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WISARD Launch - Marion Hobbs Speech

Hon Marion Hobbs Speech Notes

Launch Of The WISARD Lifecycle Assessment Model, Wasteminz Workshop, Brentwood Hotel, Kilbirnie, 4pm Tues May 22.

Waste Integrated Systems Assessment for Recovery and Disposal

Thank you for inviting me today.
I would like to start by congratulating those who have got this model up and running. It is a great tool to help structure local decision-making on waste systems.

I understand that my predecessor, Simon Upton, was one of the driving forces behind its initiation, and I acknowledge his foresight. Congratulations, to URS for having the courage to take on what seems to have been to have been quite a high risk project. And finally, congratulations and thank you to the many industry, council and interest groups who have given their time and skill, to make sure that this European/English tool was properly adjusted and adapted to New Zealand circumstances.

One thing I have learnt about this portfolio is that there aren’t any easy answers. The problems are complex and the solutions difficult to find that won't cause other environmental problems. But we can't sit on our hands or endlessly try to find the “intervention logic” or to analyse hundreds of options. Problems are solvable. They may not be solved completely but, at least, they can be well managed.

A year ago I didn’t think much about waste management. In fact, I just assumed that things would be looked after if I put out my black plastic bag for the tip and the occasional bottle for recycling. I fitted into the profile of most New Zealanders.

I’m older and wiser now. I can hold my own in a conversation on landfill liners- for a short time - talk about waste acceptance criteria, the recovery of used oil and even discuss hazardous wastes. I still put out the occasional bottle but I’m now making sure I check the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers to see whether they can be recycled or not.

And I am a lot clearer about the importance of the ‘waste’ issue to councils and to members of the public. Believe me, I get lots of letters about landfills. I also get lots from individuals looking for firmer leadership in the area of waste minimisation, deposits on bottles, plastic bags, and the safe disposal of batteries.

Small wonder waste has become one of the most important issues in my portfolio.

As I said, there are no easy answers, but I believe that there is scope for tremendous improvement;
o if we get our structures right;
o if we are sufficiently clear about roles and responsibilities;
o if we provide people with the right tools.

In this respect, I think that Wisard, will be a helpful addition to a
decision makers tool kit.
The Government made an early commitment to reducing the amount of waste we create and to manage effectively the waste that is left over in the end.

When you mention waste, most people think “solid waste”. Mention waste disposal and landfills probably spring to mind.

You know, and I know, that the issue of waste is much broader. It embraces wastewater, farm run off and air pollution. For the meantime, however, most of New Zealand’s solid waste – too much of it – is disposed of in landfills.

And we have a legacy in New Zealand of small, often inadequately run local landfills. For too many people, the old ‘dump’ or ‘tip’ is still a reality. Many regions still have a tip in the local estuary or beside a major river. Seagulls, bad smells, dangerous fires and low property values near old tips remain clearly in people’s minds.

Hence, a commitment to upgrading landfills has been a key plank in the Government’s policy. We have pledged to upgrade or close all substandard landfills before 2010 …and I think we are making very good progress.

As I said, solutions aren’t simple.

Nationally, we have had a bit of a history of “hands-off” on landfill management issues. While we have heard and responded to requests for leadership and direction, it was with some trepidation that my officials first prepared a submission against the New River Estuary landfill in Invercargill and then gave evidence at the hearing. The process was successful and has led to early closure plans for the landfill. Similarly the Martinborough landfill and some of the west coast landfills are modifying their operating or closure plans for existing landfills. The new proposed landfill at Gisborne is undergoing a careful and open review by external experts, as a result of submissions and evidence presented by the Ministry and other submitters. In addition the Ruapehu District Council and my officials are currently negotiating over the operation and closure of the Taumarunui landfill. I have been delighted at the positive response from councils and the public to these interventions.

But of course, decision making is also very hard for councils and I acknowledge this.

On the one hand, you’ve got me asking for environmentally appropriate disposal facilities. On the other, you have ratepayers wanting an adequate range of services from an often inadequate rating base.

You’ve got pressure on existing landfills, and you’ve got residents absolutely adamant that any new development should not be anywhere near their backyard. You’ve got some councils locked into fixed tonnage contracts, and others being pressured by residents for more recycling. You’ve got councils, like Governments, tied to short-term election cycles, but forced to address issues, the implications of which will matter for generations.

How does anyone find their way through the conflicting demands and pressures?

How do we even know which options are better for the environment;
o might it be better to bury glass in some isolated areas, than transporting it the length of the country for recycling;
o do you really get a better result from curbside recycling than drop off points at transfer stations;
o Is it better to compost your green waste, or put it in a landfill where the gas is recovered for energy?

This is where the Wisard tool comes in.

It is not a silver bullet. It will not give easy answers or take away hard decisions - more’s the pity.

It will, though, help waste managers compare some of their treatment options, and see which ones are better for the environment. It should let councils, residents and other interest groups look at the potential environmental effects of their options, and see which ones use more non-renewable resources, use less energy, create more green house gases or result in leachate.

I hope that it will help managers make informed decisions, and that it will also provide a factual, less emotive basis for discussions between waste managers and other interest groups about waste management options.

As you know, Wisard is just one tool, which is being developed within the national waste minimisation and management strategy. This strategy will cover all waste streams. It should also cover waste disposal as well as opportunities for waste reduction.

I want policy to be developed in cooperation with the people that are going to have to implement it. The waste minimisation strategy is being worked though in partnership with Local Government New Zealand and with the advice of an expert working group. The Ministry has canvassed the views of many parties.

I want to encourage those councils, communities, businesses and groups that are tackling waste at the local level and within their own organisations.

People are more and more aware of global warming and other “international” environmental issues. I want to see individuals empowered to address the underlying issues of energy efficiency, waste prevention and reduction, and safe disposal. I also want to see the development of practical and innovative approaches that will help people do their bit to protect the environment.

This is something of a “Top-down Bottom-up” approach that should get results. The Government will continue to work on national policies to see that waste is reduced and managed well. It can also help through the Sustainable Management Fund to develop practical and innovative tools that can be applied by councils and other parties.

Again, I congratulate those of you who have been involved. I am very pleased that SMF funding was able to make this tool possible, and I hope that as many as possible of you will consider putting WISARD into your tool kit.

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