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Phillida Bunkle - Hawke's Bay Cleaner Production

Phillida Bunkle
31 August 2000 Speech Notes


Good evening and welcome to everyone here tonight. Firstly I would like to thank you for the invitation to be part of this evening. I am told this is the fifth time these awards have been held and I wish to congratulate everyone who has been involved and those who will receive awards later this evening. I wish to acknowledge Hawke's Bay Regional council and the Napier and Hastings city councils for backing this initiative. I do hope this will continue.

And special congratulations to Nickie Flynn (Hawke's Bay waste minimisation officer) and the Cleaner Production Awards Committee for making this event happen. So before I start sounding like I'm here to address the Oscar Awards, I'd like to outline some of the issues I'll be talking about tonight.

I've been asked to discuss how the government's policies for solid and liquid waste management will help protect people and the environment.

To get a sense of why this government has placed urgency on some environmental issues, here are a few statistics.

New Zealand produces 3.18 million tonnes of landfilled waste a year. 1.42 million of that is residential waste – the other 1.76 million is industrial waste.
Our average daily flow of wastewater into treatment facilities is somewhere between 1.1 and 1.5 million cubic metres a day!

When you think about how much waste we produce it's little wonder that cleaner production strategies play an important role in waste management. Not only is it important to our environment, cleaner production offers favourable outcomes for business through savings, and more ideally, through profits.

I want to talk tonight about initiatives for waste minimisation and management, and to discuss how to deal with hazardous wastes such as used oil and organochlorines.

It's no secret that environment issues are very dear to me. You will have noticed in this term, that environmental issues are also very central to this government's plans. We are committed to significantly reducing waste. We must find long-term solutions to the problems it creates. And by that, I mean that we need to achieve these long-term solutions through real action and partnership between central, regional and local government, communities and businesses.

As a country we have proudly boasted a clean and green image overseas. I do worry that we aren't as clean and green as we should or could be. Overseas visitors are becoming increasingly discerning and it's vital that we guard the "clean and green" claim. This is important not just because of our tourism industry, but because our long term future depends on it. The well-being of our primary production and economy in future years, relies on the reality of a clean and green New Zealand. In fact, a key plank of this government's approach to business is a commitment to sustainable development.

Waste Minimisation and Management Working Group

Last month we announced a joint central and local government initiative to reduce waste volumes in New Zealand. The Ministry for the Environment and Local Government New Zealand along with other sectors such as business, will work on setting up a national strategy for waste minimisation and management.

The idea is that a multi-sector working group will be established to advise on the development and implementation of this national strategy. We expect a draft of the strategy – which will address solid and liquid waste - to be available some time in December.

The working group will, among its tasks:
 advise on the vision and goals for waste minimisation
 advise on whether NZ should set targets for waste minimisation
 advise on public consultation and communication to involve business, iwi and local communities
 advise on ways to measure waste reduction progress
 assess potential policy approaches and actions

Waste minimisation and cleaner production.

The Ministry has funded a number of cleaner production initiatives through the Sustainable Management Fund. This includes Target Zero here in Hawke’s Bay and Christchurch.
A significant number of territorial authorities are committed to achieving 'Zero Waste' over the longer term. There are a growing number of business initiatives concerned with the introduction of cleaner production techniques that reduce the use of materials, water and energy, reduce volumes of waste, particularly hazardous waste and provide commercial benefits for the companies.
The zero-impact objective is something I urge all businesses, schools, homes, and organisations to aim for.

By celebrating the champions of these efforts you are helping cleaner production to become integrated with New Zealand business practice. I commend the three local authorities behind this scheme.

Waste Management

Moving on to waste management, this government intends to move more strongly in this area.

We want to improve the level of performance for disposal of solid waste to landfills and liquid waste to sewage plants. We must achieve higher and consistent standards throughout New Zealand to encourage waste minimisation and prevent the cross regional transport of waste to cheaper alternatives. When disposal costs are too cheap, the incentives for minimising waste are reduced.

And we must remember that when we talk about waste management that it's about solid waste, liquid waste and emissions to air. Most of us are aware of solid waste because it is more tangible and we can see it building up. Where we must be careful to maintain vigilance, is with less visible wastes, which can often cause our environment the most damage.

Current Practices

In many ways, waste management has improved over the last decade. The resource consent process has ensured that the ocean is better protected from filtered raw sewage. However we still need to be concerned about sewage going into septic tanks as well as sewage from homes and businesses in pipes.

