Is it time to consider how we, the citizens of New Zealand have ended up with a 4000 tonne mountain of unwanted paper and plastic recycling near Thames highlighted on the News this week? [1]As an increasing number of us realise, this build-up of recycling  is just one visible tip of a much larger waste eruption that faces us, but where did it all go so wrong?  *

The inevitability of waste is a myth! It’s very recent.  Just a short time ago, we, the people of NZ,  handed over our responsibility for deciding what to do with things we no longer needed.  Are you aware for example that a number of Pacific languages such as I-Kiribati traditionally contained no word for ‘waste’? (Biodegradable plant material was simply placed on vacant land or recycled within taro pits for compost, while  human and other waste was disposed of into the reef for final removal by the incoming tide).  It was just part of  daily life. Pacific middens containing long-extinct horned turtle bones in Efate, Vanuatu, date back 2900 years: as individuals and as local communities we took care of our own discards on our own land.

The same cultural practices that had worked for taking responsibility of our own discarded items accompanied the early migrations to Aotearoa NZ.  As early as the 14th century at Wairau Bay, carbon dating of moa egg shell and bones shows how locals took responsibility for their discards within their own whenua.  In pre-colonial times,  Maori communities maintained their well-being through a complex system of sustainable processes with different products such as shellfish waste, human waste and shavings from wood carving each dealt with separately.  At the industrial Pa sites of Heretaunga and Castle Point evidence of early separation of discarded products for ‘recycling’ has been found; stone, shell and bone flakes were set aside and stored for conservation and re-use. Captain James Cook praised the practices of communities in Poverty Bay, noting that “Every house, or every little cluster of three or four houses, was furnished with a privy, so that the ground was everywhere clean. The offals of their food, and other litter, were also piled up in regular dunghills, which probably they made use of at a proper time for manure”.

Even in early colonial NZ, while populations remained small, unwanted materials were disposed of on people’s own land or within the community. After the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the excavation of Edward Hiorn’s property, an early settler who arrived in 1862, uncovered a number of rubbish pits. One pit contained tin and iron while 1037 artifacts including ceramics, glass bottles, clay pipes, shoes and clothing were found in a further large pit at the back of the property.

The pivotal moment came at the end of the 19th century when we started to congregate in towns and cities.  Once the idea caught hold that ‘miasma’, a gas emanating from putrefying matter, was causing disease outbreaks, public health anxieties became so strong that the state took over the municipal collection and disposal of rubbish.   What would have happened if  in the 1880s in Wellington for example, we’d looked into how to avoid discarding items and materials rather than scavenger carts collecting household and business refuse and dumping it in piles to be burnt at the City Council Yards?

Once we as producers, individual citizens and local communities washed our hands of responsibility and put discarded material into the hands of municipal and government bodies, it was ‘out of sight and out of mind’.  It has since been so very easy to view ‘waste’ as an unfortunate by-product of society for  which we need take no personal responsibility.

The era of ‘waste management’ was born. Rather than reflecting on the relative benefit to our brothers and sisters of all living species of eradicating the concept of ‘waste’, we allowed the focus to shift to centralised policy and technological solutions.

For manufacturers too, this acceptance by citizens that the State should take full responsibility for discarded products and packaging removed any requirement for businesses to take the living world and its future wellbeing into account.   With this problem streamlined, the call after World War II to rebuild national economies led to the creation of the ‘consumer society’ and the advent of the ‘chemical age’.  The mountains of waste we left others to manage ramped up.  The advertising industry used ever more creative product packaging to promote mass production and disposable products, while at the same time the composition of discarded products changed as wonderful new plastics emerged from the petro-chemical industry.  Almost imperceptibly at first, a new level of complexity in managing materials discarded as end-of-life waste began.  By celebrating the benefits of convenience over durability, we normalised disposable plastic products and single-use packaging.

Today the impact of this can be seen in the production of composite materials, of which Tetrapaks are a well-known example (see pic).  We view these as highly efficient ‘cheap’ and ‘disposable’ products because we, along with fellow citizens and business directors, close our minds to block out uncomfortable environmental and social externalities. (In NZ those Tetrapak containers that are recycled are processed at the Materials Recovery Facility in Onehunga and shipped in bales to Korea, India and Australia. They are then soaked in water to separate the paper from the plastic and/or aluminium layers. Its a hugely complex and inefficient process, but we gain a feel-good factor: extracted wood fibre content can be turned into products like cardboard boxes and toilet paper.  For Pacific island countries, the economics of such a process render it infeasible.) The number and complexity of such products is growing, creating complex waste streams which are too difficult or too costly to sort and process: often the entire waste stream gets sent to landfill.

Back in the 1980’s, the time my own adulthood began to bloom, it was already evident that problems arising from poor waste disposal were not just land-based dumpsite issues but affecting the marine environment across the Pacific. As far back as 1991 the NZ researcher Gregory emphasised the need to educate the public about the environmental problems in the oceans arising from the ‘indiscriminate disposal of plastics and other persistent synthetic compounds’. Even at that stage Gregory was predicting the seriousness of the marine plastics issue, ‘It is unlikely that these problems can ever be solved by regulation,’ he stated, and pinned his own hopes on ‘technological advances’.   Along with the rest of us, embedded in ‘solid waste managment’ thinking, he too failed to question the responsibility of citizens and businesses for preventing materials that need to be discarded to arise in the first place. Twenty-five years on,  it seems the narrative is unchanged.  Yet does the answer really lie in technological solutions?  And is waste really inevitable? What if we went back to having to discard items in our own backyards – would we still allow that packaging into our homes?

