LOAD OF GARBAGE: Both sides of parliament are locked in debate over the waste levy.
LOAD OF GARBAGE: Both sides of parliament are locked in debate over the waste levy. Peter Gardiner

RUBBISH ARGUMENT: Council hit with $3m waste levy

IT MAY be about a load of garbage, but the debate over how effective a levy on the dumping of waste has both sides of parliament engaging in a rubbish debate.

Caught in the middle of the debate is Clarence Valley Council, one of many regional councils slugged with the levy designed to discourage waste dumping and encourage recycling.

While council acknowledge the government is putting some of the money towards recycling and environmental programs, they said an increase in the money returned would help improve local outcomes and alleviate public pressure over the increased costs.

The argument came when Opposition spokesman for local government Greg Warren demanded Minister for Local Government Matt Kean explain where the hundreds of millions of dollars collected from the waste and environment levy had been spent. According to Mr Warren, in 2018-19 the government collected $772 million from councils as part of the levy with only 17 per cent returned directly to councils.

"The purpose of the waste and environment levy is to encourage businesses, organisations and households to be more conscious regarding waste and recycling practices," he said.

"The minister must detail and justify what the (other) $641 million has been spent on."

However, Mr Kean hit back at the accusation, saying a third of the levy went into environmental programs.

"The waste levy aims to reduce the amount of waste diverted to landfill and promote recycling. Since its introduction, recycling has increased," Mr Kean said.

"The NSW Government apportions revenue from the waste levy across a number of public services. One third of the waste levy is used to fund environmental programs, such as the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative - the largest waste and recycling funding program in the country.

"The remaining two thirds go into consolidated revenue to fund essential government services, such as schools, hospitals and roads.

"It is typical rank hypocrisy for Labor to complain about how the waste levy fund is apportioned, when they set up that system in 2008."

While metropolitan councils were being charged a levy before 2008, there was no charge for regional councils.

However, in 2008 under a Labor government the levy was extended to coastal regional areas including the Clarence, charging councils a price of $10/tonne in 2009-10 increasing by $10 plus CPI for each year until 2016. It has since increased by the amount of CPI each year to a current rate of $81.30/tonne.

Clarence Valley Mayor, Jim Simmons, said about $3.25million in waste levy was collected each year from users of the regional land fill and all of that had to be handed over to the EPA for waste reduction campaigns.

"It's difficult to say how much of that we get back, but it's not much," he said.

"We get about $89,000 in direct funding and some benefits from statewide waste reduction campaigns and other programs that run across several North Coast local government areas plus some grants, but we would be so much better off if we were able to spend everything that's collected on our own waste reduction initiatives.

"The levy provides a valuable ... incentive to recycle and reuse waste, however if more was returned to council ... waste processing facilities could be greatly improved and would achieve greater diversion from landfill."



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