Dirt flies in a war of words on waste levy

A PUBLIC war of words has broken out between South Coast MP Shelley Hancock and Shoalhaven City Council general manager Russ Pigg over rubbish.

Mr Pigg last week launched a broadside at the state government over a proposed increase to the waste levy, which he says will rip $6 million out of the city with little return.

The levy was introduced to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill, with councils told money would go back to local communities for recycling and other environmentally sustainable projects.

In the last two years council has paid more than $11 million dollars in waste levies and to date has received just over $850,000 in return.

Council is expecting a further payment of $230,000 in July.

In 2011 it received $542,000.

“Council is very much opposed to the impost of a further 12 per cent increase in the waste levy in 2014/15 to $120.90 per tonne,” Mr Pigg wrote in a strongly worded email to both Mrs Hancock and Kiama MP Gareth Ward.

“This will result in more than $6 million of our ratepayer funds being taken out of the Shoalhaven and into Treasury coffers with little returned from that pool of funds. It’s equivalent to about $120 per household across the city.”

Mrs Hancock hit back saying if Shoalhaven was not getting its fair share, Mr Pigg needed to change the way council applied for funds.

“He needs to ensure his council is visionary and proactive in applying for money to come back to the Shoalhaven,” she said.

“Making sure those applications are for projects which address environmental projects within the Shoalhaven.

“The whole idea of the waste levy is to reduce waste. If council could find ways to reduce the amount of waste going into its landfill it wouldn’t be paying close to $6 million.

“We have to do something to reduce waste, we can’t continue to endlessly create more landfill areas; we simply don’t have the land.

“Council is doing well with its polystyrene and cardboard recycling programs but has to come up with some other innovative ideas to reduce its tonnage of waste.”

Mrs Hancock said she was disappointed the issue was played out in the media.

“Both myself and Kiama MP Gareth Ward have worked closely with the council general manager, meeting on a regular basis where any issues, either Mr Pigg or we had, could be raised,” she said.

Mrs Hancock’s said future discussions she needed to have with council would be with Mayor Joanna Gash.

“She is the only person I will deal with in the future – but only when she is better – I won’t be burdening her with any of this.”

The war of words erupted on the same day the state government announced Shoalhaven City Council would receive $261,694 in funding to improve waste and recycling performance as part of the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

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