Waste levy changes wouldn’t cost the earth

3 July 2017

Wellington City Council has welcomed the release of the Waste Levy Review from Associate Minister for the Environment, Scott Simpson.

Queuing at the Southern landfill.

This coincides with the release of a report addressing how a waste levy could really make a positive impact on environmental issues the city is facing – and it wouldn’t cost the earth.

At the current time, the waste levy only applies to class 1 landfills which receive household and commercial waste and is set at a reasonably low level of $10 per tonne.  The latest 2017 levy review builds on the 2014 review recommendations, but only commits to further investigations. 

A report commissioned by industry and Councils from all over NZ entitled “A wasted opportunity” has modelled extending the levy to all landfill types including construction and demolition and increasing the levy over time. The benefits would be substantial. 

By 2025, the changes proposed could divert three million tonnes of waste from landfill per annum, create up to 9,000 jobs, and increase New Zealand’s recycling rate from 28% to 60% – delivering $500 million in a net benefit to the local economy every year.

Wellington City Councillor Iona Pannett who holds the Infrastructure and Sustainability Portfolio, says that “the waste issues facing councils are significant and while further investigation is welcomed, the levy has been in place since 2009 and its disappointing that the opportunity to take action has again been missed.

“The Wellington Region’s Draft Waste Plan has a target to reduce waste by a third over the next ten years. The government has the opportunity to do its part by using the levy to make it easier for businesses to divert waste from landfill, through more innovative solutions and by learning from what has worked well internationally,” says Cr Pannett.

“This is much bigger than just recycling more at the kerbside. Clean fill and construction and demolition wastes are estimated to be the single largest source of waste in the Wellington region and currently the sector is exempt from the $10 levy.

“Extending the levy to all types of landfills would help make sure waste goes to the right type of facility, minimising the potential for harmful environmental effects and maximising the amount of recovery.

“Allowing the levy to languish for another three years will achieve little at the very time that the Council is planning to make significant changes to reduce the amount of waste to landfill,” says Cr Pannett.

Wellington City Council expects that having shown that the proposed changes could yield real benefit for New Zealand, the Council and the broader waste industry can start to have serious conversations with central government about steps needed to bring these changes about.