Tauranga City Council is preparing to get tough on litterbugs, voting today on a motion that could see illegal rubbish dumpers slapped with a $400 fine.

 Rubbish in a drain. File image - Jimmy Joe

Rubbish in a drain. File image - Jimmy Joe

Tossing a cigarette butt out of the car could incur a fine of $100, while people who drop a glass bottle in a public place could be stung with a $400 ticket.

Tauranga City councillors will today debate the merits of adopting and enforcing the infringement provision of the Litter Act 1979.

The Act allows councils to appoint Litter Control Officers with the authority to dish out fines whenever they have good reason to believe someone has illegally dumped rubbish.

Council staff will present councillors with a proposed schedule of fines, ranging from $100 for a minor offence, through to $400 for dumping more than 120 litres of rubbish or dangerous litter such as glass or toxic substances.

Councillors spoken to by the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday were largely supportive of the initiative, however some voiced concerns about how the fines would be enforced.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said litter was not a big issue in Tauranga however it often became a problem in popular areas over the summer period.

''My personal view is that education and being proud of our environment is always the first step. Regulation and big stick stuff should always be the last resort.''

However, ''we need the option there if we need to exercise it''.

Councillor Tony Christiansen said he thought most ratepayers would be in favour of council issuing litter fines as a form of 'user pays'.

''If we don't take a proactive approach to it then the ratepayers will be the ones paying to clean up the city and it will just come out of rates.''

Cr Larry Baldock said the fines would not stop all littering, as identifying who dumped a piece of rubbish may be difficult, however he envisaged they would have ''some impact''.

''Personally I think litter is a disgrace. If I caught somebody taking half a trailer load of rubbish and dumping it on the side of the road, I'd want them to be fined.''

Deputy Mayor David Stewart said it was worthwhile trying the fines, however their effectiveness would come down to how enforceable they were.

''I think people could make a complaint but then again to enforce that there needs to be some proof in order to enforce an infringement notice and I'm not sure how that will work.''

Cr Wayne Moultrie agreed saying regulations which were not enforced were ''a waste of time''.

''If society was serious about litter there would be litter police behind every rubbish bin to make sure people did not drop litter on the ground.''

Cr Moultrie doubted if ''John Citizen'' was concerned enough about rubbish to warrant the employment of Litter Control Officers and wondered if councillors should be focusing their efforts on something more important.

He said he would wait until the end of the debate before making a decision on the matter.

In Auckland, the council has issued 175 $100 litter fines since August 2010.

From November 1, Aucklanders caught littering more than once could be issued with a $400 fine under a new system approved by the council this month.

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