Hawke's Bay Regional Council staff are being put at risk by people illegally dumping rubbish along the region's rivers and parks.
The risk was heightened during lockdown, said group manager policy and regulation Katrina Brunton, who was disappointed to see illegal rubbish dumped on open spaces reserved for recreation.
Regional council staff found rubbish illegally dumped around rivers including Dartmoor Rd, Carrick Rd and around Twyford, Maraekākaho, Springfield Road, and at Waitangi Regional Park.
"With the Covid-19 lockdown our staff were being put at risk having to go out into the community to respond to dumping," she said.
"During the lockdown, our staff have been keeping an eye on open spaces and have been seeing a lot of illegally dumped rubbish.
"It's disappointing to see this kind of behaviour because these spaces are here for people to enjoy safely. It's putting our community at risk as well as our guys who have to go out there and clean up the mess."
Regional council staff found household rubbish including hypodermic needles, furniture, whiteware, green waste and animal carcasses in the rubbish pile.
"The contaminants in rubbish can put our staff at risk, such as disease from animal carcasses, needles, and even just general household items such as broken glass," she said.
She said over the last year, Twyford, Guppy Rd, Waitangi, Chesterhope and Blackbridge had been the areas with the most dumping and damage.
"Dumping is a problem that Napier City and Hastings District councils also deal with regularly," she said.
"The financial cost of dumping to the regional council and ratepayers was $57,038.78 from the 2020-21 year.
"Under the Resource Management Act we will look at charging the offenders with dumping contaminants on land. This would be a maximum of two years in jail or $300,000."
• The regional council asks the public to safely get vehicle registration details and photos if any illegal rubbish dumping is sighted, and report any dumping to the Pollution Hotline on 0800 108 838.