Resource Hub uncovers waste levy windfall for councils

waste levy

Resource Hub is helping local government areas across Australia uncover hidden opportunities to recoup waste levies.

Waste levy exemptions don’t have to be complex. In fact, they can be quite simple; you just need to follow a process.

Establishing that process is where Lacey Webb, Resource Hub Founder and Chief Executive Officer, reigns supreme. Described as an extra set of hands behind the industry, Resource Hub thrives on crunching numbers and putting money back into council coffers.

Resource Hub supports waste operators and local government areas across Australia in becoming more financially and operationally effective and complying with waste levy and waste and resource recovery (WARR) regulations.

As the only dedicated waste levy consultancy in Australia, it is currently working with New South Wales councils to raise awareness of the importance of Operational Purpose Deductions (OPDs) – and with positive results. The team recently clawed back more than $1 million for the Hawkesbury City Council.

“As a former chief financial officer, I am always focused on ensuring profitability through the implementation of good processes,” Lacey says.

“Often process improvement is something people undervalue or under appreciate. But there are huge opportunities to save councils as much money as possible by being as efficient as possible. If my team can help save some coin, I’m up for it.”

Non waste materials are one such opportunity. The New South Wales waste levy doesn’t recognise non-waste. Anything that comes in the gate at a landfill or disposal facility – virgin excavated materials, recycled aggregates, landfill cell liners and piping for leachate or gas flare systems – is considered waste. Operators pay a levy on that waste if it remains on site.

landfill levy
Operational Purpose Deductions can be claimed for landfill cell construction. Image: Resource Hub

But an OPD is the exemption or clawback that operators can apply for if material they paid a levy on was used for an operational purpose.

“It can add up to huge numbers,” Lacey says. “When building a landfill cell, the tonnes of material that facilities bring in are high and can amount to a significant financial burden if not well managed.”

OPDs and anything related to the waste levy, behind-the-scenes administration, and regulatory compliance, often fly under the radar in terms of facility focus. Often, this is because councils struggle to resource or don’t have internal expertise.

In the case of Hawkesbury, council has a waste co-ordinator who is skilled at financial modelling and regulatory oversight. However, the two-year statutory limit to claim back OPD entitlements was close, and the team needed an extra set of hands.

“Hawkesbury council had already paid levy on material that wasn’t technically a waste,” Lacey says. “It was used to build landfill cells and infrastructure. We’ve been able to help them claim back more than $1 million that can now go back into helping build the next project. It goes back into council, and ratepayer, opportunities.”

Lacey says regulatory mechanisms that seem complex can often be simplified with templates and processes. At Hawkesbury, Resource Hub set up a repeatable tool for future claims.

Any time the council has work on site and needs to claw back that levy, the team can use their new templates to input raw data and pull out a summary. The template also helps build supporting evidence for the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) when a claim is submitted and includes multiple reconciling factors to give the EPA confidence to approve faster.

While there is no statutory timeframe requirement for when an OPD application is assessed, the Hawkesbury submission was approved in under three months and every item claimed was approved.

“The data, information gathering and crunching! It’s been a pleasure to work with Resource Hub and a great learning opportunity,” says Justin Murphy, Council’s Co-ordinator Waste Projects.

“OPD’s are not just about finances,” Lacey says. “The process has helped Hawkesbury Council develop its relationship with the EPA, which will have broader benefits.”

Resource Hub is building a transparent and working relationship with the regulatory authority in every state because it helps deliver great outcomes. Having a specialist third party assist councils also gives authorities confidence that the data submitted for OPD applications is accurate and meets standards.

“When a regulator sees a solution that works or makes their assessment easier, they’re not hesitant,” Lacey says.

Resource Hub is currently supporting seven local governments within New South Wales to draft their OPD claims. In Hawkesbury’s case, their application dealt with ‘real numbers’ because the work had been completed. While more challenging, OPD applications can also be pre-emptive. 

landfill levy
Landfill cell construction. Image: Resource Hub

The benefit of a pre-construction claim is that facilities don’t require the cash flow for project levies up front. However, it does require solid predictions about the type and volume of materials to be used. 

Kempsey Regional Council is currently working through the process of claiming historical OPDs but is also transitioning to a pre-construction approach in future.

Jason Magill, Kempsey Shire Council Waste Manager, says it’s good to know the council is now on the right track.

Lacey says the council was under-resourced and was going through an internal restructure. It was working with the EPA when it identified projects for which OPDs hadn’t been claimed.

It’s a similar case at Byron Shire Council. The council realised a waste levy liability existed when it discovered construction materials used on site were considered a “levyable stockpile” in volumetric survey.

“OPD claims can fly under the radar if councils don’t have the human resources or regular monthly routines to work on levy,” Lacey says.

“Resource Hub establishes a process to ensure weighbridge or volume data is appropriately structured. It’s often as simple as capturing transactions with real-time data of material coming in. Facilities also may not know to keep product sampling records to demonstrate that materials meet specifications or may not have captured internal movements of material used.”

For Hawkesbury, Byron and Kempsey councils, the solution was providing a list of the type of projects and materials eligible for OPD, and the evidence needed for an application – the data, the plans, and even how best to provide photographs.

Lacey Webb. Image: Resource Hub

Lacey describes it as empowering councils on what to look for.

Four years after its founding, Resource Hub now supports all significant commercial landfill operators in Queensland and 80 per cent of the state’s waste levy local government market with their levy obligations. 

In 2023, the team expanded services to include New South Wales and already has clients in Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria. In 2024, the team has its sights on simplifying levy processes for Tasmania. 

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