The region is missing out on vital waste management upgrades while half a billion dollars sits idle in a state government fund, south-west councils say.
Warrnambool and Corangamite councils are calling on the government to dip into its landfill levy to help fund local projects, including possible solutions to the ongoing recycling crisis.
It follows an auditor general’s report that showed Victoria was lagging far behind other states when it came to returning money from the levy, which is collected through councils, to the community.
The Managing the Municipal and Industrial Landfill Levy report showed Victoria's Sustainability Fund has spent 48 per cent of the $829 million in its coffers since 2009. In comparison, the NSW Environment Trust gives back more than 90 per cent of its annual income.
The report also showed that over the past three years payments to state agencies have increased by 71 per cent from $76.1 million in 2015-16 to a forecast $130.5 million in 2017-18.
Warrnambool City Council chief executive officer Bruce Anson said concerns persisted about the viability of the kerbside co-mingled recycling collection service in its current form.
However, the city has been previously unsuccessful in a funding pitch for a feasibility study for a south-west waste to energy plant.
The council is now embarking on a new research partnership with Deakin University to investigate best-practice waste management.
The success of Warrnambool’s food and organic waste trial has also increased pressure on the council to roll that program out quickly, Mr Anson said.
Warrnambool City councillor David Owen said he hoped the research project would show the city had a strong case for government funding.
“The state government (is) withholding half a billion dollars of landfill money and using most of it to maintain its Triple A rating, we may well find this research shows that Warrnambool has a strong case for funding from government to deliver an outcome for our community and perhaps the whole region,” he said.
“It was, again, very disappointing to miss out on $120,000 for a feasibility study into waste to energy.”
Cr Peter Hulin said money from the landfill levy could help give councils the infrastructure to help people “do the right thing” with their waste and recycling.
“They have all this money now from the levy. We have obviously things that we could do here to separate the rubbish and make it a more saleable product, but we need some of that money to be able to put the infrastructure in to do it.”
Corangamite Shire mayor Jo Beard said the council’s ratepayers were handing over about $1 million to the fund each year, with no sign of any benefit.
“Our residents are essentially paying twice by footing the bill for higher waste charges as a result of the global recycling crisis, while the levy basically disappears,” she said.
Cr Beard said not only was the recycling crisis a “ticking time bomb”, but the council also had a number of projects that would benefit from levy cash. These include an in-vessel composting facility at the regional landfill at Naroghid, landfill gas extraction for power generation, waste to energy projects like wood boilers at hospitals and pools, and transfer station upgrades to improve recycling.