Transfer station review

 Northern Grampians Shire Council has announced plans to phase in an increase to the minimum flat fee at its transfer stations.

Northern Grampians Shire Council has announced plans to phase in an increase to the minimum flat fee at its transfer stations.

Northern Grampians Shire Council has announced plans to phase in an increase to the minimum flat fee at its transfer stations.

Council, as part of the proposal, will also reduce and standardise the level of subsidy for waste to landfill to 50 percent by 2016/17.

To achieve the reduced rate of subsidisation, most transfer station gate fees will increase over the next three years commencing in August. 

Council resolved to implement the changes after a review identified some items were being subsidised by as much as 91 percent. 

The move will eventually see transfer station users and council contribute an equal amount to the cost of waste management. 

A flat fee of $10 per visit has been introduced for people disposing of commingled recycling (items accepted in the kerbside recycling bin), scrap metal, vehicle batteries and motor oil. 

Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin said council called for a review of the gate fees in late 2013, in response to community concern about the prices being charged to dispose of waste materials. 

"The review identified that the service is heavily subsidised," he said. 

"Even if people don't use the transfer stations, they are making a significant contribution to the running costs through rates and charges." 

Transfer station gate fees in the Northern Grampians Shire currently cover about 25 per cent of the running cost of sites in Halls Gap, St Arnaud and Stawell, with the remainder absorbed by ratepayers through fees and charges. 

Cr Erwin said transfer stations were expensive to operate, and moving towards a user-pays arrangement was a fairer system. 

"The costs of operating a transfer station relate to the sorting, storage, processing and transport of materials, as well as staffing and site maintenance," he said. 

"Some members of the community believe waste facilities should be provided free of charge to the user. The reality is that if council was to remove the gate fees, the costs to provide the service would need to be derived either through general rates or other fees and charges set by council. In other words, people would be paying extra for other services to cover transfer station costs." 

Cr Erwin said in three years' time, the amount people are asked to pay at the transfer station gate will be equal to the amount council contributes towards disposing or recycling the item. 

"This means if you have paid $20 at the gate, Council has also contributed $20 of ratepayers' money towards your item." 

Team Leader Environment and Community Protection, Daryl Schuyler said there is a popular misconception that recycling is free. 

He said the same costs to provide the transfer station services (apart from landfill charges) apply to recycling and processing as they do to general waste. 

"The reality is that there is a considerable cost to council to provide a recycling or re-use facility for the community," he said.

"This is rarely considered or acknowledged when setting gate fees associated with recycled or processed materials which are kept out of landfill." 

Mr Schuyler said figures that reveal council spends about $1,000 per annum removing illegally dumped materials from roadsides highlights the majority of people are choosing to dispose of their unwanted materials in the appropriate way including paying the set gate fees. 

"Historically council fees and charges at the transfer stations, along with the opening hours, are blamed for the illegal dumping of waste in the parks and forests within the municipality," he said.

"However, dumping materials at sites other than approved waste facilities has always occurred even when council had no gate fees and when the transfer stations were open all the time (not fenced) to the general public."

Information brochures on the changes to the transfer station gate fees are available at transfer stations and council's customer service centres in Stawell and St Arnaud.

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