YOU now have to pay to dispose of green waste at tips and transfer stations in South Gippsland. On July 1 new fees of $10 per cubic metre came into effect. The transfer stations will convert the waste to mulch which will then be available free to householders (to a maximum load size of three cubic metres).
The move brings South Gippsland Shire into line with its neighbours – and most other municipalities across the state – but it has met with howls of protest from sections of the population.
Residents of the Mirboo North area, led by Ian Bristow and Bill Keech, have been particularly vehement in their opposition. Mr Keech circulated a petition calling for Council to repeal the charge. It gathered more than 700 signatures. Mr Bristow and Mr Keech pressed their case in presentations to Council, arguing that many people will not be able to afford the fee and will be tempted to instead dump their green waste by the side of the road or stockpile it, creating health or fire hazards.
The shire councillors expressed some sympathy, however the majority were convinced of the merits of introducing a “user pays” system.
There will be an annual spring amnesty period, to run from the Saturday prior to the Melbourne Cup through until the end of December, where residents can dispose of green waste free of charge.
Estimates put the annual cost of managing South Gippsland’s green waste at $296,000. No income is received to offset this cost and since 2006/07 the amount of waste and the associated costs have increased significantly. The cash-strapped Council has seized upon charging for green waste as one small way in which it can claw back some of its costs.
“The cost to Council is considerable; this is about introducing a user pays system,” said Cr Mohya Davies, noting that South Gippsland has had to wear the additional burden of people from neighbouring shires – where there is a charge for green waste – turning up at local transfer stations to dump their green waste for free. “Our ratepayers are paying for waste from other shires.”
She suggested savings in green waste management could be used to investigate kerbside collection.
Cr Jeanette Harding expressed concern for elderly ratepayers who do not own a trailer with which to cart their green waste to a transfer station. “Do they have to pay someone to take the waste to the tip and then pay for the waste to be accepted?”
Hers was the lone vote in Council against the introduction of the charge, though Cr Bob Newton said later that he wished he hadn’t voted for the charge. “I have already seen rubbish dumped on the side of the road.”
“This is not for cost recovery or the fee would be much more,” said Cr Andrew McEwen. The councillor, who is known as a strong advocate for sustainability, would like to see Council moving more quickly on some of the initiatives discussed in its waste management strategy. He supports Council establishing a green waste collection system and thinks it should be investigating the feasibility of bio-composting. Cr McEwen cited the ‘City to Soil’ system run by a number of councils in NSW, which sees domestic food waste collected, composted and distributed to local farmers and residents.
“I’d like to see South Gippsland introducing a similar scheme,” he said.
Cr McEwen said he hoped a pilot scheme for green waste collection bins could commence in 12 to 18 months in a town or two in South Gippsland, with a view to rolling out a full system across the shire after two or three years. Until then he would like to see a voucher system for pensioners and anyone else struggling to meet the green waste charges.