Just for the briefest of moments do I wish that a single hope might banish forever the scourge of indifference and concession we have become slave to here in the Far North.

I've recently spent some time exploring the more southerly areas of our mighty Aupouri (Te Hiku) Forest, as I discover further the tracks and paths that criss-cross the area, providing endless excitement and delight for my young dog as she vehemently endeavours to track down the rabbits in the area.

What I have seen in recent weeks has shocked me to the core.

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I know that the Northland Age has long been a champion for those who would decry the pervasive behaviour of the thoughtless people who still consider that refuse can be discarded frivolously in the forest. But, I had no idea the scope of the problem.

I followed a short dead-end track that looked to have been used by vehicles but appeared to serve no purpose. That 400m was as enlightening a 400m as ever one might see.

I now recognise and accept the depth of my naivety, but remain staggered by the extent of the issue. The constant barrage of rubbish that can be seen along the sides of West Coast Road at Waipapakauri pales to insignificance in comparison with the relentless salvo inflicted upon our forest.

It is now clear to me that vastly many more than the "few buttholes" once considered responsible for the pollution have had their hands sullied by the insatiable urge to damage our beautiful place. The extent of the abuse is bewildering, the degree of the exploitation incomprehensible.

Individually, each pile of refuse portrays a person or family who are either unwilling or unable to dispose of their refuse at an approved transfer station.

Collectively, the picture is vastly different. It is the picture of a community at ease with the practice of depositing refuse in the forest.

It is a picture of acceptance that doing so is normal practice, and that environmental damage can be disregarded because the forest eventually will be harvested as a commodity and that its intrinsic value as a part of our local nature is somehow lessened or negated because of this.

It is a picture of our failure.

Our failure to properly deal with the refuse issues afflicting our community.
As much as I would pour scorn and shame upon those people responsible for the carnage I've seen in our forest, one cannot disregard certain facts.

The cost of disposing of refuse is a frightening prospect for many, and alternatives are always sought. Money that is sorely needed to feed and clothe families can often not stretch as far as the refuse transfer station.

Perhaps we ought to look a little more closely at our system of charging folks for refuse disposal. Possibly an across-the-board rates charge that would enable the removal of cash charges altogether at the disposal centres. Who knows? There is much room for debate regarding this matter.

All I know is that as a community we need to stem this deluge. And the eradication of any unlawful disposal of refuse, not gluttonous financial gain, should be our end game.

SCOTT COLLINS
Lake Ngatu