Clarence Valley Council is now “responsible for more than $7 million in services that were previously the responsibility of state or federal governments”.
This, the council says, is one of the reasons it is seeking a special rates variation of eight per cent for each of the next five years – the eight per cent includes the annually set rate peg –, a total of 46.9 per cent over the five years.
The biggest number among those costs is the state government’s waste levy, which amounts to $1.623million.
Following an enquiry by a reader, who was outraged by the 266 per cent increase for dumping green waste at the Maclean transfer station – from $7.50 to $20 per cubic metre –, the Independent’s investigation revealed a series of large increases when comparing this year’s charges with those from 2014/15.
Some examples: Trucks dumping concrete rubble, from $28 to $80 per cubic metre; trucks/large and small compaction vehicles, from $50 to $80 per cubic metre; trucks/loose packed general waste, from $25 to $40 per cubic metre; and, trucks dumping mixed demolition waste including rubble, from $55 to $80 per cubic metre.
The minimum waste disposal fee has remained at the 2014/15 rate ($8), as have charges to dispose of white goods; while other charges for things like tyres, mixed commercial/industrial waste and mixed waste have increased by less than 10 per cent.
A new weighbridge has been installed at the Maclean transfer station; however, either cubic metre or tonnage charges can be applied.
The council’s works and civil director, Troy Anderson, said, in an emailed response to the Independent’s written questions, that small vehicles at Maclean are not normally weighed, unless requested by the customer.
He said, while there were minor differences in charges between the Maclean transfer station and the regional landfill, the per-tonne rates at both sites are the same: $170 for mixed waste and $180 for building, demolition, commercial and industrial waste.
When asked why some of the new disposal charges did not reflect the $10 per tonne (plus CPI) increase levied by the state government for waste that goes to landfill, Mr Anderson wrote: “Generally the key waste disposal charges (mixed waste, commercial and industrial waste) have increased by the $10 waste levy plus CPI increases.
“There have been some waste types that have increased significantly more, due to regulatory changes by the EPA [NSW Environmental Protection Authority].
“Concrete waste for example will no longer be processed on site for reuse at Maclean.
“This results in any concrete masonry waste received having to be transported to the Grafton regional landfill, attracting the waste levy [of $76.60 per tonne].
“The cost of construction and demolition waste disposal at Maclean was previously able to be kept lower, as the waste was sorted on site to recover concrete, green waste and scrap steel; therefore reducing the quantity of construction and demolition waste that was sent to landfill.”
Mr Anderson said that green waste now has to “undergo a far more rigorous processing system to pasteurise the produce prior to sale”.
“The cost of green waste disposal at Maclean has therefore increased to reflect the additional cost,” he said.
Mr Anderson said occupational, health and safety concerns regarding asbestos contamination prevented concrete and demolition waste from being processed at Maclean – “it is sent to landfill, resulting in the higher charge”.
“Income generated from waste disposal charges, less the levy, goes towards the management of waste transfer stations and the regional landfill,” Mr Anderson said.
“The EPA has also required a substantial upgrade to stormwater and leachate management at both [Grafton and Maclean] sites.”
Leachate is a liquid that extracts dissolved and suspended matter as it passes through the landfill.
“Some of the upgrades such as construction of leachate dams and drainage works will be one-off expenses; however, other improvements required are on-going operational expenses.
“Examples include the process of pasteurisation of green waste and the monitoring and management of leachate and stormwater systems.”
Mr Anderson said that “councils have no choice but to pay the levy”.
“Savings can only be made by recycling more and reducing the quantity of waste going to landfill,” he said.
Mr Anderson said around 10 per cent of the state government’s levy was returned to councils throughout the state, however, “much of the return is via contestable grants; [so] an individual council may receive more or less than the 10 per cent”.