New Zealand is a country renowned for its clean, green image. But activists say tyre disposal is one of the biggest chinks in our environmental armour.

At this year's budget, Minister for the Environment Dr Nick Smith acknowledged the issue and invested $19 million into two companies, Waste Management New Zealand and Golden Bay Cement, to establish a tyre recycling network.

The Minister says it will stop tyres being dumped in landfills but Community Recycling Network chairman Marty Hoffart says it's not enough.

"This announcement from the Minister isn't going to change any illegal dumping, Mr Hoffart says. "People can still show up to a tyre shop and haul tyres away for a dollar, and dump them down the nearest gully, river or stream.

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"It isn't going to stop people from cutting up tyres and throwing them in skip bins, if it's a cheaper way to dispose of them."

Mr Hoffart says the spending of $19 million taxpayer dollars may subsidise operating costs for the businesses involved in the scheme - but it won't stop illegal tyre dumping as a whole.

"My issue is the taxpayer is paying for this. If the Minister regulated the tyre industry, and there was $5 put on the tyres at the point of sale - which we already pay as a disposal fee. If that was redirected to a regulated programme, it would cost the taxpayer and ratepayer nothing.

"That's my biggest opposition - with five million scrap tyres, at $5 a tyre, that's $25 million dollars a year to pay for an approved regulated programme. It would mean zero tyres to landfill."

Previously, the biggest tyre recycling company in New Zealand was Pacific Rubber, recently acquired by Waste Management New Zealand. Former director Andrew Christie commends the Minister for investing in a network scheme that will allow the issue to be worked on.

He says legislation to deter tyre dumpers should be enforced, but only once recycling assets are built, and the network is successfully up and running.

Dr Smith says large legacy stockpiles will be fed into the new scheme of recycling once it's ready to go.

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