Auckland Council’s decision to remove 30% of the region’s bins to save money has spurred one East Auckland woman to take waste management into her own hands after all bins were removed from her local park.
Macleans Park covers 32 hectares in Eastern Beach. In addition to sweeping views of the Hauraki Gulf, the reserve offers beach access, picnic areas, a flying fox and 2km of walking trails through bush and wetlands, making it a popular location for dog walkers.
And now, it contains nowhere to dispose of waste.
72-year-old Shirley McNaught has lived in a house overlooking the reserve since 1971 and walks her two Labradors through Macleans Park twice a day.
She’s put a lot of effort into maintaining the park over the past two decades, and her efforts span from weeding around newly planted native trees to repairing damaged pathways with sand and shells while on her mobility scooter.
“This is a lovely reserve and it needs to be treated with respect,” she said.
“If people don’t treat it nice, it’s just going to go to rack and ruin.”
In mid-December, McNaught was walking her dogs, Archie and Hine, through the reserve when she came across a council contractor removing the park’s four bins.
An Auckland Council review had identified that a large portion of the region’s 10,000 bins are “underutilised”, containing little to no rubbish when being emptied.
To contribute the Annual Budget savings target of $50 million, a rationalisation exercise aimed at reducing the overall number of bins in the region by 30 per cent was initiated.
Taking matters into her own hands, McNaught put out a bucket to collect rubbish, which was then upgraded to a repurposed food scrap bin.
“I wrote on the lid ‘dog poo’ and I put it up there and it was full in no time, and that meant I had to empty it because it was my responsibility.”
Now, she’s got a wheelie bin which she says is almost always completely full.
McNaught said that the bins were “definitely not” underutilised as it’s a popular picnic area.
“Their logic is wrong, it’s a cock-up from hell.”
Bins were only slated for removal if they had historically low use and were in close proximity to other bins, said general manager, parks and community facilities Taryn Crewe.
“We don’t envisage a material increase in loose litter as a consequence of removing the bins.”
She said that four bins were removed from Macleans Park after they were assessed to be “underutilised” and “located in a natural setting where it’s assessed that users are likely to take away any rubbish they have from the park”.
Crewe also added that Macleans Park receives “active care and attention” from residents like McNaught.
“We are assessing feedback from the public and in some cases, we will be reinstalling bins in more strategic locations that suit the reduced numbers and usage of the park.”