*This Zero Waste Granny is currently undertaking research within a Masters in International Development.  My research topic –  how the inspirational Maori Zero Waste organisation, Para Kore, may provide a different way of approaching our current waste crisis. Above is the first of six myths I am discovering about modern solid waste management approaches which prevent us finding deep solutions to living in harmony and restoring the natural world in NZ.





I love the way that here in NZ we have true local area representation in parliament. Hence I am approaching our local MP who last year signed his name to petitioning the government for refundable bottle deposits.  Now it seems hard to contact him….  Latest email sent 10 February 2018 (correspondence as from 1st January below):   Dear Matt      I and many who share the zero waste kaupapa here in the Far North are waiting to hear how you can represent our voice in Parliament.     Would you be willing to let me know what you will do for us so that  I can pass it on to all those others in our Social Media groups?

Sincerely   Jane B

Ps pic attached shows the 43 bottles and cans – amongst other stuff – that I collected on a walk yesterday morning in the 500m stretch up the hill and down the other side from Paihia Beach to Te Haumi Beach.  I believe it speaks for itself…

Email sent  1 Febrary 2018    Hi Matt

I’m not an expert, just a passionate Far North Citizen, concerned about getting ‘all our ducks in a row’ so together we  look after the mana of the whenua and moana of  our region.  I see the importance of these deposits not just for their own sake but  o restore and regenerate our mana for the sake of us, the people of the Far North,  currently using these items, our ancestors and our children. We aren’t, in my opinion, doing  well right now either at generating environmental mana nor our own.  Bottle deposits become a lead in to our regaining a greater felt connection with the natural world as what we do each day shows us that we are looking after it rather than defacing it.  That increase in our own mana spills over into enhancing connection with one another.  It’s a bigger picture than it may look at first…..

My understanding is that the main work on this has been done by Envision  – check out the 2015 report, The InCENTive to Recycle, looked at the effectiveness of bringing back bottle refunds (cash for containers) to lift recycling rates in New Zealand.   Also an Auckland Council commissioned, independent cost benefit analysis of the Envision model released in December 2017

The people who form the NZ Product Stewardship Council  are also knowledgeable about this area. and I am sure would be keen to provide you with what ever further information you need.

As you may be aware Scotland has recently joined the countries using the scheme – and Coca Cola is on board with the idea. , Britain is looking into it seriously

and as I pointed out before , Australia looks like this :

Quite honestly – what is there not to like?



Email received 1 February 2018    Hi Jane

Do you have info from overseas jurisdictions that we could model any proposed changes in NZ on.
Email sent 1 February 2018   Dear Matt

I imagine you may be now back at work and I believe you will be interested to read of what is happening in New South Wales:

“More than 50 million drink containers have been returned through the Return and Earn recycling program since it began in December 2017. NSW Environment Protection Authority Acting Chair and CEO Mark Gifford said daily returns are averaging 1.5 million drink containers. Weekends tend to be the busiest times for returns, with last Sunday peaking at over 1.8 million returns.”  (

As you are now well known amongst Far North citizens anxious to see refundable deposits on drinks containers from your pre-election commitment to this in Russell last year, would you now be willing to clarify what you will do to ensure advanced deposits are in place on all bottles and cans by the end of this year for the benefit of us all, the citizens of New Zealand and the other living creatures with whom we share this common world?

Jane B

Email received 17 January 2018    Hi Jane

I’m still on holiday will get back to you later.

Regards Matt King Northland MP


Email sent 17 January 2018    Good morning Matt

As I walked up Seaview Road this morning, in the first 250 metres I picked up – amongst other discards – these bottles and cans – see pic attached. It reminded me that I haven’t yet heard back from you regarding what you are going to do for us your constituents and the wellbeing of the Far North environment regarding ensuring a bottle deposit scheme is in place for all bottles and cans in NZ by the end of 2018.

As you are now well known amongst Far North citizens keen to see this go from your pre-election commitment to this in Russell last year, would you now be willing to clarify what you will do to ensure advanced deposits are in place on all bottles and cans by the end of this year?

Jane b

Email sent 5 January 2018   Hi Matt

While you are discussing the bottle deposit scheme with your colleagues, this will I think be really helpful – a short video that explains the whole system and how it works – wish I’d seen it earlier!

I will wait to hear what you think.

Sincerely  Jane B

Email sent 2 January    Hi Matt

My understanding is that it doesn’t affect retailers at all apart from a very minor increase in the price of drinks.  The drinks companies add the 10c per drink bottle for example and pay this into a fund managed by Stakeholders. Community recycling depots refund the 10c to the person who brings in the bottle and are reimbursed from the managed fund.  (You will see the full costs and benefits to all Stakeholders including local and central government and the drinks industry set out in the Envision Report (see below).

