Cook Islands Facing Large Cost To Crush, Export Old Automobiles

More than 1,000 crushed cars wait to be removed from Rarotonga

By Richard Moore 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Augsut 25, 2016) – More than 1000 wrecked or abandoned vehicles are waiting to be crushed and exported from Rarotonga.

They will fill 83 containers and require a car bailer to be shipped up from New Zealand.

The cost?

Well, Jessie Sword from General Transport says: “You’re looking at the cost of the bailer, freight, and clearances so it’s in the vicinity of $300,000 [US$219,000].

“It is a big cost for a company and this is why we are working closely with government through its agency the National Environment Service to assist in facilitating the importation of this bailer.”

Sword said she feels it is the Government’s corporate/social responsibility to assist in helping to finance bringing the bailer here.

“It’s the cost of equipment that kills the project, because it is so high. So what we are saying we just need a bit of help to get this thing off the ground.”

Sword says a few years ago her company imported in a car bailer on a short-term loan. They managed to send away 12 containers of compacted cars, made up from 144 vehicles.

General Transport now has a recycling division, an area it got into “because there was a need.”

“No one was doing anything. We had all these imports coming in and we had landfill that was actually full.

“There was no proper facility for anyone who was environmentally conscious to drop off the imported products on the island.

“So we more or less got involved and set up the business by default.”

But Sword says: “We see it as our responsibility now. To be a responsible business, accept products that we can send back overseas and get a small return to recover our costs.”

The service also provides labour opportunities for Cook Islanders.

She said the company deals with scrap metal, whiteware, and recently entered into an e-waste collection that includes old computers, televisions, monitors, routers and modems.

Vehicle collection, Sword said, is just an extension of these services. But it comes at a cost. To dispose of a car the firm charges a $250 fee.

“People need to understand there is a processing fee, there’s a transportation fee to pick up the vehicle, pay for your labour and on-site expenses. There’s the cost of the bailer, freight costs to New Zealand and then the destination costs to get to the scrap metal dealers.”

“I think people have to appreciate that we’ve sent our workers overseas to be upskilled in this sort of matter. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

Sword says her firm is “doing more than our fair share to be responsible corporate citizens”.

She says they are providing the end result.

“You’ve got importers bringing stuff in because we do like our material things don’t we?

“We will take it off your hands for a fee and do the right thing and remove it off our shores. Because we are only a small island and landfill is very rapidly filling.”

Kelvin Passfield from Te Ipukarea Society also champions the idea of an Advanced Disposal Fee.

Everything that comes in needs to have an ADF attached to it, he says.

On a $30,000 car he suggests something like $500 could be added to the price.

“It is to be used exclusively for dealing with that car at the end of its life.”

That would pay for its collection, crushing and export off the island.

But, he says, that money must be protected, possibly with legislation, so that it can only be used for dealing with waste.

“You need to have it ring-fenced and no other government fingers are allowed in.”

Passfield says dealing with old vehicles on the island is a big issue. And the same goes for bulldozers and heavy machinery. Often, he says, old cars are left jacked up in backyards and never go anywhere.

The project to bring a car crusher back to Rarotonga “really needs to be re-activated,” Passfield says.

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