Wairarapa councils have dealt with hundreds of cases of illegally dumped rubbish in the past year.

Rubbish was illegally dumped in the Masterton district 246 times in the financial year to April, said Tracy O'Neale, assistant to the council chief executive.

She said rubbish was dumped in lots of places, particularly on river banks at South Rd, Olivers Rd, Colombo Rd and Queen Elizabeth Park.

Ms O'Neal said those responsible for illegally dumping rubbish were caught in 36 cases and each fined $400.

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In the previous financial year, rubbish was illegally dumped 222 times, with those responsible caught 40 times and fined.

Masterton district councillor Chris Peterson said illegally dumped rubbish wasn't a good look.

"If we want to continue to project a good image to the people who come to this country, so that they'll go home and encourage more people to come, then they need to see ... a tidy countryside."

Mr Peterson said there was a strong Enviroschools programme in Wairarapa.

He understood people were under financial pressure but thought the cost of driving their cars to the areas where they were dumping would cost as much as rubbish bags.

Mr Peterson said it was necessary to move away from being a "throw-away society".

"The most important environmental thing in the long run is that they don't produce as much rubbish anyway."

That included producers taking responsibility for their waste and individuals buying only what they needed and disposing of waste in a responsible way, he said.

South Wairarapa District Council assistant to the chief executive, Barbara Gavan, said the council had dealt with illegally dumped rubbish 32 times in the year to the end of March. In seven cases, those responsible were caught and sent warning letters.

Carterton District Council corporate services manager Marty Sebire said the council dealt with five instances of illegally dumped rubbish last year. Nobody responsible for illegally dumping rubbish was caught, he said.

Keep New Zealand Beautiful chief executive Heather Saunderson said littering and illegal dumping was a large problem in New Zealand and had a long-lasting effect on the community, health, environment, tourism, business, crime and the economy.

Ms Saunderson said more than 190,000 tonnes of litter and rubbish was collected from New Zealand streets by about 86,000 volunteers last year. That was enough to fill 120 rugby fields half a metre high with rubbish.