As the money is invested in the meantime these funds and the interest earned  add to those obtained from the sale of the product by the centres to recycling businesses and just about cover the whole cost of the system.  What I like is that these centres bring jobs to the regions too – as well as taking the costs away from Councils and onto those directly involved, producers and consumers – to me this looks like a win-win for us the people of the Far North.  And the great thing is that the legislation is already in place in the 2008 Waste Minimisation Act – it just needs the will to put the scheme in place.  I know so well from my personal discussions that the Kiwi public are absolutely behind it; they see it as a no-brainer.

(For your information, drinks companies are coming on board across the globe. See for example this article ‘Coca-Cola backs Scottish bottle deposit scheme calls’ )

In response to your first request for back up information, I have now located the 2015 Envision Report that I was seeking  (you will find the full report at this link  and I believe it will provide the clarity you need to discuss the issue further with your colleagues  )

Here are a few salient points from the report:

KEY FEATURES OF THE Container Deposit Scheme  proposed in this report are:

  • Government declares beverage containers a priority product requiring a mandatory product stewardship scheme to be put in place and sets a system target rate of 85%
  • A minimum refundable 10-cent deposit applies to all beverage containers
  • A Managing Agency is set up by the beverage industry and other stakeholders

to coordinate and manage the flow of materials and funds through the system

  • The Business and Social Enterprises sets up a collection system of convenient drop-

off points where the public can receive refunds for their containers.


The predicted benefits of the model include:

  • At least double the quantities of all beverage containers recovered (with a

target of 85%)

  • At least 45,865 additional tonnes of containers diverted from landfill (an

increase of 43%)

  • At least 700 million additional containers diverted from landfill (an increase of 74%)
  • Potential savings to NZ ratepayers of between $26million and $40million per

annum from refuse collection savings (based on bag rates of between $2 and $3

per bag)

  • Reduced litter and litter control costs
  • Reduced costs to councils and ratepayersthrough higher kerbside recycling revenues
  • Increased business opportunities for recyclers as a result of the increased

volumes of clean recycled materials

  • Up to 2,400 new, entry-level to managerial- level jobs spread throughout the country
  • New business opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up collection depots
  • New income streams for social service groups who can collect containers

for refunds and also to set up social enterprises to operate collection depots


Please get back to me with your thoughts. I’m here to assist.

Jane B

Email received 2 January 2018    from Matt King

I went on the website and watched the short video question I have is this would be a huge burden to retailers and who would pay.

Regards Matt King Northland MP

Email sent 2 January 2018    Hi Matt, I appreciate your positive response.

Just checking with those that know more than me what would be the best information to send you.  Here’s one recent article about whats happening in the UK for you in the meantime…

I will be back to you soon.  Jane B

Email received 1 January 2018 Hi Jane

Happy to look into this.  Send me the information I need it helps when similar countries have such a scheme  that  makes it easier to sell to the law makers.

Regards Matt King Northland MP

Email sent 1st January 2018    Hi Matt

I hear more and more concern – from people in the Far North both in person and online, anxious about the amount of rubbish on the roadsides and in the streams and on beaches. A lot of this is plastic bottles, glass bottles and drink cans.

You told me at the Russell Birdman Festival that you are in favour of these advanced deposits.    By the end of this year every State in Australia will have introduced a deposit system – will you as our local Far North MP  push New Zealand to do this too for the sake of our whenua and moana here in the Far North. It needs your help. We the people of the Far North need your help.

The facts are indisputable – have a look at  if you would like more information. The campaign was started and is still being driven by a resident of the Far North, Warren Snow from Kaitaia. I have copied him into this email. I am sure he would be keen to provide you with more information if required. The FNDC is all in favour . It looks like deposit refunds will be introduced in Scotland and the UK before long ….

Matt, will you please put your weight behind  advanced deposits – young Nats may be keen to take this up too if they haven’t already  – lets get this in action for the sake of us all here in the Far North and our children and grandchildren’s future.

Meanwhile, I and 2 others are working to put a water drinking and bottle refilling fountain into the Paihia waterfront – we are doing what we can, can you please do your bit too.

Hei konā mai i roto i ngā mihi /Goodbye for now & thank you



February 14th 2018

“Dear John
I have a need to know that I am looking after the wellbeing of my brothers and sisters of all species. I also have a need for respect.
It is hard for me to meet these needs from your continued lack of response to the letter and gifts that I sent in a spirit of goodwill and friendship during the first week of the New Year. I feel sad and concerned.

I wrote requesting your leadership in an area which I genuinely I believe is of importance to all of us citizens of the Far North and I have many fellow Far North residents following the outcome with interest as they too await your response.

Let us work together on behalf of Papatuanuku/Mother Earth and for the good of the people alive now, our ancestors and the people that will follow.

I look forward to hearing that FNDC will embrace the Ecostar certification department by department, completing this throughout by Easter 2018.


Jane B ”


cycle trail litter“We used to pick up litter ourselves until they took away most of the bins”, says the woman as she walks past with her partner, out for their morning exercise.   I’d like to respond in a way that encourages her to restart, to tell her all the reasons why during my morning walk I collect what others discard. I want to suggest that the current location of bins could still work for them but my words don’t come out right: I mumble something about hoping they enjoy their walk, and my chance to speak up is lost.

