The Far North District Council has adopted a suite of new fines that it says will help it deter littering and illegal dumping of rubbish.
The new litter infringement policy, adopted on Thursday, allows for graduated fines, starting with $100 for a first, minor littering offence, rising to $400, depending on the volumes and type of litter involved.
Hazardous or offensive litter, such as faeces or nappies, will attract the maximum $400 fine.
Previously the council could only issue $400 infringement notices, regardless of the seriousness of the offence.
A spokesman said that led to a high rate of non-payment of fines, forcing the council into expensive, time-consuming court action.
Councillors had agreed the new graduated system of fines would be a more effective deterrent against less serious littering.
For more serious offences, the Litter Act 1979 allowed for fines of up to $7500 or one month's imprisonment for offending likely to cause injury, disease or infection.
The new fines, which will be in place by Easter, specifically range from $100 for the equivalent of one litre or less to $150 (one litre to 20 litres), $250 (20-120 litres) and $400 (more than 120 litres, and for hazardous litter and repeat offenders).
Public concern about litter and illegal dumping has been mounting in the Far North in recent years, fuelled by the discovery of massive illegal rubbish dumps at locations including the Ngaiotonga Scenic Reserve and the Waikare Gorge.
The Ngaiotonga site was cleaned up at ratepayer expense, while the Waikare rubbish was removed by volunteers including MP Kelvin Davis. In both cases much of the rubbish was recyclable and could have been taken to a transfer station without charge.
Of more recent concern is an explosion in freedom camping in places such as Te Haumi Beach, near Paihia.
Bay Beach Clean, a community group that collects rubbish along the Paihia waterfront every two weeks, has welcomed any move to make fines more enforceable, Rae Smythe saying what the council needed now was help from the public to report littering so those responsible could be fined.
"Public awareness is the key. It isn't an enjoyable task cleaning up illegal dump sites or picking up roadside rubbish. Hopefully a few will get caught and fined and the message will start to get through.
"If people know the council is able to do something about it then the public might start dobbing people in."
Karikari Panui editor Leena Taylor said she hoped the new fines would be used when bags of rubbish were left on the peninsula or at the recycling station gates.