probably put the games in front of a much bigger share of the public as a result.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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