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Nanaia Mahuta - Opening of WasteMINZ Conference

Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Associate Minister for the Environment
Address to
Opening of WasteMINZ Conference

6 November Kingsgate Hotel, Te Rapa, Hamilton


Teenaa Koutou and good evening. It’s great to be here tonight and to see your effort and innovation in dealing with New Zealand’s waste. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Waste Management Institute of New Zealand for inviting me to speak at this conference.

I know that since Labour has been in Government, previous Ministers for the Environment have contributed to your conference.

I want to acknowledge all the guests here this evening, from overseas and around New Zealand, and particularly the 450 members who represent a wide range of interests and responsibilities in the waste management industry. The work that you do is crucial to ensuring Aotearoa/New Zealand leads the way in sustainable initiatives, and I thank you.

The recent past:

I want to acknowledge the work that has already been done with regards to Aotearoa/New Zealand’s goals for Sustainable Development in recent years.

As colleagues and past predecessors of Environment have noted, reducing waste and managing it better has been a key goal of this Labour-led government.

Our commitment to progressing a Sustainable Development Strategy in 2002, to a number of other crucial strategies focusing on energy efficiency and conservation, the government has been able to lead the way in terms of sustainable development.

Former Minister for the Environment Hon Marian Hobbs said that “Reducing waste and better management of it would contribute significantly to enhancing Aotearoa/New Zealand’s clean green image,” and she believed at the time, that we are making significant progress with regards to this process and we continue that work to this present time.

You well know that the challenge for both central and local government to reduce waste and the harm it can cause to people and the environment will take time, it’s a long view and the benefits incremental yet substantial to achieve our broad vision.

There has also been talk of the importance of public information and education in order to advance our objective of a Sustainable Nation and the Prime Minister has lifted the bar, stretching that vision to a carbon neutral New Zealand. Our progress in this area is consistent and increasingly more comprehensive involving whole-of-government commitment.

Sustainability Initiatives:
2007 was another big year for waste issues. In February, the Prime Minister announced new sustainability priorities for the government with six new initiatives:

• Waste minimisation and management
• The household sustainability programme
• A carbon neutral public service
• Sustainable government procurement
• Enhanced eco-verification, and
• Business partnerships for sustainability

The first three projects – waste management, household sustainability, and a carbon neutral public service – are being led by the Ministry for the Environment. Waste minimisation and management work includes progressing the waste levy, enhancing product stewardship, and implementing more public recycling facilities.

These initiatives are based on our aspiration to be the first country that is truly sustainable. Sustainability should become a core value and a central part of our national identity in the 21st century.

The move to a more sustainable New Zealand is based on two factors. First are the opportunities emerging from a global market that puts a higher value on environmental integrity. Second are the risks arising from the environmental challenge the world faces today and in the future.

Waste Minimisation and Management:
The waste minimisation and management initiative represents a shift from a largely voluntary approach to one based on stronger central and local government leadership. One of the tools to bring about this change is the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill. In September the Government released a Supplementary Order Paper for the Bill. The paper laid out the Government’s preferred waste policy.

The Supplementary Order Paper outlines the framework for a national levy on solid waste disposal, with revenue divided equally between local authorities’ activities to minimise waste and a contestable fund for waste minimisation projects.

The paper also outlined new legislation on product stewardship, which provides accreditation processes and regulatory back-up for industry-led schemes and sets out a process for ‘priority’ products.

New reporting requirements for operators and new regulations for other waste-related data collection and reporting requirements will allow for better tracking of waste flows and provide a clearer picture of New Zealand waste overall.

Another sustainability initiative in the waste area is the Recycling in Public Places initiative designed to get New Zealanders and tourists recycling while out and about.

A network of public recycling facilities will be available in larger cities and major tourist destinations reinforcing New Zealand’s clean, green image and reinforcing the behaviours that councils have worked so hard to establish in the home with kerb-side recycling.

The first partner councils to pilot this initiative will be announced in the coming days with the first bins destined to be rolled out before Christmas this year.

Product Stewardship:
The Ministry for the Environment has also been actively working with industry to develop and implement product stewardship schemes across the country.

Three new schemes were unveiled this year - Resene launched its PaintWise programme to take back unused paint - AgPac began its scheme to take back and recycle silage wrap plastic and an industry-wide programme, AgRecovery was set up to collect and recycle used chemical containers on farms.

Many other product stewardship initiatives continue their successes. Products like used oil, packaging, cell phones, whiteware, tyres, and others have been established or continue their progress.

The Ministry for the Environment is in discussions with business to create schemes in the lighting, treated timber, plasterboard information and communication technology sectors.

Other work has included work with territorial authorities to implement WasteTRACK. This internet-based database consolidates data to track liquid and hazardous wastes through its lifecycle. Its use is now a requirement in 12 territorial authorities for liquid waste contractors. Another 17 councils are committed to implementing WasteTRACK in their area by the end of 2007. The Ministry is looking to have 75 per cent coverage of the territorial authorities by April 2008.

However, many issues still need to be resolved. Councils are looking at the best way of collecting and handling different types of waste. There is some hard work ahead to develop and strengthen the country's recycling infrastructure. Creating lasting markets to ensure a strong economy that supports waste minimisation will continue to challenge and stretch us all. Continued partnerships between central government, local government, industry and the community will be the key factor in meeting these goals.
We all play a part to maximise opportunities to work together so that we better to respond to increasing challenges.

By better managing waste, we make our economy more efficient and competitive. We save money, improve the environment and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We improve the quality of life and wellbeing of our families, we build our national identity as clean, green, and environmentally aware, and we also advance economic transformation.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening. The waste industry is a significant contributor to making New Zealand an international leader in sustainability. It is through your hard work and collaboration that this momentum continues. I look forward to seeing the future accomplishments we can achieve by continuing to work together.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the conference.


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