|The reduced tip fees schedule was published last week.|
Waste disposal fees have been a sore point since the council budget was handed down in the middle of last year, with the issue becoming a frequent topic of discussion, including reports of increased illegal dumping of rubbish.
A month after a tied vote saw the council deadlocked on the issue of reducing its fees, a similar motion found success at the January meeting and was carried five votes to one.
In December, councillors voted 4-4 on Councillor Paul Belcher's motion to remove the charge for depositing green waste, scrap metal and e-waste. Under local government rules, a tied vote is treated as a lost vote.
A similar motion repackaged by mayor Ben Shaw won majority support when councillors Julie Triffett and Luke Browning reversed their opposition at the January meeting, without speaking. Cr Anne Salt voted against the motion and councillors Martyn Evans and Rachel Power were absent from the meeting.
Addressing the January meeting, Cr Shaw acknowledged that a council-appointed working group had recommended against changing the waste disposal fees. "However, the ongoing issues of illegal dumping within the municipality due to council-imposed gate fees continues to be a concern," he said.
"The current impact on ratepayers and council of illegally dumped recyclable items is creating an unnecessary burden within the community," he said, adding that many of the items now being dumped on roadsides and in remote areas could in fact be recycled by the tip contractor without having an impact on the landfill site.
"Essentially it doesn't really cost the council anything because the current operators up there actually remove all of these items, remove all the electronic components, the metal, the steel, and they recycle it, so it's not costing council to take these items through the gate," he said.
He proposed that clean scrap metal, e-waste (electronic or electrical devices), fridges and other whitegoods (clothes dryers, washing machines, dishwashers) should be accepted free of charge at council tip sites, provided they have been separated from general rubbish. "Where these items are not separated, the general domestic gate fee is applicable," Cr Shaw said.
Cr Salt said the working group established to review the fees had acknowledged that the operational costs of the Peppermint Hill waste site was greater than the revenue received. "As such, any reduction to the current fees and charges would result in a budget shortfall," she said. "I think, this far into the budget, we need to see more data ... and we should wait until the end of the financial year."
Cr Belcher said he was happy to support the motion even though he felt it did not go far enough. "I think we should still be offering free green waste [disposal], we use it down on the tip face so it saves us money from bringing in gravel to cover the tip face and in the long run there could be an income where we sell off garden mulch."
Cr Belcher said the working group referred to by Cr Salt had not briefed the council and he did not know how it had been formed. "It was supposed to have councillors, ratepayers, business owners, council employees [but] I didn't see it advertised, that group, so I don't know where those people came from."
Closing the debate, Cr Shaw said the increased tip fees in the 2018/19 budget had so far resulted in lost income of $150,000. "It's had a negative effect on people bringing waste in, [so] where are they dumping the waste? They are dumping it anywhere they can because it's costing too much."
In written advice to councillors, an unidentified manager said data from the tip site showed 183 loads of scrap metal had been received so far this financial year, along with 184 loads of e-waste, 53 fridges and 29 whitegoods.
Under the 2018/19 council budget, the following charges applied:
- Scrap metal, clean: $12 or one tip voucher per cubic metre
- E-waste: $12 per or one tip voucher per cubic metre
- Fridges: $24 or three tip vouchers per item
- White goods: $11 or one tip voucher per item
Following the January council decision, all those items can now be deposited free of charge, provided they have been separated from general rubbish. Cr Shaw's motion also removed a 25% administration charge on the supply of sharps containers but he withdrew his proposal for a flat-rate seasonal hire fee for council sportsgrounds.
Incorrect advice from council management informed councillors that Cr Shaw's motion required unanimous support if it was to succeed. This led to an interjection from the public gallery when the motion passed with an absolute majority (half of all councillors, plus one) rather than unanimously. The situation went unexplained.