Hike in waste levy protested at council meeting

Darren Graham, back, addressing the council.

AN anticipated “wheelie bin” protest did not eventuate at this week’s Derwent Valley Council meeting but councillors and staff were left in no doubt about the attitude of many locals about the recent increase to the council’s waste management levy.

Police were once again posted outside the meeting but the oversized pitchfork carried into the meeting by Willow Court Antiques owner Hadyn Pearce was clearly deemed to be no threat as it was left propped up inside the inner doors of the courthouse.

Having led a social media discussion about council matters including the recently-approved budget and increases in fees and charges, local resident Darren Graham and several supporters attended the open forum prior to the council meeting to air their concerns.

Mr Graham said the increase in the price of the council’s “tip tickets” was unwarranted and particularly unfair on those who do not have a household rubbish and recycling collection. “It’s just a joke. Every year it’s just got dearer and dearer,” Mr Graham said. “What is the council thinking, that everyone is rich? It’s getting out of control.”

Mayor Martyn Evans said the council was responsible for looking after waste. “The waste levy is on all properties, even if they get a waste pickup,” Cr Evans said.

Mr Graham then asked if Brighton households were also charged the $85 levy, considering that their waste ended up at New Norfolk’s Peppermint Hill disposal site. He also asked whether the payment from Brighton Council for use of New Norfolk’s tip was being paid into a separate account to help fund the eventual closure and rehabilitation of the tip site.

General manager Greg Winton said the two councils had entered into a six-year contract early in 2015.

Mr Graham then said Brighton Council was paying $350,000 per year for use of the tip and over the six years that should be enough to cover the costs of closing the tip. He questioned why Derwent Valley ratepayers were being made to pay for this via the waste management levy. Cr Evans said he would take the questions on notice.

Tidy Towns Committee member Ian Lacey spoke about the amount of littering along Lachlan Rd and moves to form a local clean-up group at Lachlan to address this. He asked what the council was doing to educate people about littering. “[Lachlan Rd] only goes to Lachlan, it’s not a tourist road, so can any of the councillors tell me why it is caked with litter and we keep picking it up?”

Haydn Pearce shows his pitchfork to councillors before
the meeting.

Several people in the gallery said the Lachlan Rd problem could be attributed to increases in tip fees. “It’s too expensive,” Haydn Pearce said. “Rubbish is going to expand all over Lachlan, all over the area, because a lot of people are not going to go to the tip and pay the money. They are going to go to the side of the road and dump their rubbish. It’s a no-brainer.”

Cr Evans said he was aware of a similar problem along Back River Rd at Magra and he attributed this to a “throw-away mentality” as it was often branded take-away packaging. Mr Lacey agreed, said there was a difference between littering and illegal dumping, and he believed littering could be addressed by education. Illegal dumping was another thing all together, he said.

Len Butterworth said he had seen a mattress being dumped off Glenora Rd this week and he was aware of four illegal dumping sites along that road. He said the increased tipping fees were obviously having an effect. “I’ve not seen that level of rubbish dumped along Glenora Rd, in 30 years,” he said.

Cr Evans said the council was aware of a number of known illegal dumping grounds and he thought cameras could be installed to catch the perpetrators. In response a speaker asked about the cost-benefit ratio to the council when it had increased the tip fees but had to pay for illegal dumping to be cleaned up. Cr Evans said that was a good question, but said that the prices at the New Norfolk tip were quite affordable when compared to other sites in the south of the state.

Mr Chris Lester said the introduction of the waste management levy three years ago, at $51.50, had resulted in an extra nine illegal dumpings each month.  “Will the council now keep an eye on its records to see how much further impact the $85 [levy] has on the dumping?” The mayor said this should be done, along with monitoring the cost of cleaning up after illegal dumping.

During public question time in the council meeting that followed the open forum, Mr Graham asked, for the record, whether all income from the council’s tip tickets and Brighton Council’s usage of the tip had been put side, and if so how much money was in that account. Cr Evans took the question on notice.

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