Councils around New Zealand are grappling with changes to legislation that will impact bylaws and guidance for local waste minimisation activities. In this article, Eilidh Hilson describes some of those legislations and implications.
Establishing an increasingly circular economy for Aotearoa involves Territorial Authorities (TAs) being able to implement systems operating at the highest tiers of the waste minimisation hierarchy.
However, waste minimisation activities supported by proposed legislative changes in the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) waste reduction work programme, may encounter constraints from concurrent bills from other work programmes, which could override them.
The WasteMINZ Territorial Authorities’ Officers Forum Steering Committee works to identify conflicts with implementing systems that support a circular economy. The group have also requested initial consultation with relevant central government ministries in the development of legislation in the first place.
Proposed and existing legislative changes in Aotearoa that impact the resource recovery sector, include, but is not limited to, the Waste Minimisation Act review, Resource Management Act Reform (in particular the Natural and Built Environment Act (NBA), Local Government Reform, the Infrastructure Strategy, the Building Act, Health Act, and the Emissions Reduction Plan.
What issues should TAs be aware of?
Housing developments and waste
The proposed amendments to the building code which focus on waste reduction address the largest single source of waste in New Zealand: construction and demolition (C&D). This is timely considering ongoing development in response to housing shortages. Council waste bylaw reviews can also be used as a tool to address individual building solid waste output once occupied, stating that multi-occupational dwellings need to allow for waste sorting receptacles and adequate removal of different streams. Traditionally, this consideration has not been at the forefront of building design, and bylaws are not yet making this mandatory.
While best practice for a circular economy is to sort waste locally, reverse sensitivities conflicts are increasingly being experienced by TAs. This is where residential subdivisions in previously rural areas are approaching pre-existing reuse facilities such as organics processing areas. There are also queries about how mixed-use operations, such as resource recovery hubs with sorting facilities, educational and hospitality facilities may co-exist in these areas.
Organics to Landfill
Focus area two of the Emissions Reduction Plan states it is exploring limits or bans on landfilling organics, with new legislation stated as being enacted in 2024. Objective 4.4 of the MfE waste reduction work programme, is “addressing individual material streams and products - organics/food waste”. Reviews of individual council Waste Management and Minimisation Plans (WMMPs) are aligning with this, focused on reduction of organics to landfill.
Councils need to be well informed about how changes to land use management and existing user rights through the NBA will affect both current and future consenting of existing and new resource recovery facilities. There is some concern that legislation enacted to protect against environmentally detrimental activities may also work against those that are of benefit to circular economy outcomes for the same area.
Climate change and legacy landfill management
The removal of legacy landfills in areas vulnerable to climate change-related weather events is a costly exercise for TAs. In addition to the costs associated with relocating materials from legacy landfills, the waste levy still applies to disposal of these materials. When sorting material to recover resources from legacy landfills, councils need to consider the potential for high levels of contaminants, such as asbestos. Councils are increasingly having to plan and budget for disposing of legacy landfill materials.
Mandatory activities for TAs include those under the Local Government Act, Litter Act, and Waste Minimisation Act, such as reviewing WMMPs. Many of these activities require rewrites to reflect changes in the preceding years.
Due to additional mandatory waste data reporting and increasing planning for waste reduction in climate change plans, construction and demolition, procurement policies and event policies, there’s an increasing need for resourcing in the sector[NQ3] .
The TAO Forum Steering Committee will continue to monitor any upcoming proposed legislation for impacts on local WMMPs. If you have any questions, contact your TAO Forum Steering Committee members.
Author: Eilidh Hilson
Eilidh Hilson is the regional waste projects facilitator for the Canterbury Waste Joint Committee. Previously the Christchurch City Council waste minimisation officer for three years, Eilidh mainly focused on kerbside auditing and community education in that role.regional waste projects facilitator for the Canterbury Waste Joint Committee. Previously the Christchurch City Council waste minimisation officer for three years, Eilidh mainly focused on kerbside auditing and community education in that role.