New bill could see $1000 maximum instant fine for littering

A National MP has proposed a bill to raise the maximum fine for littering from $400 to $1000.

MP for Coromandel Scott Simpson spoke to RadioLIVE's Mike Puru this morning about his new bill, which aims to stop people littering.

Thames-Coromandel District Council has already attempted to quash littering in the region by installing solar-powered, coin-operated trash compactors. 

The compactors have been placed in key areas that see high visitor numbers over the holiday period, but the council says they are being misused, or not used at all.

Photographs of one site, posted to the Thames-Coromandel District Council website last Friday, show piles of rubbish next to the machine, rather than inside them. Council infrastructure group manager Bruce Hinson says the rubbish is the second pile they have had to clear in less than a week.

Mr Simpson is disappointed in this and says the punishment needs to be stronger.

"All people have to do is pop in a $2 coin to make the machine work, but it seems people are too tight to even put in $2," he said.

The Coromandel MP explains the current system, saying, "At the moment councils around the countryside can impose what we call instant fines, a bit like a parking ticket. That doesn't involve a court case, it's a simple matter of if you're caught littering you get an instant fine from the council and you pay the bill."

However, he doesn't think that the current system is working, because the fines are not high enough for councils to bother enforcing them.

"The maximum fine that councils can impose under that infringement regime is a measly $400, and the net result of that is that a lot of councils actually don't even bother enforcing instant fine regimes in their districts."

At the moment, Mr Simpson says that "many types of council don't even bother (fining people) because the process is more expensive than the return".

He believes that raising the fine to $1000 would be "far more meaningful to litterbugs, and make them really stop and think about the cost to them personally if they drop litter in our natural environment".

His bill has passed its first reading, and has a second reading in parliament in February. Mr Simpson says that it is well supported by members of Parliament so far.

With higher fines, Mr Simpson hopes that councils will be stricter in enforcing penalties for litterbugs. 

But he acknowledges that his proposed bill will not solve the problem alone.

"This bill won't of itself be a silver bullet. This is not going to fix our litter problem, it needs to be a cultural and mental attitude change towards littering. We need an attitudinal change to just be a whole lot more careful about where we place rubbish, what we do with litter and (we need) to be more responsible with the rubbish we create.



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