Right to Repair Bill an opportunity for crucial change


REPAIR IT YOURSELF: The Repair Cafe is an ideal place to learn how to repair your own stuff or get it repaired by experts. File photo

I READ recently that the Japanese traditionally have a special word for the feeling of regret that can arise when we throw something out that still has use.  

It’s called “Mottainai”.  They have also made an art out of repairing broken things so that they are more beautiful than before, by repairing plates, cups, vases etc with gold lacquer (Kintsugi) or mending rips or tears in clothing with embroidery (Sashiko).

Such concepts convey a deep respect for things, and for our relationship with them.  

If something breaks, it is transformed, to be appreciated and used for a lifetime.  

It’s hard to fathom that now, not only are things designed not to last (“built-in obsolescence”) but that they are strategically built to block any attempts at repair by their owners.  

Whatever device you have next to you right now, the glasses on your face, the appliances you used to make breakfast this morning; when it breaks or stops working, even if just one small component is faulty, companies are literally banking on you throwing the whole thing out and buying another one.  

The methods employed to discourage and prevent repair on our stuff are various, but they boil down to some essentials.  

Parts, tools and instructions are not made available to us to repair the items we own, so we must send them to a repairer approved by the manufacturer, who might be located hundreds of kilometres away.  

And, if third party parts can be found, “parts pairing” in mobile devices, tractors, gaming items, washing machines and more, ensures that those parts are rejected, or impair the functionality of the product.  

Some companies like Apple now “allow” third party repairers to fix their devices, but make the terms of this right to repair so burdensome and intrusive that it is simply not an option.  

And under some warranties, if an item below a certain value malfunctions, it automatically gets disposed of by the manufacturer and replaced with another one.

In a nutshell, business profit models rely on obscene levels of waste production, and ongoing huge-scale mining of resources to replace what we throw out.  

This is having a catastrophic impact on our environment, our atmosphere and on us.

There is, however, an opportunity for this to change.  

In April this year, on the back of a growing global Right to Repair movement, and thanks to the work of the Greens and Repair Café Aotearoa NZ (RCANZ), the Consumer Guarantees (Right to Repair) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot.  

If the bill passes the first reading, it will take us a step closer in requiring manufacturers to make spare parts and repair guidance available to consumers and independent repairers.

It means we will have the right to fix the things we own so they last, local repair businesses can exist and thrive, and waste, with its accompanying toxins and carbon emissions, can be greatly reduced.

There are simple actions that we can take to assist the bill, and to make small changes to the way we relate to the things that we use:

  • Contact your local MP asking them to support the bill at its first reading. To help, the Repair Network Aotearoa provides an example of how to compose an email to your local MP at (www.repairnetworkaotearoa.org.nz/right-to-repair)  
  • Don’t throw your stuff out. If it doesn’t work, bring it to the next Opotiki Repair Café (on the last Saturday of each month at 125 St John Street, opposite the Bait and Tackle shop – see www.facebook.com/OpotikiRepairCafe/ for more details).  

The café has repaired over 70 percent of items that have come through the door since August 2023, and saved over 250 kilograms of waste from landfill.

n Learn how to repair your own stuff – you can do it.

The Repair Café is an ideal place to learn, but the global Right to Repair network is growing, and there are online resources and communities out there just waiting to be engaged with.  

IFIXIT.com, for example, is a great resource that provides free manuals to fix a host of items, from umbrellas to mobile phones to cars.

Fixing something is a simple activity, but it is also an amazingly enriching and empowering act that repairs us and the way we relate to things, our environment and to each other.  

It’s something you and I should fight for.  

– Kathryn Langford

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