Victorian State Budget reveals proceeds of landfill levy

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The Victorian Government has revealed the proceeds of the state’s landfill levy in its 2017 State Budget.

The 2017 State Budget papers show the $200 million collected in municipal and industrial waste levies has been spent on Melbourne trams ($9.6 million), a $110 million plantation for the timber industry in the Latrobe Valley and $8.1 million on upgrading Parks Victoria’s website.

The Budget papers also revealed the Government diverted landfill levies to new lighting, heating and solar panels into government buildings ($20 million), the purchase of land to establish three new Melbourne metropolitan parks ($21.5 million) and a range of other areas.

The Weekly Times reported that the Government’s own independent inquiry into the Environmental Protection Agency, last year found: “These levies are failing in their primary regulatory objective of reducing disposal to landfill”.

“Evidence that the Municipal and Industrial Landfill Levy is having little impact on household behaviour feeds into community concerns that the levy’s purpose is to raise revenue, rather than reduce waste,” the report concluded.

“Indeed, over the past 10 years, the average amount of waste attributable to each Victorian every year increased by 29 per cent.”

Mary Lalios, President of the Municipal Association of Victoria said the original intent of collecting the landfill levy was to boost recycling rates and support waste reduction and sustainability initiatives.

“Councils have been crying out for support with waste and resource recovery projects and the exorbitant cost of rehabilitating closed landfill sites, yet the State Government has chosen to spend landfill levy revenue on totally unrelated purposes,” Cr Lalios said.

A spokesman for Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told The Weekly Times levy funds were used to provide broad benefits to the Victorian community and contribute funding to state government agencies that work to protect the environment and ensure sustainable use of resources, including the EPA, Sustainability Victoria and the Waste and Resource Recovery Groups.

Ms Ambrosio’s office also highlighted that $30.4 million of budget funding had gone towards waste and resource recovery.

“An example of the landfill levy delivering for the Victorian community is the recently announced boost of funding and powers for the Environment Protection Agency — $162.5 million announced in the 2017 Budget was delivered from the landfill levy,” the spokesman said.

Budget 2017 also committed to greater investment in the waste and resource recovery sector, with a goal of generating jobs in regional areas.

“Steps will also be taken to keep e-waste out of landfill and foster Victoria’s emerging waste-to-energy market,” the Budget overview stated.

EPA Victoria CEO Nial Finegan said the significant investment under the Victorian 2017/18 Budget would enable EPA Victoria to fully implement the Victorian Government’s response to the EPA Inquiry.

“This is a very significant investment that provides EPA with great certainty and resourcing to implement our reform commitments and the Government’s vision for EPA over coming years,” Mr Finegan said.

“Through this investment, the Government has pledged its commitment to ensuring EPA is well resourced to become the modern, 21st century regulator envisaged in its response to the Inquiry.”

Mr Finegan said EPA had already delivered on the Government’s early commitments and was now planning for the remaining reforms.

“Victoria’s first Chief Environmental Scientist, Dr Andrea Hinwood, started with EPA Victoria this week and will strengthen and promote our scientific voice,” he said.

“EPA Victoria is committed to modernising to meet Victoria’s environment and human health challenges and will use this funding to deliver an environmental regulator that protects Victorians, and their environment, from the harmful effects of pollution and waste now and into the future.”

“Today’s announcement builds on the commitment made by the Victorian Government earlier this year in its response to the EPA Inquiry, and will allow us to continue to build on the great work already under way.”