Thousands of dollars have been spent cleaning up illegally dumped rubbish from some of the Bay of Plenty's most pristine locations.
In figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times, Bay of Plenty Regional Council estimate that at least $21,000 was spent on staff time and estimated disposal costs last year and another $12,000 this year to date.
The regional council is responsible for responding to rubbish that has made its way to a waterway such as a lake, river or stream. The local council or territorial local authority is responsible for rubbish that has been dumped on land within their district or city.
Territorial authorities such as Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District councils take care of land-based dumpings.
The Western Bay council was unable to estimate a total cost to the ratepayer but an average charge per call out to illegal dumpings was $150.
By August this year, the council had already responded to 299 call outs. Last year, the council recorded a total of 365 illegal dumpings.
Among the most popular Western Bay sites were TECT Park, Pukehina Beach, Thompsons Track, and Kaiate Falls Rd.
Tauranga environmentalist Mary Dillon said illegal rubbish dumping was "just a total delinquent thing to do" and the money spent on cleaning it up could be put to better use.
She said she appreciated the general council approach to offences to educate first, prosecute last "but fly-tipping is premeditated, it's deliberate, it's not, not an effort".
Illegal rubbish dumping often involved knowing of a green space area to use which was often rural and isolated, travelling there and pretending to go for a walk or picnic while getting rid of waste, she said.
Dillon said she would like to see councils hold people to account more through prosecutions. Often, offenders were easily identified through household waste.
Her other hope was for a change in people's culture.
"We need to change our behaviours, house by house, street by street, it's what we do that's part of our culture. If you don't dispose of something appropriately, it becomes someone else's problem. That's not fair. We all need to think on that," Dillon said.
Western Bay council utilities manager Kelvin Hill said a key concern was that people went out of their way to dump rubbish over edges and banks where it was hard to retrieve such as close to waterways and remote rural locations.
Other concerns were people dumping recyclables "that could be taken to a recycling centre for free drop-off" and dumping goods relating to toxic waste "such as nappies, animal carcasses and needles; and surface touching restrictions due to Covid-19".
In July, a pig's head was dumped in popular Tauranga family reserve Kulim Park.
It was one of 450 examples of illegal rubbish dumping the Tauranga City Council received from January to July this year - translating to a cost of $37,219. In 2019, the council spent $55,139 cleaning up or disposing of 944 cases of illegally dumped rubbish.
A council spokeswoman said the pig's head was one of the more bizarre examples of illegal dumping they responded to, along with a boat left outside the city transfer station in August this year.
Regional council urban, industry and response compliance manager Stephen Mellor said the organisation received about 100 rubbish dumping complaints, "which is approximately 3 per cent of the total calls we receive through our Pollution Hotline".
"Rubbish dumping is not pretty and it comes at a substantial cost to the community, not only financially but socially and environmentally too. While we do our best to clean up rubbish as soon as we are aware of it, it shouldn't be there in the first place.
"Anything dumped or discharged into a waterway is a concern and particularly where people are deliberately targeting beautiful waterways for rubbish disposal."
Complaints responded to by the regional council could include those referred to other councils.
Mellor said it could cost ratepayers from $30 to more than $150 per complaint.
"We physically attended 80 incidents relating to rubbish dumping in 2019, and 54 to date in 2020, which would equate to a minimum of $12,000 and $8100 respectively, excluding any disposal fees."
The total number of calls to the regional council's Pollution Hotline relating to rubbish dumping in 2019 was 132. From January 1 to August 21 this year, there were 81 calls.
Illegal rubbish dumping was more prevalent in Tauranga than any other Bay of Plenty centre.
Items illegally dumped in the Bay in the last two years include:
Paint thinners, household rubbish, kegs, chilly bins, tyres, bathtub, seats, beer bottles, road cones, anchor, shopping trolleys, kitchen whiteware, carpet, Venetian blinds, asbestos, fish heads, broken glass, green waste, petrol containers, fridge, TV, animal remains, car battery, couch, car parts, construction/demolition waste, trampoline, scooters, bikes, kitchen sink, mattresses, oil heaters, washing machines, horse manure, polystyrene and an IBC container.
Source - BOPRC