It's a comment that's been made over and over on stories about illegal dumps on the sides of roads and in bush in the Whangārei district - if the dump fees weren't so high people wouldn't dump rubbish illegally.
Reporter Danica MacLean has put that suggestion to those charged with dealing with the district's rubbish - and found out just how much rubbish Whangārei produces, what it costs to deal with, where the money comes from and where the rubbish goes.
Managing rubbish in Whangārei costs approximately $6 million a year, with a million of that spent on litter control and bins, illegal dumping and street cleaning.
But Whangārei District Council said based on experience in other places that moving the cost of collection and disposal of rubbish onto rates would not stop fly-tipping.
Between May 1, 2017 and April 30 this year the council had received 2191 calls reporting fly dumping, that's an average of just over 90 a month. In the 2017-18 financial year, the council spent $123,072 cleaning up fly-tips, and about $200,000 the year before.
Council solid waste engineer David Lindsay said in Auckland for example, there are areas where kerbside rubbish collection is included in the rates and these areas are the worst areas for fly-dumping.
"In the UK where transfer stations costs are included in the rates there is still large numbers of fly-tipping incidents.
"The cost is one factor but convenience and risk of getting caught are also key elements in motivating people to fly-tip."
The council sets the fees for kerbside rubbish bags and bins and for seven rural transfer stations- Hikurangi, Ngunguru, Uretiti, Tauraroa, Kokopu, Ruatangata and Oakura.
The council had an eighth transfer station at Parua Bay but it was closed in April after the council withdrew its application for resource consent to operate the station at the site it was on next to a boat ramp.
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It's closure is the subject of much conjecture within the community. A group of residents are working towards opening a resource recovery centre in a new location.
Asked whether the council had considered reducing fees as a solution to fly-tipping, Lindsay said the fees are reviewed annually as part of the annual or long-term plan process.
"There is a balance to be made between user pays principle and the level of rates funding for rubbish disposal."
The fees and charges for the 2019/20 year are midway through the deliberation process alongside the 2019/20 Annual Plan, but are proposed to remain the same as this year.
Of the remaining $5m it costs to manage Whangārei's rubbish, $4m is spent on rubbish and recycling kerbside collection and the other $1m is spent on rural transfer stations and closed landfill sites.
Lindsay said a solid waste targeted rate of $179 per annum collects around $7m.
Some of that goes towards the $6m in operational costs, some goes towards historical capital costs of transfer stations and closed landfills and some towards other solid waste related things like toilet cleaning.
The sale of bags and stickers collects $2m which is used to pay for the collection and disposal of rubbish.
"Approximately 50 per cent of the cost of running rural transfer stations is covered by the gate fees. The other costs are covered by rates."
Lindsay said rural transfer stations collect about 3800 tonnes of rubbish per year.
The council does not set the prices at Re:Sort as it is owned and run by a Council Controlled Trading Organisation called Whangārei Waste Limited.
Whangārei Waste Limited also owns the landfill site at Puwera. Lindsay would not divulge revenue, cost or contract information about Re:Sort, stating commercial sensitivity.
Lindsay said the council sends about 12,000 tonnes of rubbish to the landfill every year.
On top of that, Whangārei produces 8000 tonnes of recycling - which includes metal, plastic and paper.
"Glass goes to OI in Auckland to make new bottles, metal and plastic are sent to Auckland to be sorted and then usually exported. Paper and card is sent to Auckland and either used in NZ paper mills or exported depending on the quality of the paper."
Lindsay said the amount of kerbside rubbish has been fairly constant over the past five years, while the volume of recycling has increased and the volume of rural transfer station rubbish has decreased.
Rubbish by the numbers
- $4 million for rubbish and recycling kerbside collection
- $1 million for litter control and bins, illegal dumping and street cleaning
- $1 million for rural transfer stations and closed landfill sites
- $7 million revenue from $179 targeted rate
- $2 million from the sale of bags and stickers
- 50 per cent of rural transfer running costs covered by gate fees
- 12,000 tonnes of rubbish sent to landfill annually
- 8000 tonnes of recycling produced every year
- 2191 calls about fly-tipping in 24-month period