Minister’s Post-Budget Update

 Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage, who holds the waste portfolio, gave a post-budget briefing to WasteMINZ members on Monday, 18 May 2020. Here is a summary of the Minister’s comments.

Waste Levy: getting the waste levy in place is a priority for the Minister. The Cabinet paper is not yet finished, but Ministerial colleagues have been helpfully engaged and see that there is a major hole in the waste infrastructure that could be addressed with the levy. Minister has been back to stakeholders who all want to see it happen.

Waste Budget: In 2020 budget there is $18 million over 4 years (4.5 million over year) assisting MfE to get ready for waste levy including waste data collection & assisting councils with weigh bridges. Plastics action plan is also part of that funding. There is an additional $3 billion for ‘shovel-ready’ projects across government with about 2,000 applications for funding. Ministers will go through & prioritise those over the next couple of weeks including the proposals for waste infrastructure.

Key workstreams

Plastics Action Plan: Over 50 recommendations emerged from the Rethinking Plastics report, so a plan is urgently necessary. A project is underway to investigate labelling because there is consumer demand for clarity around what can and can’t be recycled/composted etc. MfE is working with some in the sector to determine best practice and if NZ could use the Australian standards. Far too much ‘wish cycling’ still going on. We want to encourage manufactures at design stage for easier recycling, to stop mixing materials and make it easier to recover. Plan is still to phase out hard to recycle food packing but that needs some regulation under WMA.

Product stewardship
This is underway with over 4,000 submissions late last year. The final recommendations being worked on by MfE. The recent fire in Rollestonat tyre storage facility really highlighted urgency of response on tyres. Minister is expecting recommendations around National Environmental Standards on tyres storage asap because risk is high.

Basel convention
This amendment to the Basel Convention was signed by NZ last year to increase controls on export of waste. WasteMINZ has done joint work with MFE to develop how customs and other agency regulations work so NZ abides by the amendment to the convention

National resource recovery system

  • Work is underway to standardised kerbside. There is also a push for consist contracting across councils.
  • Container Return Scheme recommendations from Design Working Group are due in September. This is a massive piece of work that is proceeding largely on schedule.
  • Ongoing fibre investigation
    • This is happening slowly but getting underway with industry and local government working to understand if we want to create wider circular economy in paper/fibre with Australia, and what are some smaller improvements we can make now. There is no timeframe on this work at present.
  • Infrastructure stocktake
    • As part of the work on landfill levy Grant Thornton identified $1.5 billion shortfall in waste & need for investment in third wave of covid-19 funding (long term). Government is interested in infrastructure investment  MfE has put forwarded a detailed plan for further covid-19 projects 
  • Waste education programme that MfE was working on with WasteMINZ has been delayed
  • Waste Minimisation Fund
    • open only for expressions of interest (2-3 pages) without having to do full application – due date 22 May