Dear Reader, in hindsight I realise what I want to tell this couple. Why, even in the face of the enormity of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ and my awareness that globally we allow discards that would fill a rubbish truck to enter the  oceans every minute,  I still believe in the value of picking up litter!  Despite the enormity of this issue that tears at my soul demanding I feel powerless and defeated, amplified by a regular chorus of “If other people aren’t doing anything, why should I?”, I still regularly pick up other people’s discards.  I missed sharing these ten ideas with that walking couple so would you be willing to listen instead?

  • First, do you know the Starfish story? ‘Along a beach strewn with starfish as far as the eye could see that had washed up on the sand walked an old priest and a young boy. Every so often as they walked, the elderly man would bend down, pick up a starfish and toss it back into the sea. “Why are you bothering? Asked the young boy, “Cant you see its hopeless, there are far too many. You’ll never make a difference.” The old priest replies, “Well, young man, I made a difference to that one.” ‘ I often think of that traditional story as I pick up a piece of plastic wrapping.  I picture one fish, one seabird or the dolphin that won’t now get sick from consuming this particular plastic bottle top or lolly wrapper.
  • ‘People find a natural joy in contributing to the world’s wellbeing’, says one of the people who most influences my thinking, Marshall Rosenberg, founder of NVC ( I certainly feel it – perhaps it has a physiological basis in seratonin or endorphins or something – I just know that when I am feeling stressed, weary, cross and out of sorts, I have only to push myself to get up and out for a walk, taking a re-used bread bag and picking up litter, to return home 40 minutes later refreshed, regenerated and in good spirits!
  • I know am not alone. By picking up things discarded into our environment, I join a growing community around the world.  With this belonging comes a badge of hope.  When I think of the small group in Mumbai (, the NZ charity Sustainable Coastlines started by a Kiwi surfer, or the young Australians who set up the ‘Take 3 for the Sea’ ( challenge, I feel humbled to be amongst these eco-active giants, my brothers and sisters in this shared kaupapa, and doing my small ‘bit’ seems easy.
  • Personally I just don’t feel comfortable when I see rubbish lying around. Perhaps its my inbuilt sense of order or maybe what I learnt to do as a child,  but picking up litter and not leaving it around makes me feel easier.
  • Whether I understand it literally or not, the vision of birds, plants and we humans all descended from Tane, fish from Tangaroa, and insects from Whiro who in turn are all descended from Papatuanuku, is a powerful one. We are all connected within the great circle of life.  The health and security of one is the health and security of us all.
  • Something lying on the surface of a beautiful patchwork would stop me enjoying its full beauty. Why wouldn’t I pick something off the ground so I can enjoy the full natural harmony of a vista of plants or a stream or the beach?
  • By carrying items to the nearest bin, or home for recycling, I’m energised to ask our representatives for change. Today I email Matt King our local MP to request his support for refundable bottles and cans. Next week I’ll contact David Parker, our Environment Minister on the same issue or a member of our community board about local recycling bins. If things are to change, our representatives need to be aware of what we the people of NZ care about.
  • I have two marvellous small grandsons. I want to look after their world as best I can.  My hands can help just a little. My experience is that littles add up. Its their future.
  • I gain a powerful sense of mana myself in looking after the environment. I gain self respect as well as respect from those whose opinions I value.
  • Its fun! If you don’t believe me, try watching Kiri Danielle, the young Kiwi who without criticism or comment, races across her skateboarding area before she starts; in just a few minutes making a world of difference (

Picking up litter is just a tiny piece of a ‘tukutuku panel’ of strands each of us needs to consider weaving if we are truly to make a difference.  Is it the whole answer? No, absolutely not. It is the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ and we need to put much of our energy into rethinking our choices on what we do and what we eat, re-organising our workplaces, and requesting  change from packaging stakeholders and decision makers.  So is picking up litter a meaningful thing to do? Well, as you see above, I believe the answer is a tenfold ‘Yes’!

If you would like to comment (or join me on an empowering walk!) I’m always keen to listen. You can connect with me at or join the Far North Zero Waste Facebook Group.   #togetherwecandoit



Hon. John Carter
Far North District Council
Memorial Avenue
Private Bag 752

3rd January 2018

Dear John

Will Ecostar certification for each FNDC office be your New Year’s resolution?

I hear more and more concern – from people in the Far North both in person and online.  People are becoming more anxious about the amount of rubbish they create, that they see dumped in the bush, that they see being burnt and wasted and how there is a lack of focus by FNDC on helping we the people of the Far North to create less rubbish. People want to change, people are concerned, people up here care about the whenua and moana.

If we the people of the Far North are to move forward this year in embracing kaitiakitanga and becoming a region connected to and regenerating our natural world, we need leadership.  Who better to lead this than you?

John, I ask that you resolve to take a new year’s step to have the FNDC lead by example with each FNDC office and department team achieving the Ecostar Award, beginning with your own. Is there any reason each office and department can’t achieve this by Easter 2018 if you both role model and request? :  “The Far North District Council is committed to waste minimisation in the region and has set targets for the area to reach in its Waste Minimisation Strategy.  To help reach those goals the Council has initiated the ecostar award to promote and recognise achievements in this area. The ecostar provides organisations with a structured process for the development, implementation and maintenance of a waste minimisation plan. The ecostar can then be gained by successfully passing an on-site audit from the Council’s approved, third-party verifiers, CBEC EcoSolutions. Current and certified members can then use their ecostar credentials as proof of their progress in implementing an effective waste minimisation plan and working towards sustainability.”

