Thursday 8 September 2011

Bligh Government to impose another tax on local residents

What rubbish: Cairns ratepayers face $1m a year hit for using private recycling plant

Daniel Strudwick
Thursday, September 8, 2011
© The Cairns Post

CAIRNS ratepayers could be charged an extra $1 million a year because of a new State Government levy that undermines the clean and green recycling initiatives of Cairns Regional Council.

The council would be slugged with the proposed commercial waste levy because it used a private recycling firm to treat household rubbish, rather than operating its own facility.

Cairns Regional Council is the only local government area in Queensland that puts its residential waste through a treatment plant, diverting about 75 per cent of rubbish away from landfill.

The council will today plead its case to a parliamentary hearing in Brisbane, seeking an exemption from the charge which inevitably would be passed on to ratepayers.

Other councils that dump waste in landfills would not be charged the levy. Cairns would attract the levy because the region’s household rubbish was treated at a commercial facility. State Environment Minister Vicky Darling said the council could only avoid the waste levy by running its own recycling facility, rather than using a commercial plant.

Under the Bligh Government’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Bill, every tonne of commercial waste that goes to landfill would be charged $35 from December.

The council already paid $9 million a year to divert household rubbish away from landfill by processing it at the Bedminster plant, but might have to rethink the green initiative if an extra levy is added. The council’s general manager of water and waste, Bruce Gardiner, said Cairns should be encouraged for its landfill diversion initiatives, not punished.

He said hitting the council with a commercial waste levy would deter other councils from adopting similar eco-friendly schemes. "It does seem to be at odds with the Bill’s goal of reducing landfill," he said. A parliamentary inquiry into the Bill will continue in Brisbane today, hearing 24 submissions from concerned stakeholders, including Cairns Regional Council.

The council’s acting manager of waste and environment, Nigel Crumpton, will speak to the parliamentary hearing via teleconference, insisting that Cairns should be exempt from the levy because it is achieving the State Government’s landfill diversion targets.

"The outcome we’re hoping for is that the legislation recognises that our residential waste isn’t commercial waste," Mr Gardiner said.

"And hopefully they see some sense in our submission."

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