In New Zealand, waste management is principally a local government responsibility. The LGA give clear powers and responsibilities to local government to manage waste. The RMA provides a framework to manage the environmental and social effects of waste management.
Part XXXI of the LGA was enacted via a 1996 amendment. It requires territorial authorities to have responsibility for 'efficient and effective' waste management and the preparation of waste management plans in their localities. This enactment reflected the key objectives of the 1992 Waste Management Policy and gave them statutory backing. The 1996 amendment effectively established a framework for the systematic development of local government objectives for waste management. It also formalised the use by territorial authorities of the '5 R' waste hierarchy.
Furthermore, the LGA contains provisions for each territorial authority to enact bylaws relating to their roles and responsibilities for waste management. This includes the ability to set levies to cover any costs incurred in the administration of these functions. The Local Government Act 2002 also required that territorial authorities waste management plans were completed by 30 June 2005.
The RMA addresses waste management through controls on the environmental effects of waste management facilities through local policy, plans and consent procedures.
In this role, the RMA exercises considerable influence over waste disposal facilities in view of the potential impacts of these facilities on the environment. The RMA has helped drive improvements in the standards of landfills and waste water treatment plants as they transition from low standard to well managed facilities.
The RMA also provides for the development of national policy statements and for the setting of national environmental standards and the development of regional and district plans that detail the rules for resource management.
The Regional Policy Statement, prepared by Environment Canterbury under the provisions of the RMA, became operative on 26 June 1998. The Policy Statement provides an overview of the resource management issues of the region. It sets out how natural and physical resources are to be managed in an integrated way to promote sustainable management. Regional and District Plans cannot be inconsistent with the Regional Policy Statement.
Chapter 18, Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, contains objectives and policies for solid and hazardous waste management in the region and initiatives to achieve them.
Under the RMA, Environment Canterbury has developed the Proposed Natural Resources Regional Plan (NRRP), in which there are rules that control the disposal of waste.
Resource consents are required for new and existing landfills (discharge consents, land use consents). New landfills may be granted consent if the landfill is designed and managed in accordance with accepted standards of best practice.
The discharge of municipal solid waste or treated hazardous waste to land is prohibited in the Coastal Confined Gravel Aquifer System, the Christchurch Groundwater Recharge Zone and any other Community Drinking Water Supply Protection Zone because of the long-term risk to groundwater quality from the presence of a landfill.
Some closed landfills require resource consent for passive discharges.
Any waste incineration must occur in a purpose-built, high performance incinerator and requires resource consent. This excludes outdoor burning of specific wastes authorised elsewhere in the NRRP such as polyethylene agrichemical or animal remedy containers.
Visit our section on resource consents or contact customer services for more information.
In October 2004, the Government introduced the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NES), under the RMA. National environmental standards are mandatory technical environmental regulations. They have the force of regulation and are implemented by agencies and parties with responsibilities under the RMA.
In October 2004, 14 standards were introduced. They are:
The standards were amended in December 2004 and July 2005.
The NES prohibits any new high temperature incinerators operated for the principal purpose of the destruction of hazardous wastes. Low-temperature incinerators are not included within the regulation.
Burning of any refuse at a landfill is prohibited. However, the ban does not apply to the flaring of landfill gas.
The operation of an incinerator at a school or healthcare institution is also banned, unless a resource consent has been granted for the discharge.
The bans do not cover waste-to-energy incinerators.
The NES also requires the collection and destruction of methane gas at all landfill sites with a total design capacity greater than one million tonnes of refuse. The regulations set standards for the flaring of the gas, but also allow for destruction of collected gas via beneficial uses, such as electricity generation.
For more information on the NES, visit the Ministry for the Environment website.
The purpose of HSNO is "to protect the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms".
The importance of HSNO to waste management relates primarily to the formal controls it brings to the introduction of new hazardous materials and the handling and disposal of waste hazardous substances. However, most hazardous waste is not likely to be subject to HSNO Act controls.
People disposing of hazardous substances are most directly affected by the Act’s controls on disposal as prescribed in the Hazardous Substances (Disposal) Regulations 2001. The definition of disposal under HSNO is limited to treatment, discharge to the environment, or export from New Zealand. The controls on disposal also cover the disposal or decontamination of containers that have been used with hazardous substances.
ERMA are currently developing Environmental Exposure Limits (EELs) for the implementation of HSNO. These will be equivalent to National Environmental Standards for the receiving environment so that any Standards set under the RMA must be equivalent or higher than the EELs. This means EELs will impact on the management of hazardous waste by any disposal facility (e.g. landfills, wastewater treatment facility).
A range of statutes cover the management of the small volumes of infectious, radioactive and hazardous wastes in New Zealand. These include the Litter Act 1979, the Health Act 1956, the Radiation Protection Act 1965, the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997 and the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996.
In addition, the Building Code (issued under the Building Act) and requirements of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 provide for the safe storage and management of hazardous substances. The Land Transport Act 1998, Maritime Transport Act 1994 and the Civil Aviation Act 1990 all control the transportation of dangerous goods (including categories of hazardous wastes).
All domestic legislation relating to waste management is in accordance with New Zealand's commitments under relevant international agreements (eg, the Stockholm Convention, the Waigani Convention and the 1989 Basel Convention).
The New Zealand Waste Strategy is a high-level, non-statutory policy statement setting a new direction for waste reduction and the improved management of all categories of waste (liquid, solid and gas).
The 3 core goals of the Strategy are:
These goals are consistent with the Government's sustainable development objectives and are explicitly linked to the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy and to the Government's climate change policies. Central, regional and local government are all involved in initiatives to achieve these goals.
The New Zealand Waste Strategy includes 30 national targets that cover 9 priority waste categories or management areas, including hazardous waste.
Visit the Ministry for the Environment website for more information on the Strategy.
The Waste Minimisation Act 2008 aims to reduce the environmental impact of waste in New Zealand by encouraging waste reduction and the better use of materials, and reprocessing materials, in New Zealand.
For more information, see the Ministry for the Environment’s website.
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