President’s Column

Last week I attended the Environment Ministers meeting in Canberra, which was chaired by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt and attended by state and territory environment ministers.  This is an important forum for considering environmental issues of national importance and it is pleasing that the Federal and State governments have recognised the importance of including ALGA in these discussions.  After all, it has been estimated that about half of Australia's total government expenditure on environmental matters is undertaken by local government.    

There were a number of issues on the agenda including the National Clean Air Agreement, waste initiatives, the Emissions Reduction Fund, environmental regulation and threatened species and the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.

Of particular note for local government were the discussions around the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme.  The experience of many councils with this scheme has been disappointing and ALGA certainly welcomed the current operational review of the scheme. Ministers at the meeting noted the good progress on the review and confirmed their ongoing support for a shared approach to e-waste management.  Adjustments to the scheme are expected to arise from the review and are scheduled to take effect from 1 July this year.  From a local government perspective, we need a scheme which gets the balance right between the industry’s responsibilities and the burden which falls upon councils and their landfills. 

The 12 month extension of the National Packaging Covenant was discussed. The extension will allow for officials to engage with the industry before coming back to ministers late in 2015.  ALGA will also take part in this engagement process.

The meeting also looked at the issue of microplastics and noted the increasing body of evidence of the significant detrimental impact that plastics are having on the environment including marine ecosystems.

Four jurisdictions have taken strong regulatory action to ban the supply of light weight plastic bags and NSW and South Australia agreed to lead work on a jurisdictional phase down of microbeads. ALGA will seek to work with the states on this matter.

The final issue of note for local government was the discussion on the review of the Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy: 2010-2030 and ministers undertook to engage with business, non-government organisations, local government and the broader community on renewing this significant national policy.  Natural Resource Management is a key area of activity for councils across Australia and it is important that local government is involved in this review. 

The agreed statement released following the meeting can be read in full here.


Mayor Troy Pickard
ALGA President