“What’s the biggest environmental problem facing us at the moment?”, I asked a group of Southern Cross Campus young leaders last year? “Litter”, was the overwhelming response. While climate change might be the biggest threat to our continued existence on the planet today, the growing problem of rubbish building up around our streets, parks and waterways is the issue that we all see and deal with every day.
Puna Arere from the Tararata Stream Team is concerned about the amount of littering and dumping going on in her part of Mangere. She gave a presentation recently, highlighting the fact that the rubbish dropped on our streets ends up in our streams, flowing out to the Manukau Harbour. “Once it’s in the ocean, our rubbish will eventually join one of the enormous rubbish gyres floating around in the sea, some of which are bigger than six times the size of New Zealand!”, she explained.
Toni Helleur (Crime and Safety Prevention Liaison for the Mangere Town Centre) notices lots every day litter dropped and discarded around the Town Centre, mostly cigarette butts and food packaging. ‘There’s a feeling of a 'lack of pride' in our community”, she says. “We’re discussing this as a Town Centre, and looking at introducing new bins to encourage people to take more 'community pride' in this area.
Groups from around our community are responding to the problem and giving their time and effort to cleaning our place up. Friends of the Farm in Mangere Bridge organises regular community clean ups along the Manukau Harbour foreshore, filling dozens of bags with discarded packaging from takeaway meals and late-night drinking sessions. A group of young leaders from Do Good Feel Good are currently cleaning up and monitoring an alleyway between Deborah Pl and Imrie Ave. “It’s not healthy and safe to be surrounded by all this rubbish”, says TOP SKWAD leader Laila.
Recently, the staff from Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Pool and Leisure Centre dedicated their staff team building day to cleaning up the Tararata Stream in Mangere. “This year we wanted to do something to help our local community”, says centre manager Waitangi Mika. The group pulled four shopping trolleys and lots of household waste and single-use plastic bottles out of the stream during their morning’s clean up.
Where does all this rubbish come from and what can be done to stop it ending up in the wrong places? It’s clear that this is a complex problem, which needs to be addressed on different levels. While clean ups are great for raising awareness of the issues and removing a lot of rubbish from our environment, they don’t stop people from continuing to litter and dump their waste.
Frustrated whanau in Ihumatao have recently started their own group to tackle the issue in this area. Their group ‘Para Patrol’ are monitoring and reporting illegal dumping. “This is a fight for our entire whenua, to get people stop filling our lands with rubbish”, say Para Patrol rangatahi Ceejay Maitai and Honey Olsen.
Businesses in the area also need to start taking responsibility for the rubbish they’re bringing into Mangere. Hammer Hardware in Mangere Bridge is showing leadership in this, opting to go plastic-bag free from 1 July, and Countdown has pledged to get rid of plastic packaging from its own products. Other shops in our community need to start thinking about the packaging they’re using and what impact this is having on our environment. Imagine a plastic bag, plastic straw and polystyrene free Mangere!
Having somewhere local to take our waste and unwanted stuff would give people options other than dumping in local parks and streams. And when it comes down to it, we all need to think about whether we need to be buying all this stuff that creates rubbish in the first place.
For help with reducing rubbish at your place and getting rid of unwanted stuff, check out the Talking Rubbish website, or get in touch with us directly: