Tauranga City Council’s ‘Save our Pipes from Wipes’ campaign was announced the winner of the ‘communicating for change’ category at the Sustainable Business Network awards 2019.
The ‘Save our Pipes from Wipes’ campaign launched early summer 2018 was developed to address the growing issue of people flushing wet wipes.
This award recognises that Tauranga City Council is showing leadership by tackling a growing environmental problem.
Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell says he's “proud to see acknowledgement for the work Tauranga is doing to take care of our assets and environment”.
“It took a bold move to tackle this problem, and the community response to the campaign has been phenomenal."
City Waters Manager Stephen Burton says wet wipes are a major issue for wastewater infrastructure across the country.
“When wipes are flushed down the toilet they mix with fats and oils and cause blockages. In some cases, this results in a sewage overflow into local waterways.
“This is something none of us want to see."
Recognising this as a growing problem, Tauranga City Council decided to invest in a public awareness campaign to help change behaviour.
Developed with local communications agency Wave, the campaign was designed to inspire the community to ‘save our pipes from wipes’, not blame or shame.
The judges of the award say: ‘This was a great campaign addressing a serious problem for all of New Zealand, and using best practice behaviour change communications. It showed great leadership by this council.’
The elephant character that stars in the campaign came to life as a light-hearted way to talk about an ‘elephant sized’ problem.
Two tonnes of wipes, the size of a small elephant, are extracted from Tauranga’s wastewater pipes each week. The character, nicknamed ‘Trumpet’, discusses a rather private topic and creates a call to arms.
Stephen says community response to the campaign has been terrific.
"From kids singing along to the radio ads, to people making conscious changes to their behaviour."
Tauranga City Council tracks the number of sewage overflows caused by wet wipes and can measure the tonnes of solid materials collected at the wastewater treatment plants.
“We have compared the data of the last two summer peak seasons and found that the number of sewage overflows caused by wet wipes reduced by 40 per cent.
“This is a great outcome for all of us, but we’re not done yet.
“We are in this for the long-run, through our communications and education programmes, we will continue to grow the conversation around wet wipes, inspiring small changes that can make a big difference.”
New Zealand flushability standards are expected to be confirmed soon. This standard will allow for a greater focus on accurate ‘flushable’ labelling, which will support Tauranga’s efforts to ‘save pipes from wipes’.
Find out more about the campaign and why wipes should never be flushed on Tauranga.govt.nz/wetwipes