I sincerely believe that FNDC staff teams will come on board because buried deep within the spirit of each person here in the Far North is concern for our natural world. Every Far North resident needs and deserves the natural joy that comes from the guardianship of Papatuanuku and to jointly care for the future wellbeing of the next generation. We want to be known as respectful guardians and caring citizens and no longer want to accept being branded as powerless ‘council workers’ or mindless ‘consumers’.   Our hearts and spirits are ready to open to a more meaningful future and we need to be shown the way step by step.

I am enclosing two small gifts for you personally, a re-usable coffee cup so you never again need to accept a disposable cup and a desk top waste box because removing the waste bin under your desk is a smart first step to focus on how to reduce your landfill footprint from your office. My wish is that each of these will daily support you and remind you of how role modelling small steps is how social change starts.

As FNDC role models its commitment to kaitiakitanga by achieving Ecostar accreditation office by office, department by department, I firmly believe it will become the start of wider change. We the people of the Far North need guidance to move from creating rubbish to valuing and looking after resources  – we are ready for change, we want to change, we need you to lead us.

Meanwhile, with two others, I am working to put a water drinking and bottle refilling fountain into the Paihia waterfront to reduce plastic bottle purchases. We are doing what we can, can you please do your bit too?

Hei konā mai i roto i ngā mihi /Goodbye for now & thank you


(letter as mailed to Hon John Carter this week). 




Does anyone else have as much fun as I do with their rubbish?  Collecting items for composting and sorting inorganic items for various recycling streams brings a vision of my small grandson, head focused on a kindergarten sorting game. Like Oscar aged 2, I find the sorting an enjoyable challenge.   “Must I really add this the landfill bin?” I question myself while seeking an alternative fit for an empty blister pack of antibiotics, necessitated by a recent bout of pneumonia. “Nope,” I say annoyed, and push it into a small catfood sack, annoyingly made of plasticised paper, that has sat in my kitchen bin for weeks destined for the landfill.   The small pharmaceutical carton is added to the cardboard stack I’m collecting for recycling while the paper pharmacy bag, plastic tape first pulled off and added to the ‘soft plastic recycling’ stash, goes to my compost bucket.


What I love about my two wooden compost bins is their appetite!  Claudia, my upper bin, seems insatiable: this week she had plentiful food scraps from a series of visitors along with a heap of old kale plants from replanting part of the vege garden along with some grass clippings; by the end of the week, it had all packed down and she was ready for more!  For weeks now I’ve been giving Claudia food scraps, vegetable peelings and fruit skins ( minus the annoying branding labels which I stick on my ‘soft plastic’ recycling, saving the pile for my next trip for Auckland where types of soft plastic recycled are far broader than here in the Far North), garden weeds, seaweed,  as well as paper and cardboard and grass clippings.  Claus the lower bin is currently empty, still patiently awaiting his turn.


“Here you are, Claudia, here are today’s treasures,” I say to my gorgeous compost bin as I tear up 3 toilet roll inners along with 2 paper mushroom bags that visitors were requested to use if stopping for supermarket fruit.  I’m sure I can feel my compost bin’s contentment as she settles in to look after these resources. I too feel so content: each gift to Claudia connects me once more into the circle of life; I feel  connected with all the other living beings with whom I share this world.  It’s a humbling experience and yet at the same time brings with it the best of endorphins – the natural joy from looking after our world’s resources is the best feeling ever.


Of course many people and businesses in the Far North have no access to a compost bin but shouldn’t this natural joy be theirs too? If Raglan’s community-owned large scale composting facility keeps waste  food scraps out of the landfill and turns them into garden compost, why don’t we follow their example? Perhaps there’s still too big a big difference though between Raglan’s friendly community recycling and resource centre, Xtreme Zero Waste, and what we have so far settled for in the Far North?  I admit I’m not a fan of  our local FNDC Recycling Centres as exemplified by my ‘local’, the Whangae Transfer Station.  Contracted out by FNDC to be run by the multi-national Chinese-owned Waste Management corporation, Whangae is a barren and soulless place.  When I drive in with bottles, cans and paper for recycling to this location on the Opua-Kawakawa Road , I feel no sense of either my place within the circle of life nor my connection with other living beings. Perhaps a FNDC centre like this is not a good location for a large scale ‘Claudia?  In a region where the heart of kaitiakitanga pulses as a powerful a guiding force, here at Whangae its absence is palpable.  This place feels heartless, soulless, a monument to an overseas corporation whose shareholders profit from increasing the amount of rubbish we the people of the Far North throw out.  Its not a comfortable fit if we are a people looking to the future.


