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Residents up in arms over rubbish bins’ removal by Auckland Council

Editor Written by Editor · 3 min read >

Aucklanders have turned to social media en masse to complain about the sudden removal of public rubbish bins across the city.

The removal is part of Auckland Council’s ongoing cost-cutting drive and was first planned as part of last year’s budget, but the bins’ sudden disappearance has come as a surprise to many.

Dog owners have been left clutching putrid sacks of faeces and morning walkers have been shocked to find bins on popular tracks across the city suddenly replaced by bare dirt.

Auckland Council describe the project as “bin optimisation” and says they plan to eventually remove 30 per cent of the region’s public rubbish bins – and save ratepayers at least $9 million.

Taryn Crewe, Auckland Council’s general manager for parks and community facilities, says the Auckland region had around 10,000 rubbish bins at last count and it became clear to the council that a large number of these bins are underused and contain little or no rubbish when contractors empty them.

“That’s why Auckland Council believes it can save money – ratepayers’ money – by reducing the number of bins around the region, and particularly removing the ones that don’t get used much,” Crewe said last month.

Asked by the Herald how locals could manage the sudden shift, Auckland Council’s Sandra May had advice for Aucklanders on the changes.

“We encourage people to dispose of their rubbish in a bin. If there is not a bin nearby, we encourage people to take rubbish home to dispose of it there,” May said.

Of the criteria used to decide which bins would be binned, May provided this list:

  • Sites having a natural setting where users are more likely to pack in/pack out their rubbish for example bush parks, wetland parks.
  • Low-use neighbourhood parks or low-use sections of parks
  • Where bins are not co-located with other infrastructure in streetscape
  • Where bins have been identified as historically under-utilised meaning bins are often empty when contractors go to empty the bins.

‘Going to hell in a handbasket’

A brief Herald social media survey of community groups around Tāmāki Makaurau showed widespread and passionate opposition to the bins’ removal.

In the scenic Hibiscus Coast, a foul odour betrays the beachside beauty of Ōrewa’s Western Reserve.

The area is popular with dog walkers and hosts over 100 dogs and their owners for training every Monday.

Removal of multiple bins around the reserve has locals seeing red and warning of remaining bins overflowing with faeces.

“I’ve already seen an increase in littering, breaks my heart,” another Hibiscus Coast resident said of the great bin cull.

In the genteel harbourside suburb of Devonport, locals shared Coasties’ concern over dog droppings.

“Where have all the rubbish bins gone?” one irate local asked online.

“Do we now just throw our dog s*** and fish and chip wrappers into the sea?”

The waterfront at Devonport now has fewer bins for dog poo, fish and chip wrappers - and everything else.
The waterfront at Devonport now has fewer bins for dog poo, fish and chip wrappers – and everything else.

Another pointed out tourists may get caught short without a place to offload rubbish.

“What do the tourists use? Take it back to the cruise ship? Throw it in the harbour?” they asked.

“Council rates in Devonport are circa $6000, can’t we have bins?”

One West Aucklander said the move was “definitely stupid” and elsewhere in the west, locals were breaking down the rubbish situation with scientific precision.

“I am left wondering whether the Whau Local Board or Auckland Council officials have ever eaten a pie or consumed a can of fizzy drink in their lives!” former school principal and local Avondale campaigner Jason Valentine-Burt asked after bins were removed near the suburb’s schools.

Rubbish collected in Avondale. Photo / Jason Valentine-Burt
Rubbish collected in Avondale. Photo / Jason Valentine-Burt

“They have left some rubbish bins outside a few dairies and bakeries, but removed the bins that any time and motion study observation would tell you that a pie wrapper or drink can actually gets finished with.

“The majority of students are not going to then carry that rubbish the rest of the way to school and put it in a rubbish bin in the school grounds. They are simply not.”

Bins removed near wharves in Murrays Bay and West Harbour saw locals complain of competing olfactory offence with dumped bait bags and dog poo getting up locals’ noses.

One concerned West Harbourite even marked the removal of a bin with a memorial.

Another bin bites the dust!
Another bin bites the dust!

“This is now a grave of what was a perfectly useful and well-placed rubbish bin,” the resident wrote.

“So do we take our dog poo bags home or maybe just put it on the bin grave as compost?

“We ignore the fish hooks laying around on the grass? Throw the bait bags in the bush?”

“Watch the mess appear. Madness.”

Keeping it clean

As bins began to disappear, members of local boards across the city took to Facebook to field complaints and attempt to offer solutions.

Some said they would look at ways to mitigate any major negative impacts and others asked their constituents to petition Auckland Council directly with their complaints.

In Kaipatiki on the North Shore, local board chairman John Gillon announced stop-gap measures saying the board had decided to fund some wheelie bins in wooden frames to replace some of the lost bins in high-use areas of parks.

What united the local boards was an apparent desire to distance themselves from Auckland Council’s actions, with multiple representatives pointing out they had no direct say in which bins would go.

Overflowing rubbish in Avondale's Eastdale Reserve. Photo / Avondale - Let's Clean Up Our Act
Overflowing rubbish in Avondale’s Eastdale Reserve. Photo / Avondale – Let’s Clean Up Our Act

But dismay over the council’s decision to remove 30 per cent of the bins was far from universal.

Many online noted people need only take their rubbish home and preached personal responsibility, some citing spotless Japan and its relative lack of rubbish bins as evidence a little care goes a long way.

At Titirangi, one parent said the bin removal offered a teaching moment.

“Isn’t it great! Stop being lazy and take your rubbish home with you,” they wrote.

“I love this! It’s taught my daughter to recycle and be mindful of what we are putting into Te Taiao (the natural world).”

But over the Waitākere Ranges, at Te Atatū, a resident took a more pessimistic view.

“Auckland is going to hell in a handbasket.”

Chris Marriner is an Auckland-based journalist covering trending news and social media. He joined the Herald in 2003 and previously worked in the Herald’s visual team. He is a tidy Kiwi.

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