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Discarded supermarket trolleys in Rotorua. Photos / Laura Smith
Ratepayers are paying $5000 a month for hundreds of abandoned trolleys to be collected from Rotorua’s streets – and the council wants business owners to shoulder some of the cost.
The chairman of the city’s ratepayers association blames some members of the homeless community for the problem and wants Kāinga Ora to implement “trolley hunts”.
However, Kāinga Ora says anyone could be to blame and trolley hunts are not a priority.
Rotorua Lakes Council community wellbeing deputy chief executive Anaru Pewhairangi told Local Democracy Reporting the council was responsible for recovering abandoned trolleys because they were classified as illegal dumping.
Council contractors picked up the trolleys as part of the city cleaning schedule.
“Unfortunately that comes at a cost.”
About 260 trolleys were removed from the inner city each month, costing ratepayers about $5000 per month.
“Trolleys on roadsides are obviously untidy and a hazard and that impacts on how both locals and visitors view and feel about a place.”
Abandoned trolleys also affected perceptions of safety and could harm the environment, he said.
“We will continue to discuss the issue with businesses where trolleys are taken from to try to get them to share some of the burden.”
Pewhairangi said, anecdotally, streets near the Rotorua Central shopping centre and Fenton St had the most abandoned trolleys over the past couple of years.
Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Reynold Macpherson said ratepayers were annoyed they were paying for the collection. The association wanted the businesses that owned the trolleys to reimburse the council for their collection.
“Ratepayers do not have bottomless pockets. Many are struggling.”
Macpherson believed that while it was unfair in some cases, abandoned trolleys were “strongly associated” with some of the city’s homeless people.
He said, in his view, Kāinga Ora needed to enforce stricter tenancy management or needed to organise trolley hunts.
Macpherson believed the council should impound the trolleys until owners paid the collection bill.
Kāinga Ora acting Bay of Plenty regional director Karen Hema suggested it was people from “all walks of life” who left shopping trolleys across the city.
Its focus was on rapidly building new public housing, she said, placing whānau into these homes, and supporting customers to live well, as part of the wider community.
“Trolley hunts are most certainly not our focus.”
There are numerous supermarkets in Rotorua’s inner city. Local Democracy Reporting contacted Countdown and Foodstuffs. The latter owns the Pak’n’Save and New World chains.
A Countdown spokesperson said it spent $1.5 million a year nationally collecting abandoned trolleys but could not say how much money was invested into trolley collection services in Rotorua.
This also covered the cost of printing messaging on its trolley handles detailing how to report missing trolleys.
“We monitor through customer reporting, and our customer care tracking indicates that Rotorua does not have a higher rate of customer feedback or trolley pick-up requests than other parts of the country.”
Countdown understood abandoned trolleys could be a nuisance and that was why it invested in collection services to lessen the impact on the community.
“We want to keep our local communities tidy and trolley free and ensure that we have enough trolleys available for our customers in our stores.”
Countdown asked people to contact its customer care team to report abandoned trolleys, or to talk to its in-store customer service team.
Foodstuffs spokeswoman Emma Wooster said it was disappointing that trolleys and baskets were being stolen or dumped.
She said most stores had a dedicated team member responsible for looking after trolleys, but sometimes they were taken.
“On these occasions, we ask all members of the public to report a misplaced, or stolen trolley to their local police, or store, so arrangements can be made to retrieve it.”
– Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ on Air
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Power said it was a “tough decision to make, but it feels like the right time to finish”.