Resource management in New Zealand has had a unique South Pacific approach. NZ Governments have relied on market-driven voluntary initiatives to control waste rather than legislation. Although New Zealand is strongly marketed as clean and green, legislation controlling waste is new; most controls are at a regional or local level. After education and campaigning by the ZWNZ Trust and others, 72% of local authorities have adopted the ideal of Zero Waste and some have done well. The best has had a 90% diversion of waste for many years. Whether driven by local government, or by community groups who have often become local body contractors, the best regions have strong local leadership.
The Waste Minimisation Act (2009) (WMA) provides for individuals, and companies to set up voluntary product stewardship schemes, accredited by the Minister for the Environment. The Minister has the power to enforce a voluntary scheme but, this has not happened. The ability to impose a waste levy on goods that will need end-of-life recycling depends on this step.
The levy is generating around NZ$31 million a year and this is targeted at waste minimisation improvements. Grants from this fund support changes to waste in New Zealand. Tyres, public recycling and e-waste are being subsidised to develop the infrastructure.
What leverage can be expected between an Emissions Trading Scheme, water control the Waste Strategy, and the WMA?
Leadership is by the community, for the community, not imposed by legislation, but lack of support from legislation has caused some frustration to those trying to divert material from landfill.
- Jo Knight, Chief Executive Officer, Zero Waste New Zealand Ltd.