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Big infrastructure spend fails to deliver for our recycling system

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The 2019 Victorian Budget spends big on jobs and infrastructure for Victoria, but does not deliver the level of investment urgently needed to strengthen our fragile recycling system.

The budget includes significant ongoing investment in roads and public transport infrastructure across our suburbs, rural and regional Victoria, as well as incentives to create new jobs.

Families will welcome the $882 million investment to start the rollout of funded three year-old kindergarten programs to all Victorian children by 2022. This includes $316.5 million for new and expanded kindergarten facilities, as well as training for more early childhood education teachers.

Families will also benefit from a $135 million investment in new parenting centres, plus an additional $17 million to boost Maternal and Child Health home visits.

A one-year $50 million extension to the Growing Suburbs Fund is pleasing. However a longer-term commitment is needed to help ensure councils can fund the backlog of community infrastructure required for some of Australia’s fastest growing suburbs.

The budget also included a one-year extension to the roadside weeds and pests grant program, and one further year for the Officers for the Protection of the Local Environment program.

Despite $511 million in collected landfill levies sitting in the Sustainability Fund at 30 June 2018, only $34.9 million has been committed to tackle the recycling crisis over three years. This is grossly inadequate given the scale of investment needed.

Each year, the State receives more than $200 million in municipal and industrial landfill levies. Over half is allocated to state environment agencies with the remainder transferred to the Sustainability Fund.

The state budget did not include funding assistance for those councils hit with additional costs due to facility closures, and no funding was allocated to compensate councils for extra contract costs to implement the State’s e-waste landfill ban commencing on 1 July.

Cr Coral Ross, MAV President said while councils and communities will be rightfully disappointed about the State’s underinvestment in recycling, they will welcome the significant spend on transport systems and a new State-funded three-year-old kindergarten program.

“More than 80 per cent of Victoria’s 1,320 community-based kindergartens operate from council facilities. We applaud the investment in facilities and workforce development to deliver on the state’s three-year-old kinder election promise.

“One year funding extensions for a number of other infrastructure and environmental programs delivered by councils is good news, however longer-term funding certainty is needed.

“Importantly, much more of the State’s landfill levy income must be reinvested into waste and resource recovery - rather than it propping up the Victorian government’s budget.

“Councils are part of the solution and stand ready to partner with the State to save and strengthen our recycling system. We now need them to use the Sustainability Fund for its intended purpose,” she said.

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Contact Cr Coral Ross on 0438 005 225 or MAV Communications on 9667 5521.