Like rubbish itself, we residents of the Far North have for years disposed our responsibilities for looking after our environment and the future wellbeing of our community to a faceless FNDC. Its ‘their’ responsibility we say, forgetting that ‘they’ are ‘us’.  An ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to the resources we throw out has built up as we the people of the Far North stood on the sidelines.  Some years ago, I overheard two grandparents boasting about their planed ‘SKI trip’, and on admiring their level of fitness, was laughingly told, “Oh no, Jane, SKI stands for our new lifestyle, ‘Spending the Kids’ Inheritance!”    This year, talking with Northlanders, its clear that the ‘SKI approach’ to rubbish no longer feels comfortable or funny; increasingly I find the people of the Far North are  shocked and embarrassed at what they throw out.  People are looking for a new theme song.


Its hard to hear a new song amidst the familiar old lyrics. “Its not my fault. I recycle where I can.  I don’t drop litter.  My rubbish gets picked up from the kerbside” can still be heard amidst the back patting.  “We’ve no choice,” Far North citizens chorus as they continue to purchase plastic packaged items within a system that is neither fair, ethical or sustainable.  But do we in the Far North really have no choice? Are we stuck or is there a new song in the air?  Is there a heartfelt and healing new  ‘post-disposable’ harmony  on  the lips of Far North citizens young and old?   Without doubt, my own song is changing.  Just 18 months ago when out with friends, at work or looking after my family’s needs, ‘convenience’ and ‘disposability’ guided my choices and the value I put on time. No longer.  Today my desire for that natural joy that comes from connecting with the natural world  has become so important that reducing my rubbish footprint is essential. I’m no longer prepared to accept being labelled as a mindless ‘consumer’ with no feelings and values of my own. I’m not mindless, I’m a citizen and a Far North resident and I care.


It dawned on me that I can sum up this new approach of mine with 3 ‘R words’: rethink – reorganise – request. Is it time yet for all in the Far North to sing a new song to bring healing to our community as we heal our environment?  Are Far North citizens keen to honour their place within the natural world by choosing a future where landfills are history and items are re-valued as resources not rubbish?  If so, perhaps these 3 words will become the chorus line of a new song as we each Rethink, Reorganise and Request a rubbish-free Far North?






Email Monday 20th March to  Hon John Carter QSO, Mayor Far North District Council

Dear John

The Cycle Way is awesome!  I loved riding it on Saturday, as did the friend I roped in who hadn’t been on a bike for years!  I’m now looking forward to my daughters, son-in-law and visitors from overseas riding that part in the near future!  Its so good to see this project come to fruition – all credit to the Green Party for initiating the concept around NZ,  all those individuals who have pushed it along, and for your Council following up on it.  I love the idea of new parts of Northland being opened up to such a gentle way of seeing our region.


However, I am concerned that we keep the Trail ‘clean and green’. As you will see from pic, on Saturday I already picked up a considerable amount of waste ( and had to leave more behind as I couldn’t carry it)!   I believe we need to create a culture right from the start which proactively educates NZ and overseas riders – and locals – in a ‘ Zero Waste Kaitiakitanga’  :

  • Lets make it easy for riders to make good choices which protect our land and sea environment and lets create fun signage about why using primary school kids art works
  • Lets ensure local people , trustees, Iwi and business people build a culture of stewardship of our Northland Environment right from the start.
  • Lets keep plastic from affecting fish stocks, shellfish and other marine life.  It needs to be recognised that the waste that gets dropped will be washed by rainstorms into drains and hence into the sea ( see pic of plastic yoghurt carton almost there –  on side of marsh raised walkway) – the trail is highly vulnerable, given sections by rivers, by streams, and by the coast
  • Sophisticated European tourists don’t want to see the amount of rubbish that I for example picked up along the trail on Saturday ( see pic of my ‘hoard’ at the finish showing as much as I could carry: 3 cans, 6 PET soft drink bottles, 5 crisp packets, 1 pie bag, 2 flavoured milk bottles, 1 yoghurt carton but had to leave many other items I was unable to carry) ) . Lets aim for rave reviews about our environmental policy on the Trail.
  • Lets showcase that ‘Northlanders care’ about generations yet to come and about our natural world

Why not

  • Set a goal say for July 2018 whereby the Twin Coast Trail will be a fully  Zero Waste Trail
  • Raise awareness of the issues amongst trustees by sharing this short video :
  • Define Zero Waste = No rubbish whatsoever that goes to landfill =  anything that’s discarded becomes a resource for something else. This means switching to reusable, compostable and recyclable food and drink packaging
  • What makes a ‘ Zero Waste Trail’ would best be brainstormed by those involved but here are 10 ideas for starters:
    1. All businesses along the Trail must be Ecostar rated by July 2018 in order to be promoted on maps, website etc
    2. Signage created by schoolkids (after all , it is their future that is at stake) describing why the Trail is Zero Waste and why its important ( Opua School kids already do great art work around the issues of waste/marine plastic for example) at intervals along trail – request sponsorship from Waste levy funding perhaps to pay for signs?
    3. In promotional material, strongly discourage riders from carrying any disposable plastic items such as single use water bottles, food packaging etc by explaining the Zero Waste policy and reasons why
    4. ‘Leave only footprints’ ( or ‘Leave only cycle tracks’)  message to be promoted and/or
    5. Ban businesses from using disposable cups/glasses (Interestingly the café we stopped at above the stream half way along was saying how they were really aware that they didn’t want to use the disposable cups they were supplying and felt bad that they were doing so but weren’t organised enough – it is my belief this is true of many, they want to make more eco-friendly choices but need leadership to do so)
    6. Set up a few water bottle refilling stations (like Opua School’s gift to  Paihia ( set up on Horotutu  by the Info Centre)
    7. Sell stylish customised Trail branded re-usable cups at start and finish of trail sections and at each cafe along the way eg
    8. Sell customised re-usable metal water bottles  eg
    9. Encourage sale of items with compostable packaging such as  Trade Aid chocolate bars / various coffee roasters bags
    10. Make it a trend to have cafes and maraes using funky mismatched op shop cups or mugs / glasses and no disposable ones


