No more butts about action plan

Stormwater to harbour . . . Port Chalmers resident Kilda Northcott and West Harbour Community Board member Duncan Eddy display a bag filled with discarded cigarette butts that Ms Northcott collected in the township. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

A one-woman crusade to keep discarded cigarette butts and plastic out of Otago Harbour at Port Chalmers has sparked an environmental action plan.

Port Chalmers resident Kilda Northcott has collected cigarette butts and other rubbish from the gutters around the township for the past two years.

She has gathered a large and smelly bag of evidence.

Her efforts to lobby the West Harbour Community Board for a solution have proven fruitful.

Board member Duncan Eddy tabled a draft Port Chalmers Stormwater and Cigarette Litter Action Plan at the board’s meeting last week.

The draft plan focuses on three issues:

  • advocating for stormwater drain filters to catch butts and litter before they are flushed into waterways;
  • installing public cigarette butt bins in Port Chalmers;
  • monitoring litter on local beaches.

Mr Eddy’s community board colleagues were impressed with the draft plan, and voted unanimously to fund the installation of six stainless steel cigarette butt bins for Port Chalmers, costing $770.

Ms Northcott was “over the moon” at the board’s response, saying cigarette butts were not biodegradable, and posed a hazard to fish and birds.

“We have a responsibility to look after the Earth, but people are lazy,” she said.

The problem of discarded cigarette butts was at its worst during cruise ship season, but was “still happening every day”, she said.

Mr Eddy was pleased the community board’s support would move the action plan forward.

The West Harbour Community Board is adding its voice to that of the Peninsula Community Board, lobbying the Dunedin City Council and Otago Regional Council for stormwater filters.

In his DCC annual plan presentation, Peninsula board chairman Paul Pope urged councillors to adopt filters for the city’s stormwater system.

“We have all seen the horror stories of birds and sea creatures tangled in rubbish, and we need to make the effort to stop it from ending up on beaches and in the water,” Mr Pope said. DCC 3 waters group manager Tom Dyer said the council had no commitment to trialling litter traps.

Stormwater networks had the potential to carry pollutants from cigarette butts to vegetation, sediment, microplastics, and contaminants environment, he said.

The Stormwater Quality Bylaw 2020 for public consultation sought to prevent these contaminants from entering the stormwater system.

To cut contamination, the council responded to pollution complaints, swept streets, cleaned mudtanks and ran education programmes.

DCC waste and environmental solutions group manager Chris Henderson said the council also provided receptacles for cigarette butts in most street litter bins, and more visible bins were being installed.

Otago Regional Council regulatory general manager Richard Saunders said the issue of litter in stormwater was administered by the DCC under the Litter Act.