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State landfill levies – what a waste!

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Councils and landfill operators are due to collect almost $175 million in State landfill levies this year, yet much of the money collected in previous years remains unspent by the Victorian Government.

Cr Bill McArthur, President of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) said the State had failed to deliver on its promise to use the landfill levy to achieve a real step-change in how Victorians manage waste.

“With almost half a billion dollars of accrued landfill levies sitting in the Sustainability Fund, the question is whether the State is using the funds to dress up its bottom line.

“In recent years Victorians had been hit by skyrocketing State landfill levy increases of up to 233 per cent (2010-11), 47 per cent (2011-12), 10 per cent (2012-13), 10 per cent (2013-14) and 10 per cent (2014-15). For the current financial year, landfill levies were set for a more modest 3.5 per cent growth.

“These rising levies were first introduced by the Brumby Labor Government and continued under the Baillieu/Napthine Coalition Government. Both parties promised the increases would boost recycling rates, and provide revenue back to councils to support local waste reduction and sustainability initiatives.

“Landfill levies impose a substantial cost burden on ratepayers and those depositing waste at landfills. There was no delay in striking higher levies, but councils are frustrated that reinvestment has stalled.”

Councils are required to pay the landfill levy on each tonne of municipal waste. They collect this State levy from ratepayers through garbage charges for kerbside collection services and gate fees to dispose of waste at landfills/transfer stations.

Landfill levies help to fund key State agencies Sustainability Victoria and the Environment Protection Authority, as well as metropolitan and regional waste management groups. Remaining levies are paid into the Sustainability Fund, established in 2010 for the State to reinvest in projects that sustainably use resources, improve waste management and community action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Cr McArthur said councils were fed up with this hidden state tax and last week voted to seek greater accountability and transparency of the government’s landfill levy revenue and how it was being spent.

“Communities need to better understand how much has been collected since the inception of State landfill levies, what it has been used for and the government’s projected future revenue increases.

“Landfill levies paid into the Sustainability Fund are not fulfilling their intended purpose and it remains unclear why the Fund is holding onto $430.7 million in unspent money.

“The government has repeatedly said communities expect absolute transparency in council budgets and spending. They must now practice what they preach and release an annual statement that reports on the balance and expenditure of the Sustainability Fund.

“We also call on the Minister to release the government’s draft Priority Statement for the Sustainability Fund, which we were told would be out in August.

“Local government is seeking the Minister to direct a substantial allocation from the cashed-up Sustainability Fund to support councils, and the waste and resource recovery groups to reduce waste going to landfill.

“In line with a 2014 Auditor General’s report, some of the money should also be prioritised for assisting in the rehabilitation of closed landfill sites, particularly in rural and regional Victoria,” he said.

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For further information contact the MAV President Cr Bill McArthur on 0437 984 793 or the MAV Communications Unit on (03) 9667 5521.