It’s the curse of living on the rural edge of New Zealand’s biggest, and growing, city. Big companies, Government and major infrastructure providers look for bare land with good transport links so they can site regionally significant, large-scale developments close to the city, but where land is relatively cheap. So Rodney gets more than its fair share of clean fills and landfills, and we’ve had to stare down applications for gas-fired power stations, and contend with shooting ranges in our backyard.
These facilities bring traffic volumes and hazards – big trucks on rural roads, noise, smell and industrial-scale activities that are of an intensity and impact those of us who live here never anticipated, and a far cry from the normal rural baseline. Sometimes those who object are called Nimbys – those who insist that the development is Not in My Back Yard.
The truth is that we’re all entitled to amenity, the preservation of rural values – views, peace and quiet and traffic volumes appropriate for the state of our local roads. In fact, some of these things should be Not In Anyone’s Back Yards. Niaby takes over from Nimby. Some things shouldn’t just not go here; they shouldn’t go anywhere.
Rubbish dumps are a case in point. Rodney has already been home to Waste Management’s Redvale Landfill for over 25 years. When it was built, it was New Zealand’s first privately owned landfill and the largest, at 20 million cubic metres. And it’s big business. Auckland Council’s 2017 waste assessment shows that when construction and industrial waste are included, we’re producing over a tonne of landfill per capita every year. Waste disposal levels are increasing faster than the population. Council’s aspirational waste reduction goals will not be met, yet much of this waste could be diverted from landfill via composting, recycling, or reducing consumption to start with.
No wonder overseas investors see a lucrative future for their owners, in waste disposal. Waste Management is eyeing up rural land near Wellsford for its next mega-landfill as the Redvale site approaches capacity. Waste Management is New Zealand’s largest waste collection and disposal company, and Chinese owned since 2014. It has a fleet of over 1000 trucks, 30 per cent of which are in Auckland. Profit was almost $25 million last year, up from $11.5 million the year before. China has closed much of its market for international recycling by tightening up controls and reducing contamination thresholds.
They don’t want our waste in their backyard, either, and fair enough. These new Chinese controls mean Waste Management earns less from its recycling collections, but has a bigger market for waste disposed to landfill.
Rubbish disposal guarantees a perpetual income stream. No one wants a dump in Rodney, except maybe Waste Management investors. But rubbish generation seems to be an intractable problem. It’s rural Rodney’s problem, Auckland’s problem, and the world’s problem, too.