Keep New Zealand Beautiful charity expected to fold in months amid long-term issues with central Government

  • 28/05/2024

After 55 years, the iconic Keep New Zealand Beautiful charity known for its anti-littering campaigns is expected to fold within a couple of months.

Chief executive Heather Saunderson and her entire team have resigned, citing long-term issues with central Government. 

Their issues over many years with many governments have been laid out in a highly critical open letter to the current Government, which include funding and communication issues. 

Saunderson told AM that she had struggled to meet with key political leaders over the years and that the charity was given key performance indictors that were "simply unachievable" with the amount of funding provided. 

She said the work Keep New Zealand Beautiful carries out was "far beyond just litter" but also included creating education programmes for students based on their needs. 

"We are legislated, so we're mandated to do this, but we're not funded to do it and that's been the problem." 

Keep New Zealand Beautiful doesn't get yearly funding, it must tender for funding. 

"We applied to the Waste Minimisation Fund in 2016 and in 2017 it was the first time that we've received funding from central Government in over 20 years," Saunderson said. 

"Comparatively speaking, we spent $220,000 per year to educate minority children, focused really on marginalised communities, and in comparison, the Ministry for the Environment has another service provider that receives $1.9 million per year with the same amount of children and they also on-charge schools and students. 

"When you look at the disparity in funding and the size and scope of what we do comparatively and how central Government funds other organisations who are much bigger, much bigger budgets, the proof is in the pudding and the letter." 

Saunderson said the charity would require $1.3 million over three years to continue to undertake the national litter audit and educate over 140,000 marginalised students. 

"I hope that Keep New Zealand Beautiful will be around when my children are my age," she said. 

"We started off in a one-room shed in Takanini and we brought the brand back into the forefront of Kiwi culture and so it would be a sad day to see those doors close." 

Later on AM, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said he wasn't aware of the details with Keep New Zealand Beautiful. 

But added: "I know the Ministry for the Environment would've been working with that organisation. 

"I think they're a great brand, they've done a lot of great work over many decades but I also think New Zealanders today versus, say, three decades ago, are actually proud about making this place as clean as it can be and litter-free as it can be - and I'm conscious there are other organisations in that space as well."