  • Ensure ALL  further FNDC events such as that held at Horeke on Saturday are Zero Waste ie all items used can be and are recycled or composted. ( Many Councils around NZ now hold only Zero Waste Events cf so no glad wrap over food, no food in soft plastic wrapping eg crisps, biscuits etc ( until soft plastic recycling is brought in in Far North ), no disposable cups, plastic bottles of water – replace with filling station and remind people to bring their own bottles –  etc. (Once FNDC is Ecostar-rated itself of course this will become second nature…😊)

Not only will this focus on Zero Waste for the Trail be useful in itself, it will also give Far North citizens (and FNDC) an aspirational target to achieve for other ventures.  #togetherwecandoit

What do you think?


‘Humanity has developed a very deep ability to push devastating information about the impacts of our actions into our subconscious and this is a danger. We are numbing ourselves to this life going out’.                                                                         Patricia McCabe

Here’s what my heart and soul wants to say to you, Dear Reader. That Rumi’s words from the 13th century (see pic) speak just as true today; its high time to meet beyond ideas of ‘wrongdoing and rightdoing’ here in the Far North! Can we please put aside blame and judgement in regard to Waste,  celebrate that there is much more that unites us than divides us, look for the good in each other, and get on and work together to move forward?

The issue of Waste and its effect on the environment here in the Far North is a prime example of what sociologists and others term a ‘wicked problem’ or a ‘mess.  Its a problem with no single cause and there is no one solution, and actually there is  little likelyhood of the problem ever being completely resolved, so can everyone please stop taking sides, and saying one idea is good, another is not. Nor are some organisations or individuals wholly good or wholly bad. Nothing is that black and white. This being so, the best, indeed many would say the only way that wicked problems can be effectively addressed is by the many stakeholders coming together to identify the root causes and the best possible group of potential albeit partial solutions. Once causes and possible solutions are made visible in a spirit of openness and collaboration beyond rightdoing and wrongdoing, then different groups, organisations and individuals can take responsibility for ‘doing their bit,’ collaborating all the while and coming together regularly to check on forward progress and revise and adjust the best ways to tackle the next stage.

So following on from that, my activist/pragmatist mind suggests this. Its high time , indeed well overdue that we, that is the People of the Far North, provide a clear and visionary voice about our needs in relation to Rubbish and Recycling. We’ve been far too quiet for far too long.  Before the Far North District Council ratifies a new Waste Management and Minimisation Plan in June 2017, do you, Dear Reader, have a vision that speaks for us all? If yes, and we are all in need of the vision of  those brave of heart and clear of mind, please may you share it with us all. If not, Brave Reader, do you have courage enough to honour my vision as drafted below, all or in part? Will you stand beside me so our combined voices call out on behalf of ourselves but more for the vulnerable young children of today here in Northland whose future health and wellbeing is so much in our hands?


We, the people of the Far North, choose for life to flourish throughout our region through the wise re-use of all resources and the elimination of harm from packaging and other waste:

  1. We  have a key desire to leave for the latest generation (those born since 2010) a healthy, flourishing and biodiverse region providing well-being for all;
  2. We believe in working together with wisdom, compassion and empathy to bring well-being and harmony for the people and the natural ecosystems of our Far North region;
  3. We look for possibility, partnership and peace;
  4. The rights of current and future generations of Far North people are key;
  5. Subsidiarity ( decision-making at the level of those most affected) is key;
  6. Collaboration of stakeholders is seen as the best way to reach negotiated outcomes that realistically best meet the needs of all Far North people.

To achieve our vision, we Far North people call on FNDC to host a quarterly meeting throughout the period 2017 – 2022 between representatives of the following 5 Stakeholder Groups for collaborative discussion/decision-making using a quadruple bottom line approach (people+planet+profits+sourcing people’s wisdom) to support us, the people of the Far North to achieve our vision for life to flourish throughout the Far North through Wise re-use of all Resources and the elimination of Harm from Packaging and other Waste .


  1. Maori
  2. ‘Waste Warriors’ – a Far North alliance of local community/not-for-profit organisations and individuals committed to waste minimization/waste harm reduction & education
  3. Business – Directors of Companies, Individuals and Member bodies involved in the production, importation, sale, use and distribution of packaging and packaged products in the Far North;
  4.  Spokespeople representing
    1. the rights of children under 16
    2. those yet to be born (2017 – 2030)
    3. today’s youth (17 – 25)
    4. parents of children under 16
    5. other Northland residents
    6. the biodiversity of Far North bush
    7. the biodiversity of Far North marine life
  5. Public Sector – FNDC, Northland Health, NRC and Government

Furthermore, we the people of the Far North have the expectation that each of the above stakeholder representatives at the Quarterly meeting will acknowledge and honour their personal, organisational and collective responsibility for stewardship and restoration of our natural world here in the Far North, respecting the strengths and unique requirements of local communities and the dignity of individuals.

