The regulatory waste function under the Waste Minimisation Act 2001 (the Act), needs to be activated. At present the ACT does not have a waste regulator even though this can be enacted under Section 4 of the Act by appointing an authorised person. While such a person may be able to address, to a degree, the issue of stockpiling recycling material under the existing legislation, it could be better controlled if the ACT had a regulation for controlling the storage of waste.
The Environment Protection Authority and the Justice and Community Safety Directorate (ACT Fire and Rescue) appear to have fulfilled their regulatory role in accordance with legislated requirements with respect to issues considered in this audit.
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Hume Resource Recovery EstateTo assist the future management of this Estate and build on the guidance given by its Master Plan, it is timely for a long-term Estate Management Plan to be developed.
Several procurement processes undertaken by ACT NOWaste for the development of the Hume Resource Recovery Estate were considered and all were found to have been conducted in accordance with the appropriate procurement requirements.
Parkwood Road Recycling Estate
The management of this Estate has been poor. There is evidence of communication failures and unresolved disagreements. There is a need for the purpose of the Estate to be clarified and this used to guide the development of a long-term Estate Management Plan.
Also, the ACT Government has incurred considerable costs (approximately $1m) in cleaning up a recycling site (located in the former West Belconnen landfill site) that posed an unacceptable fire risk due to waste material being stockpiled.
The rental fees charged at this Estate are significantly below current market rates.
It is acknowledged that there is now a commitment to update the 2005 Protocol between ACT Property Group and ACT NOWaste for the management of Parkwood and ensure compliance with its requirements.
Computer and television e-waste
The ACT Government continues to provide leadership in the management of computer and television e-waste. It was the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce local bans on these going to landfill, and it is taking the lead in implementing the new National Stewardship Scheme. While this is the case, the planning for these initiatives was not always comprehensive and unanticipated costs particularly related to illegal dumping were incurred.
The procurement processes for computer and television e-waste, were generally appropriate and risk based, however there are areas for improvement.
UPDATE 28/06/12 17:22: The Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur has expressed her displeasure with the Government’s efforts:
“Given the government’s record of being very slow on reviewing environmental legislation and policies, this is tantamount to putting the incorporation of appropriate regulation of the resource recovery industry on to the never-never list.
“The Hume Resource Recovery Estate and the Parkwood Road Recovery Estate need to be appropriately managed as part of the ACT’s overall waste management system and the Government needs to do more than agree with the recommendation – they need to actually implement it.
“In particular, the Government needs use the Waste Minimisation Act to appoint a waste regulator to ensure that piles of material at recycling estates are dealt with and are not turning into fire hazards or being left as waste piles for the Territory to clean up at great expense.
“The Government also needs to ensure that ACT No Waste and Property Group – both parts of the same directorate of TAMS – are maintaining corporate knowledge, talking to each other and jointly taking responsibility over recycling estates like Parkwood.
UPDATE 29/06/12 09:53: Alistair Coe is leaping upon the findings:
“In May 2010 the issue of fire management was raised with ACT Labor however those concerns were ignored,” Mr Coe said today.
“Then in August 2011, despite numerous warnings, a fire occurred in wood stockpiles at the Parkwood Estate that smouldered for days.
“Later that month, ACT Labor voted against the Canberra Liberals’ motion calling for more information about the fire despite the serious blaze lasting for days and despite it requiring more than 15 fire crews to control.
“I echoed the ESA’s calls for a risk management plan of the entire site to be conducted. But shockingly the Auditor General still had to include a recommendation in today’s report for the Government to finalise this plan.
“It is clear that the ACT Labor Government is led by arrogance, and Canberrans should not have to foot the bill for ACT Labor’s mismanagement of the Estate,” Mr Coe concluded.