No federal funding
In the middle of 2012 Southern Waste Solutions (SWS) received all required permits to construct and operate a Category 3 hazardous waste disposal facility (C-cell) at the site of its existing landfill facility located between Copping and Carlton River.
The project, however, will cost more than $10 million to design and construct and SWS seems to be entirely reliant on federal government funding or raising private finance. The state government has ruled out funding it. SWS’s application earlier in the year to the Australian Government’s Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) was recently rejected and this is an enormous set back for the project.
This was great news for the local community and the TCT, who have cooperated closely in an attempt to stop the proposed C-cell. The local Southern Beaches Conservation Society (SBCS) delivered 2500 form letters, signed by local residents, to the RDAF selection panel. If ever there was any thought on the RDAF panel or in the minister’s office that this project might be funded, this campaign surely gave them reason to think twice. Well done to the SBCS for the countless hours they spent on letter-writing stalls outside supermarkets in Sorell and Dodges Ferry.
The proponents will undoubtedly seek funding elsewhere and the TCT and SBCS are planning to identify possible sources and convince them also to not fund the C-cell.
Showing SWS a new way to deal with hazardous waste
I spoke at the ‘Waste of Tasmania Expo’, held on Parliament House lawns on 29 June, which was organised by the Southern Beaches Conservation Society to focus attention on the alternatives to disposal of waste into landfill.
I urged the community to recognise how the TCT and the community, working together, had helped to make SWS more transparent and accountable and that these changes give us a great opportunity to influence SWS’s future direction.
Because of the TCT’s direct lobbying of the state government and the public pressure from the anti-C-cell campaign, the state government’s Local Government Board required that SWS make a raft of changes to how it operates. Before these changes were made, we had never dealt with a government body that was so inscrutable; for instance SWS did not have a website until last September and the councils who own it seemed to have no idea what it was doing and why.
Now SWS makes a great deal of information available on its website and is required to report at council meetings each month. We must use this new openness and accountability to our advantage.
We need to pressure SWS to deliver on its mission statement to ‘where possible, utilize waste’. Currently SWS’s strategic plan fails to articulate any commitment or actions in regard to reuse of hazardous waste, but it should.
With SWS reporting each month to the four councils who own it, members of the community need to urge their local councillors to question SWS about what it is doing to implement its mission to ‘utlize waste’. The councils should be directing SWS to identify alternative business opportunities that involve reuse and treatment of waste and to compare the costs and benefits (financial, employment, environmental and social) of these, with the proposed $10 million Copping C-cell.
Changing community attitudes to dealing with hazardous waste
The other direction we need to take is to address the general ignorance of the alternatives to landfill.
Since the Copping C-cell proposal first hit the headlines about 12 months ago, I have lost track of how many conversations I have had with people who say, ‘Well, the waste must go somewhere,’ – i.e. go to landfill. These people are fearful of hazardous waste, don’t want it near them and cannot conceive of other ways of dealing with it, let alone imagine it being valuable.
The community needs to be made aware of the many other ways in which we can reduce the production of hazardous waste and reuse or treat it. The Expo was one very good way to achieve this..
But ignorance is no excuse for the state government. It received very good advice, the 2008 report by Sustainable Infrastructure Australia, which identified numerous alternatives to landfill that are technically possible and potentially financially viable in Tasmania. But it has just sat on this advice.
More and more often state governments fail to show leadership and prefer to follow others.
While the TCT will continue to lobby state government to develop a hazardous waste strategy that encourages and supports industry and local government to look to alternatives to land fill, we cannot just wait for government toact. This is why it is also vital for us all to lobby councils and attempt to change SWS’s strategic direction.