We further expect that every one of our elected Councillors will honour their personal responsibility to bring alive the FNDC Vision 2015-2020: FNDC will be a capable, trusted, and innovative civic leader, serving and inspiring people, maximising opportunities to empower communities and meet their changing needs; while creating great places.              

        So, brave reader, to repeat my question to you, ‘Do you have courage enough to ask for the vision above, all or in part, to be honoured here in the Far North, and stand beside me so our voices speak for ourselves and for vulnerable children here in Northland whose future health and wellbeing is so much in our hands? ‘                                              





I’m cycling the beautiful Taranaki Surf Highway, pondering how car drivers feel okay tossing out their trash.  ‘Do they believe it miraculously disintegrates?  Or feel they are kindly creating jobs for others to search for litter in roadside drains? Perhaps its just that well-engineered, hermetically sealed and air-conditioned vehicles become disconnected from the sacredness of the living nature of which they are a part, or is the alienation due to ‘Macdonaldisation’ and where outcomes are disocciated from reality through a screen. Or does today’s speed of travelling just mean roadsides flash past unseen? For me slowly cycling by (and yes, I’m not as fit as I would like) each verge, stream, plant and animal becomes my world and I theirs’, joined within the sacredness of creation, before in a slow dance we move apart once more.



Under my cycle helmet, my mind generates potential solutions.  Get young adults out on bikes into the countryside maybe, or ask GPs to prescribe bush walks, or perhaps insist high school students spend time within a forest at regular intervals? Or is it through creating urban natural spaces, not trimmed and mowed and pruned, but spaces alive with creation, flowering native plants, seed loving birds, invertebrates, streams alive with life, that Kiwis and visitors may once again learn to love and revere the natural environment?  How best to grow that reverence, and how to protect our natural world until its sacredness is understood by all?



As I pedal happily along pondering options, ‘Bring back container deposits’ reverberates the loudest in my head.  10c on every plastic bottle and I bet each one of these on the roadside would be gone within a month, scavenged by kids or clubs looking for funds.  Or raise it to 50c and I am fairly sure not a single milk or coke bottle would go to the landfill, and clean uncontaminated resource would be gathered for recycling.   Give people this incentive not to litter as well as for others to tidy up after them and it’ll be worth opening new regional recycling plants.  That’ll be the day, when there’s no need for quantities of plastic waste to be shipped overseas or trucked long-distance to the sole Auckland plant.

Local Councils are all in favour as ratepayers would save $40M a year, and it would create 2000 new jobs ( so my feeling is our current Government is merely maintaining the status quo due to lobbying from the powerful NZ packaging and drinks companies.



The process is straightforward: drinks containers would be declared a priority product under the 2008 Waste Minimisation Act and an 85% recycling target would be set.  Drinks companies would be given 2 years to come into line.    Bottle drop off points and reverse vending machines would form a national network with drinks companies forced to put a minimum deposit on drinks containers.

It works in South Australia. Last year 43 million tonnes were recovered, earning $53 M for the community. So why not here?



What is needed – why, consumer pressure of course!   Personally, my feeling is that the Councils have done their best, and that now its up to us citizens to create the groundswell that will force the change. That’s how change always happens…..

I’m making a start with the goal until July 2017 is each week to write a minimum of one email or message, talk with movers and shakers wherever and whenever, and post or message one drink company Facebook page. Its actually quite fun, as I get all sorts of responses, and if I dont I write again, or call…  Recently I’ve written to Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, and Taranaki tourism about roadside litter and container deposits, and to Te Papa and KiwiRail about recycling.  Now I’m making an appointment to see our local MP about the topic…

Watch this space. I’ll let you know how I get on….



Facebook Post 28/6/16

I’ve signed up for the whole month of July. To quit single-use plastic. 3 months ago I’d never even heard of single-use plastic. Now what’s going on?
I’m an addict, I can see that. To single-use plastic. What I can’t see is how I can cope without it – its central to my day. Its so convenient. I’m hooked. On a busy eveninfirst-8-days-usageg, I tear open a packet and create a meal. I cover the leftovers. Leaving home the next day, a courier parcel arrives, an internet order. I stop on my journey and buy a quick snack…. You get my drift.
You know what scares me the most? That I’ll fail. Publicly. I’m standing up saying, here I am at 58 years old, and I’m a single-use plastic addict. I can’t see how I can quit. I’m hooked on plastic and its convenience. I’ll be so ashamed when I fail.
I came to the Bay of Islands to live 30 years ago. It was my every dream come true. Living by the sea. Enjoying the Bay. 30 years of swimming, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking. And a view of the sea. I’ve valued the sea, I’ve used the sea.
I’ve got two gorgeous grandsons, 3 amazing daughters, and I look to their future, knowing that I am an addict. A single-use plastic addict with an addiction that supports the destruction of their future.
Today I’m still not clear what scares me more. Aiding and abetting the destruction of their future or quitting my addiction.
At least today there’s still 3 days to go…. #plasticfreejuly#noexcuseforsingleuse #myplasticyourmokupuna