Wellington City Council has stayed a proposed bylaw on print advertising materials that would have seen fines implemented for distribution of printed material into letterboxes displaying ‘No advertising materials’ signs.
Kellie Northwood, chief executive at The Real Media Collective (TRMC), says the organisation contacted all councillors and the mayor. It challenged the presumption from the council that print has a detrimental effect on the environment and the broader Wellington community. She says, “The council has stayed the bylaw. It will consult the community and industry for more information so it can accurately vote on the issue.
Print is local
TRMC rejects claims that catalogue and print deliveries to the letterbox create litter and waste to landfill to Wellington streets. It points out that the channel forms part of a large industry that employs 20,938 New Zealanders. This includes 9,896 are walkers who distribute to the letterbox directly. The remainders across the print sector across 6,466 small to medium sized businesses. It also says the paper and print industry contributes to the New Zealand economy, a fact that government often overlooks.
Northwood says, “Local manufacturing is key to keeping Kiwis in jobs. The paper, print and letterbox sector continue to be harassed by misinformation about the channel. I have worked across the paper and print sector for close to 20 years and I continue to be amazed by comments and even bylaws being developed with misperceptions about print in general. I encourage all levels of government to contact the industry before making ambiguous claims such as these.
“Walkers are often those seeking supplementary income. Some are retired, some new entrants to the workforce, or on disability benefits. All are doing their best to do their job. On the odd occasion, numbers lower than one per cent error rate are recorded. Yes, on occasion a walker may make a mistake and a process is implemented to work through that error. However, I remain perplexed when government applies different levels of scrutiny. If we were all scrutinised in such a way in our day to day jobs. it would be considered unfair conduct by the employer. However, these comments place walkers on another level and it is entirely prejudicial.”
Print is green
The organisation has also criticised environmental claims against the catalogue and print channel. She says, ” New Zealand has a 100 per cent planted forest industry. This means that companies harvest and replant trees for paper production in accordance with regrowth harvesting technologies. This increases local species, supports biodiversity and provides strong carbon sinks. In particular, catalogues are 100 per cent recyclable via the standard household recycling bins.
“As an industry we often face these comments and labelling as ‘junk mail’, which is disappointing, particularly when it comes from governments. However, we know these channels have higher environmental credentials than others. E-waste is a significant issue globally, whereas paper is 100 per cent recyclable and from a renewable resource.”
Print advertising works
“We also know the letterbox channel is also one of the most powerful channels to communicate to households with weekly specials, vouchers, product ranges and other benefits for customers that retailers are offering.”
“Research shows 73 per cent of New Zealanders read catalogues because they find them a helpful shopping tool and 62 per cent read them to save money, critical in the post-Covid-19 period we currently face. When managing any complaints about distribution, the highest level of complaints is when people don’t receive their catalogues. Consider a rugby match not playing any ads and people ringing up complaining that they didn’t have any ads played. It would be unheard of. However, catalogues are a sought-after channel.
“For those not wanting to receive, place a ‘No advertising material’ on the letterbox and we will not deliver to those letterboxes. For those that support Kiwi jobs to stay in the community, prefer an environmentally-friendly marketing channel, and want to save money: keep your letterbox open.”
Other councils have debated having a bylaw on print advertising materials for the past two decades but most have seen such measures as draconian and unnecessary.