New signs to discourage littering are being erected across Northland this summer, while a Covid-19 work programme lends a hand cleaning up state highway roadsides.
The “Let’s stop roadside littering” and “Keep our roadsides clean” signs are going up at 16 locations on key tourist routes or where there is frequent dumping of rubbish, says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency senior system manager Wayne Oldfield.
“We do heaps of rubbish clearing across the Northland network and it’s becoming an increasing problem with people littering or dumping domestic and commercial rubbish along the roadside.
“Waka Kotahi and our maintenance contractors Fulton Hogan are responsible for cleaning up litter on Northland’s state highways, but we’d rather not have to do it. Everyone has to take responsibility for the mess that’s left and for protecting New Zealand’s clean green image.”
Littering is especially bad in summer, says Oldfield, but it’s a year-round thing so locals can’t just blame it on holidaymakers.
“Waka Kotahi allocates $500,000 a year in Northland to roadside rubbish removal. Our contractors will pick up rubbish they come across while doing other work, but it’s a time-consuming diversion and drain on the maintenance budget.
“Instead of picking up after a few, our top priority is making safety improvements that save lives and benefit all road users like fixing potholes, road surface damage, signs and road markings.”
This summer, the maintenance effort is getting help through the government’s Provincial Growth Fund. A $1.2m worker redeployment package has young workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic employed to remove litter, self-seeding trees and wilding pines from the roadside.
The initiative, led by the Whangarei District Council and Waka Kotahi, seeks to offer fixed term employment, training and mentoring for previously unemployed locals.
They work alongside Fulton Hogan teams working on planned maintenance and that helps reduce traffic control costs and disruption to traffic. In their first month on the job, they removed more than 12 tonnes of roadside rubbish.
“They’re doing a great job but long term, we need a behavioural change so people stop treating our roadsides as rubbish tips,” says Wayne Oldfield.
Especially bad in summer, new signage will highlight problem dumping spots around Northland.
“It’s becoming an increasing problem with people littering or dumping domestic and commercial rubbish along the roadside.”