16.08.2017

Queensland probe to dig into NSW rubbish rorts


The Queensland government has started significantly increasing pressure on neighbouring states and Australia’s national waste management industry over the practice of illegally hauling massive amounts of garbage into the state to game cheaper landfill prices.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced the Queensland government will now run a three month investigation into the rorting of rubbish transportation regulations, a move that follows a damning ABC Four Corners exposé of widespread waste industry abuse of dumping laws.

The investigation centred on the practice of hauling rubbish north across the Queensland border to avoid a NSW landfill levy of $138 per tonne as well as systemic deficiencies that have resulted in massive stockpiles of recyclables like glass that have become unviable to reprocess domestically.

Waste in NSW is not supposed to be hauled for dumping more than 150km from where it is collected under NSW Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules. However provisions in the Constitution limiting restrictions on trade between states have made EPA enforcement problematic and arguably ineffective.

On Tuesday the Queensland Premier revealed state authorities there had moved to start checking trucks at the state border to stem the tide of filthy lucre.

“We have had officers on the ground blitzing interstate trucking to stop any waste transportation that is illegal,” Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles said.

“With the assistance of [the Department of Transport and Main Roads] trucks are being stopped at sites along the border and checked for their full compliance with waste laws and regulations.

“Of the 49 waste trucks inspected by [the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection], 31 came from interstate, which is 63 per cent – demonstrating a high level of interstate activity in south-east Queensland.

The announcement of the investigation comes as the Palaszczuk government continues to hold the line that it will not reintroduce a landfill levy like NSW, a move that would send a price signal to rogue operators but also hit Queensland residents hard.

Landfill is a hot topic in Queensland because weather related incidents like floods and storms already place enormous pressure on residents and councils in terms of rubbish removal.

The Queensland government is now hoping that dragging the waste industry to the table during the investigation will prompt operators to clean up their act.

The scope of the investigation will include:

  • Incentives for movement of waste from other states and how to prevent this from occurring
  • Illegal practices and possible breaches of regulations
  • Need for regulatory reform
  • The role of other states and the Commonwealth

The head of the investigation is yet to be announced, however the Premier has committed to having a report from it put back to government by mid-November 2017.