OPINION: The tough stance taken against littering by the South Taranaki District Council is to be applauded.
In a transparent process, councillors debated and subsequently endorsed a recommendation from council officers to increase the penalties to the maximum available to local authorities under the law.
While understandably reluctant to appear being too severe in imposing a significant monetary penalty on those who carelessly drop a wrapper, the commonsense approach of the council opted for deterrence.
For some years litter has been a growing problem in society. In itself, the word "litter" is almost euphemistic by definition. It does not readily convey the array of harmful objects, including glass, that fall conveniently within that broad definition.
Bottles, or more accurately, the disposal of them, are a scourge in many communities. Footpaths and roads can be a ready receptacle for those who fail to appreciate, or ignore, the dangers they can pose for the rest of us.
Many older readers will remember with fondness the old deposit system for glass bottles. Few empty bottles were left lying around public places when there was a few bob to be made by enterprising youths and children, who were always on the lookout for ways to supplement their pocket money.
Ironically, while we dumped that system many years ago, it has now come back into vogue in several places overseas, which report good results. That would require Government action, however, and is beyond the scope of councils, but it is nevertheless a concept well worth bearing in mind.
The problem of litter seems to be getting worse. In recent years New Plymouth District Councillor Lance Girling- Butcher, a former editor of this paper, has often highlighted the dangers for a blind person trying to negotiate his way along and through footpaths and intersections, which can resemble rubbish dumps and obstacle courses on an early Sunday morning stroll.
To be fair, the region's district councils generally do an excellent job in dealing with dangerous litter as soon as they are aware, but it is also increasingly obvious that simply cleaning up the mess others make is not in itself a solution.
Litterbugs - again a euphemism if ever there was one - who chuck rubbish from their cars or hazardous waste from their homes could now be looking at a $400 fine. It may be pertinent to note that the scale of fines brings South Taranaki into line with New Plymouth.
Those South Taranaki councillors who were worried that that could be construed as being too harsh should relax. Their communities will support them 100 per cent if it means reclaiming the district's roads and footpaths for their citizens. It is not just the old, the disabled or the very young who have a vested interest in living in a district that has a minimum of litter, be it in the dangerous, unsightly or unpleasant category. Living in a clean, healthy environment is something we all want.
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