Government plans to introduce a sewage treatment subsidy scheme to assist small and medium sized communities which have limited funding for upgrades, and yet face significant health risks from inadequate sewage treatment.

My colleague, Hon Annette King, as Health Minister is currently working on preliminary advice about issues relating to sewerage subsidies. This will probably involve a comprehensive survey of waste-water management – and I have to admit I am at how little we know collectively about the state of waste-water management in New Zealand.

We also now have at least some state-of-the-art landfills that are specially designed for the purpose, as opposed to waste being tipped willy nilly into the nearest handy estuary or stream bed. The trend towards regional landfills, such as the Omarunui Landfill here in Hawke’s Bay, has helped to raise standards and protect the environment.

Unfortunately, this is not true everywhere. There are still too many places in New Zealand that don’t have adequate waste disposal, and that means there are still places where the environment and human health is at risk. So we need to make sure that all disposal and treatment facilities come up to standard. At the moment this effort is mainly through the development of guidelines, like the set of guidelines being developed by the Ministry for landfill management.

My colleague Marian Hobbs, as Minister for the Environment, and myself are both on record as being clear that if this doesn't achieve the desired affect, we are prepared to try stronger ways. Groups that continue to distance themselves from their responsibilities to the environment are hampering the genuine efforts made by businesses and organisations like yours. Government will consider regulations for those who don’t follow the guidelines, and if necessary, we are prepared to re-examine the legislation.

Hazardous waste

One of the disposal issues that concerns me most, is hazardous waste – potentially, it poses both immediate and long-term damage to the environment and, of course, to your health and mine. It does worry me that at present, there is no clear picture of the amounts of hazardous wastes stored, transported and disposed of all over New Zealand. We do know that landfill operators find it arriving at their gates, unlabelled and often with no way of knowing the origin. This is a very dangerous situation and in response, we intend to develop National Environment Standards within the Resource Management Act for waste, and particularly hazardous waste, accepted into landfills.

The Ministry will be developing an overall strategy detailing ways to ensure that hazardous waste is properly managed from the moment it is created. And given past performances it will probably require regulation, especially when it comes to identifying, storing, transporting and disposing of hazardous waste.
This strategy will link with both the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act and the Local Government Act to ensure that controls are compatible.

Through the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act and the Hazardous Waste Management Strategy we aim to minimise risks to people and the environment while minimising the risks of contaminated sites resulting from poor management.

Used Oil
Used oil is an example of problems with hazardous wastes. Between 25 and 30 million litres of used oil is available for collection each year. Some of this is well managed but frankly, much of it isn't.

The Ministry has been addressing a range of used oil issues. Industry groups and the Chemicals Industry Council have worked with the Ministry and other stakeholders on these issues.
They are currently working on a draft Code of Practice for managing used oil disposal. The draft code should be completed within a month and the Ministry's discussion paper on used oil will be released soon after.

Another example of hazardous waste produced by the agricultural community is organochlorines.

In 1995 the Ministry began a study of organochlorines in the New Zealand environment. The substances examined included dioxins, furans, PCBs, and a number of chlorinated pesticides, including DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, chlordane and pentachlorophenol. These substances are not as nice as they sound! They are persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic.

While New Zealand doesn't use the chlorinated pesticides I mentioned and we have banned the use of PCBs, there is a modest range of organochlorine problems that need attention. Due to the extreme persistence of these chemicals, problems identified today remain problems for several decades unless actively managed. We know from overseas experience that it is possible to dramatically reduce the risks, and we can avoid more difficult problems with proper controls and preventative strategies.

In the coming year, the Ministry will consult on a draft management plan that identifies the problems (including dioxin emissions, chlorinated hazardous wastes and contaminated sites) and proposes a framework to address them.

Low level dioxins:
I am particularly concerned with the phenomenon that even low levels of dioxins in soil, air and water, concentrate up through the food chain, and translate to levels of concern in humans and marine mammals. Dioxins continue to be emitted to the environment from both industrial and domestic activities. Measures that will minimise emissions in the future are being developed. In the coming year, a combination of national environmental standards and guidelines will be proposed for dioxins and PCBs. We want to protect human health and ecosystems by identifying reference limits for air, soil and water. There will be public consultation on these proposals, and the organochlorines management plan.

All this talk of strategies and management plans, and consultation papers may sound a little too strategic and not active enough. But I'm sure you'll agree that our aim is to find an effective and consistent approach across the country for looking after our environment. It will take the kind of commitment you the local government and local community, have made to help us at central government, achieve this.

Good luck to all of you tonight . Keep up the wonderful work.


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