BUSINESS

National President of New Zealand Trade and Industrial Waste Forum questions Ministry of Environment's prudence in discontinuing WasteTRACK monitoring programme

Friday 20 March 2015, 12:08PM
By Halo Biz
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HAMILTON

Geoff Young, National President of the New Zealand Trade and Industrial Waste Forum, is frustrated at the lack of response from the Minister of the Environment, Hon Dr Nick Smith, or any of his representatives regarding the withdrawal of funding for the WasteTrack liquid waste tracking programme.

In a letter dated Thursday 18 December 2014 the ministry advised all territorial authorities they had six months to make alternative arrangements to a process that has been in place since 2006.

Mr Young questions the timing of the original announcement.  “Who issues such an important announcement just prior to Christmas knowing most of those affected won’t have full workforces until after schools have returned in February?” he asks.   

The original author of the letter dated 18 December 2014 is no longer at the Ministry for the Environment – the then Director of Operations – has resigned and no one else appears to have been assigned responsibility for overseeing this matter.

NZTIWF would like the Minister to defer his June deadline and enter into discussions with stakeholders to find a more cost-effective solution than the Ministry is going to implement.

Prior to 2006, a code of practice for the handling, transportation and disposal of liquid and hazardous waste was developed by Wasteminz.   As part of that development, the need for a national database system to track the movement of liquid waste was also identified. 

The WasteTRACK programme went live in 2006.

WasteTRACK provided a solution to the problem of tracking liquid waste.  It meant any waste causing problems in one council’s waste water treatment plant could not be trucked across the nearest territorial boundary to the next council system causing problems there as well.

The programme was designed to provide a valuable data tool for evaluating the needs of the community for liquid waste disposal.   In addition, the territorial authorities also had a means to trace problems in their wastewater treatment plants should the material delivered by liquid waste contractors be of concern.

In its nine years of availability, many territorial authorities got on board and incorporated it into their bylaws.  Many others decided to hold off until it became compulsory which it was believed inevitably would happen.

Other territorial authorities decided to wait for an updated, bug-free, version before they committed their local authority to it.  Despite requests, updates were never implemented and the number of territorial authorities using the system remained with the original early adopters.  Today WasteTRACK looks every one of its nine years of age. 

However, NZTIWF have invested considerable time and energy into identifying improvements for the next iteration of the programme such as on-board weigh cells, GPS tracking and cellphone based telemetry from the vehicles.  

Members of NZTIWF want to be involved in an upgrade and believe they have valuable and considerable skills and expertise to contribute to the discussion.  However, despite repeated and numerous attempts by Mr Young to contact the Minister for the Environment or his office, no calls have been returned or written correspondence acknowledged.  

Mr Young is concerned by the fact the Ministry for the Environment has gone out to tender on a National Waste Disposal Survey.  This survey is designed to pick up all those sites that are not currently subject to any waste levies.

The cost of this survey, if it is to be done effectively, will make any upgrades to the WasteTRACK system look like pocket change. 

Mr Young and other members of NZTIWF believe it would be a better use of taxpayer’s money if the current National Liquid Waste Database was first updated and made compulsory.

NZTIWF is concerned that New Zealand’s environmental management is being compromised.  While a voluntary monitoring and checking system is in place it means local authorities and contractors are not required to report what they cart or where they dump their load.

Prior to making the decision to abandon the existing system there appears to have been little or no consultation with stakeholders. 

Since the letter was sent out by MfE, two approaches have been made to the Minister by New Zealand Trade and Industrial Waste Forum (Inc) and although acknowledgement receipts have been received for the emails, no comment or discussion has been received from either the Minister or a member of his staff.

The Forum has invited the Minister and/or his representative to its annual conference in Rotorua.  NZTIWF believes this would be an opportune and cost-effective time to discuss this matter with as affected stakeholders and interested parties as possible.  The Minister however has declined to attend himself or send anyone else along to discuss the matter.

NZTIWF most strongly and urgently requests the Minister to defer his June deadline and enter into discussions with stakeholders to find a more cost-effective solution than the Ministry is going to implement.  

 

CONTACT:

Geoff Young - geoff@bpoltd.co.nz (027 481 5598)