Editorial: Time to bring back the bin

18:58, Apr 21 2014

Sometimes it is the simplest things that are overlooked.

The Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo is probably one of the most photographed and recognised churches you could find in this country - and possibly further afield.

On any given day, any number of buses might pull up in front, disgorging their cargoes of tourists to wander around the church, the nearby statue of the working dog, and to photograph the impressive alpine scenery. Other travellers, too, will visit the church in a less structured way, perhaps in a car, or a hired campervan.

And it would seem that all will share a similar experience. If they go to put their used tissue, empty drink bottle or chewing gum wrapper into an appropriate bin, they're finding that there isn't one.

For the past month, local man George Empson has been visiting the church every morning to clean up the mess, some days filling a five-litre bucket of rubbish. He took over from another local man, who had been doing the job up until last Christmas.

It's great to see Tekapo locals taking such pride in their surroundings, and protecting the natural beauty that's always been so much a feature of the little church.


But should it really be left to the locals to be picking up someone else's rubbish?

Empson says the Mackenzie District Council removed rubbish bins from the site about 15 years ago. It would be interesting to know why that was done.

Were they even more unsightly, brimming with rubbish, than the amount that's being left strewn on the ground now? Did they need to be emptied more frequently than they were?

Or was it a cost-cutting measure, with the council of the day taking a punt that, with no bins to fill, tourists would take their rubbish away with them?

Every parent knows that concept, as they deal with a school lunchbox coming home containing the apple core, half-eaten yoghurt, chip packet and crumpled up cling film from the sandwich. But, clearly it's not working here.

It's disappointing that a cigarette butt receptacle by the church's steps is only occasionally used; one cigarette butt ground into the dirt won't make much difference to the environment, but multiply that by the number of smokers visiting the church on any one day and it's easy to see why they're going into Empson's bucket too.

It would be nice to think, as Empson says, that people would treat the site with the respect it deserves. They are church grounds, after all. But, clearly some aren't.

Empson has written to Mackenzie's mayor, and she has said she will follow up. That needs to happen. While the locals deserve full credit for stepping up and taking care of this important site, it's not an excuse for the council to abdicate its responsibilities.

The Timaru Herald