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VIC recycling reforms; NSW’s in doubt: LGNSW

While Victoria’s recycling system is set to change following an announcement this week by the Andrews State Government, Local Government New South Wales has warned that Australia’s most populous state risks having more of its waste sent to landfill.

Recycling Victoria is a $300m, 10-year plan to create a circular economy through measures including a fourth waste bin (purple for glass), a container deposit scheme from 2023, and a diversion from landfill target of 80 percent.

The decision follows the collapse of SKM Recycling in 2019 and the COAG agreement last August to ban the export of plastics and other waste to countries such as China, which in 2017 said it would no longer accept imports of other countries’ poor quality waste products.

The announcement comes almost 12 months since the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) released its five-point Rescue Our Recycling plan that outlined steps all levels of government could take.

“We welcome the State’s commitment to work with local government on the design of the container deposit scheme and to provide funding and implementation support for the roll-out of separate services for glass and food waste,” Cr Ruth Gstrein, MAV Deputy President (Rural) said.

“We are pleased to see the policy acknowledges that councils will need to tailor service models to the needs of their communities, that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

Cr Gstrein also said the MAV wasn’t surprised by the Victorian Government’s decision to progressively raise the landfill levy over coming years, adding MAV didn’t want Victoria to become a dumping ground for interstate waste.

“We anticipate that the $129 million funding support for kerbside bin reform will only cover a portion of the implementation costs for councils,” she added.

“More funding assistance will be needed to reduce impacts on households.”

Speaking after the Victorian announcement, LGNSW President, Cr Linda Scott said her association and local councils have advocated for more than a year for the NSW Government to reinvest the NSW waste levy in recycling.

“Councils are still waiting on the long-promised state waste strategy,” Cr Scott said.

“Meanwhile, NSW is generating more waste than ever; household recycling and waste diversion rates are stagnating; and existing regulation and procurement policies continue to stymy innovation and the development of new recycled products and markets.

“With export bans on waste material quickly approaching and stockpiles of recycled resources growing in NSW, it is critical for more effort to be made to support the recycling industry to improve waste management practices and boost markets for recyclable materials.”

LGNSW and NSW councils, renewed their call for the NSW Government to save the state’s recycling system in four ways:

1. allowing councils to develop regional waste plans and deliver priority infrastructure;

2.  increase procurement of recycled goods made with domestic content;

3. deliver statewide education campaigns to promote waste avoidance and recycling;

and 4. introduce producer responsibility schemes for problematic materials.

Plastics Summit

These developments come ahead of the National Plastics Summit at Parliament House in Canberra on 2 March that’s been convened by the Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley.

The gathering will feature several federal ministers, many local governments, dozens of industry groups, school children, and the wider public.

ALGA President and Mayor of the City of Prospect, David O’Loughlin, will speak during the session ‘plastics and our daily life’.

Strong local government advocacy behind Commonwealth’s latest drought funding

Advocacy by ALGA and state and territory local government associations has led to the Commonwealth’s expanded drought assistance, which includes support for child care centres that councils called for at the National General Assembly of Local Government.

The Commonwealth on 7 November announced a package which included widening the Drought Communities Extension Programme by six councils to 128 – totaling $128 million and – plus a $50 million fund for council infrastructure projects.

Some of these councils are receiving a second round of funding, as many have already spent the funds allocated earlier.

ALGA and its member state and territory local government associations in drought affected jurisdictions have made numerous representations to Deputy Prime Minister McCormack, Treasurer Frydenberg, Drought Minister Littleproud, and Local Government Minister Coulton, emphasising that councils and communities need support, not just farmers.

“We’re really pleased by today’s announcement because this much needed money will make a real difference to communities hurting amid the relentless drought,” ALGA Acting President, Cr Linda Scott, said.

“Councils have identified a range of projects that can be rolled out rapidly to support their communities, including farmers and farm-dependent businesses. Wherever possible, these projects have multiple benefits including jobs, infrastructure upgrades and community wellbeing.

“In addition to building resilience, these projects also create local jobs, not just for farmers but also other types of local workers who’ve been unable to find employment due to the drought.”

The Commonwealth added Greater Hume, Hilltops, Lockhart and Upper Lachlan (all in NSW) and South Australia’s Tatiara and Kangaroo Island to the list of 122 eligible councils that received $1m each in September 2019.

Those 128 councils can also apply for $138.9 million in Roads to Recovery Funding in calendar year 2020.

There’s also $5 million from the Community Child Care Fund for centres which have lost income because families can’t families can’t afford fees, and $10m for drought-affected schools.

The National General Assembly in June passed Forbes Shire Council’s motion which called on the Minister for Education to provide additional ‘Drought Relief Payments’ to regionally based child care centres, mobile pre-schools and Preschools to pass onto families as free pre-school places and attendance for -5-year-olds.

The ALGA Board noted the resolution and wrote to Education Minister Dan Tehan MP and Minister for Water Resources and Drought, David Littleproud MP.

Mr Tehan replied to ALGA in October, and on 7 November said the Commonwealth would provide $15 million to ensure childcare centres and schools could stay open amid the drought.

Climate Change

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth also yesterday released a report by former Drought Co-ordinator General Major General Stephen Day, which was dated April 2019, and the government’s response.

“As a consequence of climate change, drought is likely to be more regular, longer in duration, and broader in area”, Major General Day’s report said, adding some areas of Australia could become “more marginal and unproductive.”

His recommendations include a pilot community resilience program for a not-for-profit organisation to work with local governments and communities to help their ability to “adapt and cope with chronic stresses and acute shocks”.

That pilot project should be evaluated, with the findings informing consideration of a national program, the Major General added.

The Commonwealth noted that recommendation and said it was “partially implemented through two programs” – the Drought Communities Program and project grants via the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.