The Queensland Government has revealed a strategy to stop Queensland from being a “dumping ground” for interstate waste.
It comes after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk released the final report and recommendations of last year’s three-month investigation into the transfer of interstate waste into Queensland, led by Justice Peter Lyons QC.
The government is also releasing its response to the report, which was commissioned last year. Off the back of this report, the government revealed its strategy will be underpinned by a waste levy, which Ms Palaszczuk said would avoid costs for households. Unconfirmed reports by The Courier Mail suggest the levy will be in the order of $60-70 a tonne, which would be similar to the NSW landfill levy at $79.60 per tonne.
The Courier Mail also reported the Treasurer Jackie Trade will look at the levy rate as part of her Budget deliberations.
“Following the findings and recommendations from Justice Lyons’s report, my government is developing a comprehensive waste and recycling strategy that will stem the tide of incoming interstate waste and set the direction for sustainable waste management in Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“We will also establish a Stakeholder Advisory Group, with representatives from industry, to help develop Queensland’s waste management framework.”
Ms Palaszczuk said the results of public consultation and feedback from the Stakeholder Advisory Group would inform the specifics about the levy arrangements.
“We did have a levy in Queensland but in 2012 it was recklessly scrapped by the LNP, which made Queensland a cheap place to dump.”
“That action also resulted in a number of lost economic opportunities for the local waste industry in terms of investment and employment.”
Ms Palaszczuk said the government will consult with Queenslander as it finalises the design of what it says is a comprehensive waste strategy.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the Palaszczuk Government’s strategy looked at longer term solutions, and the need to increase recycling.
She said the strategy will set the direction for waste management in Queensland, and provide clarity and certainty for investment and business planning.
“The Queensland Government is fully committed to delivering a strategic, robust and effective resource recovery and waste management program.”
Ms Enoch said currently, Queensland produces approximately 5.5 million tonnes of waste that ends up in landfill. In 2016-17, nearly one million of that was interstate waste.
She said that the introduction of a levy would create a price signal to the market to encourage increased recycling and attract new investment into the industry in Queensland.
A Queensland Treasury Corporation report into economic opportunities for Queensland’s waste industry, the Recycling and Waste in Queensland 2017 report and a draft terms of reference for a Stakeholder Advisory Group will also be released today.
Rick Ralph, Chief Executive Officer of industry Association – Waste and Recycling Industry Queensland, welcomed the announcement, but argued levies in their own right will not create jobs unless confidence is restored for regulatory planning and infrastructure.
“It is critical the conversation emerging from this announcement is about Queensland having a solid policy framework that clearly articulates where we want to be and how we get there. It must be about business and economic outcomes and not linked to peripheral issues such as interstate waste or a distraction simply about a waste levy, what’s in and what’s not,” he said, adding the the lessons of the past should not be repeated.
He said the planning and regulatory framework must be resolved for development applications, to ensure businesses have the confidence to invest in new infrastructure. It comes after Austin BMI’s proposed development application for a new landfill at Ipswich, which has been met with considerable opposition.
“A levy in its own right will not create jobs without the confidence to develop. Otherwise, we will end up in a situation where we spend years of being stuck in the Planning and Environment Court and a levy simply goes to general revenue and not back into the sector.”
The Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW Executive Director Tony Khoury welcomed the news.
“In our view a properly structured waste levy will have a net positive impact on Queensland’s landfill diversion rates and will benefit the local recycling sector. For the levy to be truly effective, it should by design apply to all categories of waste including municipal, commercial/industrial and construction/demolition waste. Equally, if a Queensland waste levy is to be truly effective it should at least be the equivalent of the NSW Regional waste levy, currently $79.60 per tonne,” he said.
Mr Khoury said it was imperative that the levy is supported by a well resourced Queensland EPA.
He said that while Queensland may be introducing a waste levy, it is imperative that within NSW, operators continue to strive to improve their our own waste management regulations.
“The NSW waste levy has clearly subsidised the long distance transport of waste from NSW to Queensland. However, a really bad outcome would be for the NSW waste levy to now subsidise the transport of waste to other jurisdictions. To this extent, WCRA will continue to work with the NSW EPA to identify and address any other perverse waste levy outcomes.”
Waste and water management company SUEZ welcomed the Queensland Government’s decision.
Chief Executive Officer of SUEZ in Australia & New Zealand, Mark Venhoek, said the interstate transport of waste is an unnecessary and unsustainable practice which is driven purely by profits. Mr Venhoek said SUEZ was absolutely opposed to the practice and does not transport waste interstate for disposal in landfills.
Mr Venhoek welcomed the government’s focus on sustainable waste management which he said will drive innovation and investment in resource recovery and recycling.
“Communities expectations and our customers’ expectations have changed. They are increasingly looking for ways to put their waste to good use and divert waste from landfill,” Mr Venhoek said.
Mr Venhoek said a comprehensive waste strategy supported by an appropriate waste levy will stop the unnecessary transport of waste and provide a unique opportunity for companies like SUEZ to invest in new resource recovery infrastructure in Queensland.
“We operate a wide variety of recycling and resource recovery facilities around Australia and the world and we’re excited about the prospects for the Queensland market.
“SUEZ looks forward to contributing to the government’s waste strategy and the development of a circular economy in Queensland,” he said.