Benalla Rural City Mayor Don Firth has come out in support of the council’s management of the controversial landfill, pointing the blame for cost blowouts at the Environment Protection Authority’s imposition of tougher landfill regulations.
Cr Firth told The Ensign he believed the state government should be providing more funding to cover the increase in construction and rehabilitation costs all councils were facing.
The EPA was forced to radically revise landfill regulations after it was sued by residents of the City of Casey on the south-east outskirts of Melbourne nearly a decade ago when dangerous levels of methane gas from the local landfill threatened the safety and property values of nearby homes.
The City of Casey and EPA paid $23.5 million in compensation.
Cr Firth also called on the state government to refund part of the levies council pays on each tonne of waste, which could then be spent on landfill compliance.
Those levies used to go to the EPA’s Environment Protection Fund, but since 2015 the levies have been passed on to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, which has taken over responsibility for distributing funds to regional waste and resource recovery groups, Sustainability Victoria and EPA.
In the monthly Message from the Mayor (see page 3), Cr Firth said he now understood the cost blow-outs in constructing the new landfill cell were not due to council mismanagement.
‘‘Mistakes were made by the council in management of this project no doubt, however, after reading a lot and talking a lot with the people involved, I believe that given the EPA has control over how councils and other operators of landfill sites in Victoria operate and collect a levy set by them on every tonne of waste we collect, but choose not to return any of this money back to landfill operators to help pay for the ever increasing regulations designed to protect our environment, after all isn’t that the point?’’ Cr Firth said.
He also wanted to make clear the $7.5 million budget blow out for future rehabilitation costs was only an estimate.
‘‘That is for future rehabilitation of the whole landfill site that has been operating since 1990 and is an estimated liability cost that has nothing to do with the cost of the last cell or any of the future cells and what that cost will actually be at the end of the landfill’s life in 40 years is just that — an estimate,’’ Cr Firth said.
‘‘I’m saying all this because I think there is a lot of unnecessary worry and misunderstanding in the community regarding this issue and I hope this helps clear some of it up and remember — If anyone has questions please call me.’’