Queensland's new waste strategy brings back landfill levy
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a strategy to stop Queensland from being a dumping ground for interstate waste — but not every element of the strategy is brand new.
The strategy follows an investigation into the transfer of interstate waste into Queensland, led by Justice Peter Lyons QC, and the release of a final report and recommendations based on this investigation.
“Following the findings and recommendations from Justice Lyons’ 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,” Palaszczuk said.
“We will also establish a Stakeholder Advisory Group, with representatives from industry, to help develop Queensland’s waste management framework.”
Palaszczuk said the strategy will be underpinned by a waste levy, marking the return of a policy that was scrapped by the LNP in 2012. According to Palaszczuk, this made Queensland “a cheap place to dump [waste]” and also resulted in “a number of lost economic opportunities for the local waste industry in terms of investment and employment”.
“It is estimated that 2.8 jobs are supported for every 10,000 tonnes of waste that goes to landfill,” noted Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch. “But if that same waste was recycled, that would support 9.2 jobs.
“Currently, Queensland produces approximately 5.5 million tonnes of waste that ends up in landfill. In 2016–17, nearly 1 million of that was interstate waste.”
Palaszczuk said the results of public consultation and feedback from the Stakeholder Advisory Group will inform the specifics about the levy arrangements. She noted that the strategy will incorporate measures to avoid costs for households, standing by her commitment that the government will not increase taxes for Queensland households.
“We need to ensure that big construction companies and unscrupulous operators in the waste industry will no longer take advantage of Queenslanders,” she said.
Enoch said the government’s strategy looks at long-term solutions; it will thus “set the direction for waste management in Queensland and provide clarity and certainty for investment and business planning”.
“This will allow us to build a diverse and sustainable waste management industry that delivers long-term value to our environment, new jobs for our communities and confidence to invest in Queensland,” she said. She added that the introduction of a levy will create a price signal to the market to encourage increased recycling and attract new investment into the industry in Queensland.
The reintroduction of the landfill levy has been welcomed by the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA), which had called on the Queensland Government to act prior to the announcement. In September last year, the association began calling on members, operators and stakeholders in the sector to sign a Waste of Origin Pledge in order for the industry to further the conversation with government.
The association is therefore pleased that the government has answered the industry and public’s call for action due to a small number of waste industry operators continuing to use irresponsible and dangerous practices, including transportation of waste over many hundreds of kilometres to avoid paying landfill levies.
“We want to see waste managed in accordance with the hierarchy and as close as possible to where it was produced; this is a real opportunity to create local jobs and investment in this essential sector,” said WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan. “Transportation of waste over long distances just to avoid levies is irresponsible, dangerous and environmentally damaging.”
The WMAA is continuing to work nationally with all state governments to achieve a national harmonised approach to waste and resource recovery management, to both ensure a level playing field for operators and ensure that this service is provided to the public in a professional and safe manner.
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