Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Councillors question reinstating bins after community upset

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A large number of rubbish bins across Auckland have been removed. Times file photo
  • Laura Kvigstad, Auckland Council reporter, funded by New Zealand on Air

Community upset after Auckland Council’s removal of thousands of bins has prompted councillors to question whether bins should be reinstated.

At the Planning, Environment and Parks committee on March 14, councillors questioned staff on whether the savings from bin removals were truly worth it.

Cr Julie Fairey was the first to raise the issue and said local boards appeared to have differing advice.

“There’s quite a lot of disquiet out there where some areas have had differing advice from others. Some local boards [are] potentially looking at funding to keep some of their bins and other boards have been told that’s not an option,” Fairey said.

She requested a briefing for local board members and councillors on what has happened in hopes of getting “unified information”.

Customer and community services director Dr Claudia Wyss initially asked to take the conversation offline but the number of questions from councillors meant she had to respond publicly.

Cr John Watson said he was getting a lot of complaints about bins recently.

“This is the top of mind for people. This is the one issue that is disturbing people more than others,” Watson said.

“It’s getting bigger – one of the undesirable outcomes is that in some places rubbish has just been dropped or piled up or mixed in with other stuff and we have a kind of hygiene issue.”

Wyss said there was a notable change in community behaviour.

“We are seeing an increase in littering and we are seeing that right next to bins – we do have an opportunity as Aucklanders to better look after our city,” Wyss said.

“The teams have absolutely the best intent where they have removed the bins. They have tried to use data and information and community insights as much as possible – there will be some instances where a bin has accidentally been removed when it perhaps shouldn’t have been.”

She encouraged Aucklanders to raise concerns about litter through council’s online ‘Report a Problem’ tool.

Cr Angela Dalton asked what information local boards received and how council decided which bins to remove.

“[Bin removal] was in the annual plan for consultation so we all knew that this was a delegation to the CEO that the bin removal could take place and then it rightly went through local boards,” Dalton said.

Wyss responded that some local boards did not receive an email and council had now received feedback on what information would have been more useful to local boards.

“There were a number of factors that informed those recommendations. How often they needed to be emptied, the proximity to another bin, whether or not a park was in high utilisation or whether or not it would have peak periods such as summertime.”

Cr Shane Henderson asked if council could put bins back.

“The community is really upset, man. Were we to look at maybe putting some of them back can we easily do that? Are they available sitting in a warehouse somewhere?” Henderson asked.

Wyss said putting bins back would come with a multi-million-dollar price tag.

“That was the reason why it was put forward as part of the annual budget for cost saving. There are opportunities to put bins back,” Wyss said.

She was concerned that the bin issue could detract from larger matters in council’s 10-year budget, the Long Term Plan (LTP), which is out for consultation now.

Chair Richard Hills said, “I am worried that you guys [council staff] are spending more time and money on this issue than the savings,” Hills said.

“There are clearly bins that I agree with, middle of nowhere or double ups or down the bottom of a 1km track sure but there are some, in my opinion, that seem to be not optimal.”

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