Should waste management be considered a lifeline in New Zealand?
Executive Summary Lifelines (also referred to as Critical Infrastructure) provide the essential services that support the life of our community. Maintaining provision of these services in an emergency response situation is critical to the recovery of a community. In New Zealand regional lifeline groups have been established to promote planning, resource sharing and coordination between lifeline service providers. In addition to this, New Zealand emergency law has provision for certain designated Lifeline Utilities to act as necessary to restore services in an emergency situation. However, solid waste management is not included in either the planning process nor is it provided for under the emergency legislation. A qualitative assessment of the importance of waste management to a community recovery effort and semi quantitative assessment on the impact of waste management on other lifeline provisions has been carried out. In a recovery, it is shown that waste management has the potential to pose health and safety hazards such as disease and environmental pollution. Waste management is also shown to be important to the provision of many lifelines. Given this importance and dependence, great benefit would be gained from including waste management activities in lifeline planning and coordination to facilitate more effective resource planning and prioritisation. From a legal perspective, the complexity of the waste management system would make it difficult to legislate as a Lifeline Utility. Not only are there multiple components to a solid waste system (disposal, treatment, recycling and collection), pre-disaster solid waste capacities would need to be significantly augmented to cater for the disaster generated waste and often this would entail the operation of organisations not normally involved in solid waste management. However, there would be benefits in providing legislation to require and give regulatory flexibility to pre-disaster solid waste operators and facilities to restore pre-disaster services following a disaster. This allowance would facilitate the first stage of the clean-up effort before an integrated disaster waste management system could be implemented.