13 August, 2023
Plea to reopen waste station
MT Garnet residents are hoping a petition containing more than 180 signatures and more than 200 letters sent to Tablelands Regional Council will convince the authority to reverse its decision to close the town’s waste transfer station.
The facility was shut temporarily in July 2022 due to concerns over the structural capacity of a retaining wall which was not built to the design put forward at the time, causing it to be now in “failure mode and at risk of catastrophic failure if any further loading from vehicle movements were allowed in close proximity to the wall”.
At May’s council meeting, councillors voted to permanently close the waste transfer station due to the costs involved in keeping it open and the lack of people using the facility. Council was advised at the time that to keep it open would require $107,000 to repair the infrastructure and re-open it.
“From an operational budget perspective, savings in labour, contractors, plant hire, depreciation and other costs will be approximately $70,000 per year on an ongoing basis,” a report to council stated.
“Assuming a 35-year life of the transfer station, the estimated savings to TRC would be approximately $2.45 million.”
To close the facility would only cost $75,000 and council was advised that users could access the Innot Springs waste transfer station which was around 11km away.
But now, residents of the town want the decision to be revisited, putting forward what they believe to be a financially viable alternative in placing a removable skip bin at the site with a drop-down door so residents can easily place their waste into the bin.
Speaking on behalf of residents Heidi Richards and Robert Bruce gave a presentation to council two weeks ago to try to convince them to overturn their decision to close the facility, pointing out there had been zero public consultation with residents before the decision was made.
“We are asking for a consultation meeting for council to address our concerns as there has been no public consultation-general meeting regarding this subject matter,” Ms Richards told council.
“Not having a waste transfer station means that outside the population within the serviceable main town (274 people), there are as many people on the outskirts of town. In the 2021 census Mount Garnet had 532 people and since this census, we have had moderate growth in the town that rely on the services of our town.
“Subsequently these people will need to transport their waste further, which could be excess of 40kms, to the lnnot Springs Waste Transfer Station.”
She also drew attention to the number of tourists attracted to the area and the waste generated by them as well as the fact that waste collection trucks did not pick up bins in the surrounding area, meaning all those residents had to transport their waste to a transfer station.
Ms Richards said the closure had raised a number of concerns in the community including:
▪ The overall environmental impact on the culture, mental and physical health of the community including the morale within the community;
▪ The substantial elderly population, with some of these residents on restricted licences only allowed to drive within the town area so they could not access the Innot Springs facility;
▪ The high likelihood of property owners burying waste/rubbish on their properties;
▪ The risk of illegal dumping of waste;
▪ Bio-security risks due to garden waste, saying it was not just a health hazard, but a fire risk to the town as a whole.
Mr Bruce also expressed concerns that Mt Garnet was being singled out due to the fact that Millaa Millaa and Innot Springs also had low utilisation rates but were not being considered for closure.
The pair pleaded with council to mirror the successful way in which Mt Carbine operates which they say works extremely well and is cost effective to run.
“We recognise the existing structure is in failure mode and we would like to propose an alternative option, which is likely to be cheaper for TRC in the long run,” Ms Richards said.
“An alternative option is being put forward and that is to investigate the way in which the transfer station at Mount Carbine operates and to explore how we can best use and maximise access to the facility by everyone in the community.
“This (Mt Carbine) transfer station currently uses removable commercial bins that are picked up on a regular basis and appears to be operating effectively.
“We strongly invite council to take the measures necessary to investigate this as a very viable and cost reducing option.”
After their presentation, Cr Peter Hodge told the pair that the decision could only be overturned through a recission motion which could not be put to the meeting they were hosting at the time.