WHERE IS WASTE LEVY REVENUE GOING?
Today in Parliament Amanda pushed the Government to commit to spending waste levy revenue on waste projects, and improving recycling.
My question is directed to the Minister for Climate Change, Minister for Energy, Minister for the Environment, and Minister for Heritage. The New South Wales Government has collected billions of dollars from the waste levy, with as little as one-third being reinvested in waste and associated environmental programs. Communities and councils want to recycle and reduce their waste. Considering this, as well as the new Government's apparent appetite for accountability and transparency, and the goal of the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy to collect food and garden organics from all New South Wales households by 2030, will the Minister commit to spending waste levy revenue on waste projects and improving recycling facilities?
The Minister for Climate Change, Minister for Energy, Minister for the Environment, and Minister for Heritage, Penny Sharpe, responded:
I thank the honourable member for this important question. How we deal with waste brings not only many opportunities but also many challenges as we face closing landfills and the need to genuinely recycle and reduce the amount of waste that we produce. Members would be aware that the waste levy is an economic instrument used in New South Wales to discourage landfilling and to stimulate resource recovery. That was its original design, and that is its main object. In simple terms, under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, certain licensed waste facilities in New South Wales—essentially what we know as "the tip"—are required to pay a contribution for each tonne of waste received. It is referred to as the waste levy, and those fees aim to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill and to encourage recycling and recovery.
The member can be assured that I am currently examining the waste levy rates for 2023-2024 to ensure that the levy continues to encourage recycling and reuse instead of taking waste straight to landfill. We must support all options that avoid landfill. There is real pressure in metropolitan areas, and there is a huge environmental impact from continuing to use landfill in the way that it has been. Earlier, the Minister for Water talked about Menindee. Whenever anyone visits the community at Menindee, they will always be taken to the tip. Further investment is needed to address the significant issues with it. The waste levy is applied to all waste that is generated within the metropolitan and regional levy areas, including the Sydney metropolitan region, the Hunter, the Central and North Coast regions extending to the Queensland border, the Illawarra, the Blue Mountains and Wollondilly.
The levy funds a range of programs across government. There has been ongoing controversy and campaigning, particularly from local government, around the split in relation to how much is returned to local government off the back of the waste levy. There has been significant investment in relation to the waste levy. I am aware that the levy funds a whole range of other things within government, and getting the balance right for that is incredibly important. I again thank the member for this important question. Aside from the waste levy rates, I have started discussions with the Environment Protection Authority about the review of the waste levy into the future and how it operates. Finally, we going through the budget line by line every single day, as the Treasurer and finance Minister would know. We have to do that when we have been left with $7 billion of debt and deficit—more than ever before. The previous Government was shameless in the way it dealt with this. The point is that where the waste levy fits, whether it is fit for purpose, and how it operates is also part of that review.