Goulburn Mulwaree Council is sending a loud and clear message to the state government that it does not want to become the "dumping ground" for Sydney's waste.
With two proposed waste to energy facilities and more in the wind for the local government area already, Greens councillor Leah Ferrara says it's time to take a stand.
The Bungonia and district community has pushed back against Jerrara Power's plans for such a facility at 974 Jerrara Road. On Tuesday, councillors were also asked to respond to Veolia Environmental Services' request for SEARS (the state's environmental requirements) for a $600 million Advanced Energy Recovery plant at Woodlawn, near Tarago. The proposal is touted to divert 380,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill and generate enough power for 50,000 homes.
But Cr Ferrara says 'enough is enough' until the state government develops a firm policy on the technology, its standards, locations and assesses whether they are in the community's best interests.
"The government needs a policy so that councils like ours can have certainty in our area because that's what it comes down to," she said.
"It is our area, our home, not theirs and we don't want their rubbish. We are not their dumping ground."
At Tuesday night's meeting, she won unanimous support for her motion that:
- The council advise the government it would be inappropriate to issue any more SEARS until a policy on facilities that handle and/or process waste from outside the receiving council area has been developed and endorsed;
- Goulburn Mulwaree Council will oppose any waste to energy and/or external waste facilities until a policy is developed that establishes they are in the best interests of the communities, the environment, human health and biodiversity health;
- Such a policy should limit new waste management facilities to one in any LGA, where waste is predominantly sourced from outside; establish expected environmental outcomes, especially air quality; determine appropriate locations and zonings, avoiding national parks and other environmental areas; involve meaningful community consultation; and sets out "technology outcomes that safeguard the environment, human, animal and environmental health";
- The mayor will seek support for this position through the Canberra Joint Regional Organisation of Councils, Regional Cities NSW and Country Mayors NSW.
The council conveyed this position to the state government on Wednesday.
It followed a meeting between Mayor Bob Kirk, general manager Warwick Bennett, Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman and state planning minister Rob Stokes in Sydney last Thursday. Cr Kirk said he sought the meeting to voice concern over the planning processes for the plants to date and to represent community opposition.
"We reinforced the fact we didn't want to become a dumping ground for Sydney's waste," he said.
"...We don't want a proliferation because companies think we're easier to get to, there won't be as many voices (as Sydney) to oppose them and who want an easy answer. We don't want to be the easy answer but nor do we think any other councils should be either."
The government did release a draft policy statement on waste to energy plants earlier this year and called for public submissions. Consultation has now closed.
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Cr Kirk said the minister took on board his question that if other countries around the world were locating the plants in capital cities due to their apparent safety, why wasn't Sydney.
Both Veolia and Jerrara Power propose to treat predominantly Sydney waste including residual municipal solid, commercial and industrial and residual waste feedstock.
Jerrara Action Group and Bungonia Action for Clean Air have sprung up in response to the Bungonia proposal. The former presented to councillors before Tuesday's meeting. Spokesperson Alan Brady said the group received a good hearing and councillors asked informed questions. Members reinforced what they said were well-founded concerns about the plant's "significant health impacts."
Cr Ferrara agrees more research and stricter standards are needed but says the waste model is "flawed."
"We're spending $7m to $8m on a facility at Goulburn that encourages people to reduce, recycle and re-use waste, which is where all councils should be going into the future," she said.
"We're also doing amazing things with out food waste and compost because that's where the methane comes from."
She said any waste model that encouraged incineration was a disincentive to companies and investors to find greener alternatives.
"It is a quick fix," Cr Ferrara said.
"...By describing it as waste to energy they think it will create a warm fuzzy feeling. They say they will generate enough power for 50,000 homes but it you consider how much it costs to power the facility, are we gaining anything? Meantime, there are all the toxins and health impacts."
She believed it was unfair that state planning laws could override councils, given the developments would have "massive impacts."
Earlier, general manager Warwick Bennett told the meeting he was astounded to learn this week that only one of about 40 councils in the Sydney basin was recycling its food waste. The process is well advanced in Goulburn Mulwaree.
Cr Kirk told The Post that the community had been "screaming" for the council to take a stance on the Bungonia proposal but the process, under which there was no formal plan at this stage, had held them back.
However the Woodlawn plan provided the ideal opportunity to call for a policy position, he said.
"I hope this sends a message," he said.
Meantime, councillors called for a raft of issues for Veolia to address in their EIS. These included air quality and odour; human health risk; greenhouse gas emissions; noise and vibration; traffic and transport; hazard and risk; waste feedstock availability and management, and social impacts.
They wanted consultation with all residents within a 6.75km radius, demonstration that emission capture technology exceeded European and NSW standards and nil health impact, a reassessment of the haul route and provision of a climbing lane for trucks on Bungendore Road, an independent critical review of the proposal and a minimum three-month community consultation period.
Finally, councillors resolved that "they did not support this type of infrastructure in the LGA and expressed its disappointment in the process thus far."
Both Cr Kirk and Cr Ferrara said as the Woodlawn proposal had progressed to SEARS stage, the council had to formally respond on behalf of the community. However they did not want the State to issue any more such guidelines for other waste to energy plants in this area.
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