Far North District Council to send infringement notices to illegal dumpers

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The sources of a box of documents dumped illegally at Opononi are clearly identifiable.
The sources of a box of documents dumped illegally at Opononi are clearly identifiable.

The Far North District Council plans to issue infringement notices to people identified in illegally dumped rubbish near Opononi.

A spokesman said last week that the council had a six-month time frame to act.

The documents were found by Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board member Louis Toorenburg and others who spent a day picking up rubbish alongside SH12 and tackled the illegal dump on Paika Hill, where the documents were found (Horrible way to spend a Sunday, Northland Age September 29).

Some larger items, including fridges, were left for the council to remove.

According to the council, illegal dumping cost Far North ratepayers $55,758 in the 12 months to September.

In the year to June 30, 77 people were issued with infringement notices. Five of those fines were paid, 50 were not, and 22 notices were waived.

There were no prosecutions.

Fines that were not paid were handed over to the courts to pursue, although that could be a very slow process, taking up to seven years.

General manager - district services Dean Myburgh said the council shared residents' frustration over the illegal dumping of rubbish.

"So far this year it has cost council (and therefore Far North ratepayers) almost $43,000 to clean it up. That's ratepayer money that could have been spent on roads, footpaths, libraries or any of the other services council provides," he said.

"Even more frustrating is that illegal rubbish dumpers are often our own neighbours.
Evidence we do collect shows illegal dumpers are often Far North residents, rather than visitors to the district."

Where the council had evidence it would always issue infringement notices or take court action, Dr Myburgh said, but both options required a high level of evidence, often photographic, to succeed.

Under the Litter Act 1979, the council could issue an infringement notice with a maximum penalty of $400.

Infringers had up to 56 days to pay the fine, but could dispute the infringement and have it waived.

Grounds for that were typically that the offender was a minor, the evidence available provided a name but not an address which could not be found in any system available to council staff, or there was insufficient information to complete the prescribed format.

Prosecutions were more difficult, requiring a higher level of evidence, generally video or photographic evidence of the accused in the act of dumping.

Prosecutions could fail for reasons including that photos were not dated, photos of individuals with vehicles, including the registration, did not match the gender of the vehicle's registered owner, registration plates did not match the vehicle photographed, the vehicle was not registered or warranted, the person photographed could not be identified by name and address and witnesses were not prepared to attend court.

Meanwhile the council wanted to make it as easy as possible for residents and visitors to dispose of their rubbish correctly.

"We have 15 refuse transfer stations, and will shortly open our 10th community recycling centre. The council wants most residents to be no more than a 15-minute drive from a recycling facility," Dr Myburgh said.

"Ultimately, combating illegal rubbish dumping is about changing behaviour. Council cannot do that alone, and needs the community to play its part by promoting the message that dumping rubbish is unacceptable."

- Northland Age

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