A lack of trust is just one issue that Queensland state government has when it comes to dividing up monies it collects from landfill levies. Millions of dollars from the State Government’s waste management fund could flow back into communities through a proposed new government scheme as a major stakeholder demands action from ministers.
Waste and Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) is urging the Queensland Government to allocate five per cent of Queensland’s waste levy ($14M) to be used as a Landfill Community Benefit Fund to support a range of community generated initiatives providing opportunities, resources and funding to some of Queensland’s most disadvantaged communities.
The recommendation is the result of a new WRIQ report, backed by key industry players, which details how the Queensland Government can create better outcomes for communities and work toward the State’s waste reduction and climate change objectives.
WRIQ CEO Mark Smith is calling on the State Government to recognise the environmental injustices faced by some communities in Queensland which have borne the brunt of short-sightedness from key decision makers over consecutive governments.
“Almost $300M was skimmed away from Queensland businesses and homes in one year of the waste levy, over 3 years that balloons out to what will likely be close to $900M,” Smith said.
“This money should be to improve outcomes for Queensland communities today and tomorrow but that’s not what is happening. What WRIQ is advocating for is 5% of these funds are allocated back to communities that are near critical sites.
“I’ve spoken to a range of community members at different events or forums and almost non-one is aware that we tax-payers are currently paying hundreds of millions into a government funding bucket has no appropriate governance or oversight measures in place.”
Smith wants better outcomes for Queenslanders from the levy fund which amounted to $294 million at the end of the 2020 financial year. Media release – WRIQ
“The State Government and related decision-makers fail to understand the critical role they play in building community confidence and trust in a vital service that is indispensable to Queensland households and the Queensland economy,” Smith said.
“The State Government should acknowledge that an unfair situation exists for both community and businesses because of short-sighted strategic planning for our State’s future needs and an outdated regulatory approach.”
The WRIQ is proposing money collected in the Landfill Community Benefit Fund should not be allocated back to benefit the private sector or subside what the State Government or Local Councils are already funded to do. It should be used to benefit communities and could range from community gardens and greenspace, sponsor higher education scholarships, community events, heritage protection or restoration initiatives, fund community groups, bio-diversity or animal rehabilitation.
“This concept isn’t new. The Government already has similar programs in place like the Gambling Community Benefit Fund,” Smith said.
“What is new with what we are advocating for, is the Government to involve the community and other stakeholders in the decision making about what should be funded and for this Fund it to be run independent to the private sector and the State Government.”
Smith highlighted the recent investigation WRIQ has carried out into how State Government approached grant administration identified inconsistencies and ambiguous decision making and highlights stakeholder’s lack of trust in the processes surrounding grant administration.
“What we would like to see with the Landfill Community Benefit Fund is a fund that has independence in its decision making and not allocating money or funding back to the waste industry, to local councils or the State Government but rather funding for the community directly,” Smith said.
The WRIQ CEO also wants Queensland to improve their recycling rate which is trending down and significantly lower than other Australian states and first world countries.
“The State Government didn’t make too much noise during National Recycling Week (last week) and it’s probably because there isn’t anything to celebrate at the moment,” Smith said. “The waste levy is the centre piece of the State Government’s waste and recycling strategy and recycling rates have dropped since it was introduced.”
Queensland’s local government or municipal recycling rates are less than 31 per cent while we see rates in NSW (42 per cent), Victoria (43 per cent) higher with South Australia smashing it with some parts of that state hitting above 50 per cent recycling,” the WRIQ CEO said.
“Queensland is lagging behind the rest of the country and we cannot be here when the Olympics arrive on our door. At this rate we’ll have shiny new stadiums, brand new trains and recycling rates that belong in the 1990s.”
The WRIQ waste and recycling proposal was released on Thursday 11 November 2021, with the peak body soon to engage with other industry bodies and call on elected officials to review and submit their feedback to the proposal. actively calling industry representatives and government bodies to review and submit their feedback to the proposal.