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Time to action wasted landfill levy opportunities

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The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has welcomed the release of a report by the Victorian Auditor General into the use of State landfill levies, with many of the findings reflecting concerns raised by local government in recent years.

Cr Mary Lalios, MAV President said it was deeply concerning that the Sustainability Fund has amassed more than half a billion dollars in unspent landfill levies, while the Government had only reinvested small amounts to address the state’s growing recycling challenges.

“Councils, communities and businesses have paid more than $500 million in municipal and industrial landfill levies to the State Government which currently remains unspent.

“Many worthy initiatives that meet the criteria of the Sustainability Fund are calling out for investment, particularly to support a sustainable waste and resource recovery industry in Victoria following the impacts of China’s ban on importing certain recycled content.

“Of the 10 actions listed within the State’s new Recycling Industry Strategic Plan, the MAV or councils are identified as partners in seven actions. We’d like to see funding and resource support to assist local government to fulfil our substantial partner roles identified within the State plan.

“Other initiatives where local government seeks Sustainability Fund investment include assistance for projects to rehabilitate closed landfill sites, support for regional waste and resource recovery treatment and processing solutions, and a statewide education campaign to help reduce waste going to landfill.

“The State Government’s e-waste ban commencing on 1 July 2019 will also have new and additional cost implications for councils and ratepayers.

“In a rate capped environment, it is not reasonable to ask councils and communities to incur new costs for a State policy when landfill levy funding is available to support introduction of the e-waste landfill ban.

“We have requested the State allocate funding from the Sustainability Fund that supports councils to provide additional e-waste collection points, and compensate councils for additional waste management costs resulting from the e-waste ban for the first 24 months,” she said.

The Victorian Government charges a landfill levy on solid waste. Councils pay the levy on municipal waste, with the cost passed through to ratepayers in garbage charges for kerbside collections, gate fees at landfills/transfer stations or rates.

It’s disappointing that, to date, landfill levies have been primarily funding the State’s environment agencies. The monies should be used for the primary purpose the fund was established - investment to support resource recovery in Victoria.

Cr Lalios said ongoing advocacy by the MAV had called for improved transparency by the State about spending and allocation of the landfill levy, as well as expenditure plans for how the unallocated levies would be used into the future.

“We welcome the State Government commitment in response to the Auditor General’s recommendation to annually release a public report outlining the activities and outcomes of the Fund.

“We also support the Minister’s recent approval to change membership of the committee overseeing the Sustainability Fund to make it fully independent. Local government now seeks reinvestment of landfill levies into projects that will make a genuine difference to Victoria’s waste and recycling industry,” she said.

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Contact Cr Mary Lalios on 0447 189 409 or MAV Communications on 9667 5547.