Waste Disposal Levy Amendment Bill
Political Party Debate Breakdown & Opinion

Government (National Party)

  • Environmental Protection: The Government's priority is to protect the environment from harmful waste and support recovery from extreme weather events.
  • Financial Stability: The bill aims to achieve economic stability and sustainability across the public sector while improving waste management.
  • Broadened Scope: The bill allows the waste disposal levy to fund a broader range of activities, including freshwater quality improvement, contaminated site remediation, and ecosystem restoration.
  • Incremental Levy Increase: The levy will increase incrementally over three years from July 2025 to provide financial incentives to reduce waste.
  • Local Government Support: The local government proportion of the levy remains at 50%, allowing councils to invest in local waste minimisation solutions.
  • Emergency Waste Management: The bill enables levy funds to support managing waste from emergencies and repairing or replacing damaged waste infrastructure.

Labour Party

  • Support with Reservations: Labour supports the extension of the levy to cover emergency waste and contaminated site remediation but opposes the bill's broad criteria, which allow funds to be used for unrelated environmental issues.
  • Budget Cuts: Labour criticizes the bill as a means to cover budget cuts to environmental programmes and the Ministry for the Environment.
  • Community Involvement: Labour emphasizes the importance of community consultation and involvement in decision-making processes regarding waste minimisation.

Green Party

  • Increased Levy Rates: The Green Party supports raising the waste levy but believes the proposed increases are insufficient to keep up with inflation and similar international standards.
  • Dedicated Funding: They argue that the waste levy should be strictly used for waste minimisation, citing a $2.3 billion infrastructure deficit in waste minimisation.
  • Opposition to Broadening Criteria: The Green Party opposes broadening the levy’s criteria, stressing that funds should remain dedicated to waste minimisation efforts.

ACT Party

  • Support for the Bill: ACT supports the bill, viewing it as a necessary step to improve waste management infrastructure and address legacy issues like contaminated site remediation.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: ACT emphasizes the need for strict cost-benefit analysis to ensure that funds from the levy are used effectively.
  • Engineering Background: ACT’s spokesperson highlighted their practical experience in waste management, supporting the bill’s pragmatic approach to waste infrastructure and disaster recovery.

New Zealand First

  • Flexibility and Efficiency: New Zealand First supports the bill for providing more flexibility in how the waste levy is used, allowing for better management of contaminated sites and emergency waste.
  • Higher Quality Spending: The party believes the bill will lead to higher quality spending and better environmental outcomes by introducing competition for waste levy funds.
  • Local Government Benefits: They stress the continued support for local governments to manage and minimise waste effectively.

Opinion Addition

I'll be really honest. As an economist and environmentalist, you can look at today’s budget announcement differently. The Government plans to increase the waste disposal levy by $15 per tonne over the next few years.

Budget 2024 documents show the levy for municipal landfill will rise to $75 by 1 July 2027, following two $5 increases in 2025 and 2026. The same will apply to construction and demolition fill ($45 by 2027) and managed or control fill ($20 by 2027).

You might feel that this budget has some drawbacks:

  • MBIE’s Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Strategy work cancelled
  • A $10 million cut from MBIE’s Just Transitions programme is a shame because Just Transitions can help people transition to lower-carbon jobs.
  • $38 million cut from MBIE’s Energy portfolio programmes
  • Cuts to funding for small-scale distributed renewable energy and demand response systems
  • Cuts to considering a high-quality voluntary carbon market

However, I have to admit that I have been struggling with the amount that previous governments have done. They have had no actual policy and lacked the work on the ground. In South Korea, I have seen cradle-to-grave work led by the government and companies like Samsung and LG to create zero waste and lead sustainability in the industry.

Today’s budget includes $1.195 billion over four years from expanding the Waste Disposal Levy to cover a broader range of projects (with half of the revenue still going to local government) and $300,000 for scrapping the Circular Economy and Biosecurity Strategy. I have mixed feelings about these policies, as they are necessary and have supported South Korea's industry.

However, I need to see policy changes and think we must invest in technology supporting these policies. This will enable climate change finance to address real-world issues, preventing climate change and biodiversity risks. These changes allow mechanisms that force industries to innovate due to increased costs, forcing the necessary behaviour changes to prevent waste from going into landfills. The current consent process has done nothing but cause manual overheads for a system that still relies on discharge into the receiving environment and arguments between the council, industry and Māori.

Well, it worked for a while. We do not have a national wastewater discharge standard, a biosolids land and applications standard or use of UNFCC emissions reduction standards. We are not innovating to solve climate change at the speed we need to, which will not happen because of policies.

If you look at these decisions in isolation, they might seem counterproductive. Still, the government is increasing costs for landfills and distributing them into waste minimisation activities. I favour industries that are value-aligned to making the fundamental changes needed to reduce our climate risk in New Zealand.

Reference: Waste Minimisation (Waste Disposal Levy) Amendment Bill — First Reading

IPEF Clean Economy Agreement
Water, Food, and Energy