Cash spent elsewhere

July 12, 2017

The Victorian Government has been accused of spending hundreds of millions of dollars raised by its landfill levy, on related projects.

According to Municipal Association of Victoria president Mary Lalios the government ‘‘is draining landfill levy revenue to pay for projects unrelated to waste reduction or recycling’’.

Leader of the Nationals in Victoria, Peter Walsh agreed, saying the money was originally meant to boost recycling and sustainability.

Instead, he said, it is being siphoned off for projects with absolutely nothing to do with the original goals, ‘‘including $8.1 million for Parks Victoria to redevelop its website and improve access to parks’’.

Both said the total lack of transparency in the management of almost $500 million of taxpayer money demanded an explanation and investigation.

Cr Lalios said the original intent of collecting the landfill levy was to boost recycling rates and support waste reduction and sustainability initiatives.

But she said a recent independent inquiry into the Environment Protection Authority found in the past 10 years the average amount of waste attributable to each Victorian, every year, increased by 29 per cent.

‘‘Which feeds into community concerns the levy’s purpose is solely to raise revenue, rather than reduce waste,’’ Cr Lalios said.

‘‘Councils have been crying out for support with waste and resource-recovery projects and the exorbitant cost of rehabilitating closed landfill sites, yet the Victorian Government has chosen to spend landfill levy revenue on totally unrelated purposes,’’ Cr Lalios said.

‘‘A 2014 Victorian Auditor-General’s Report suggested landfill levy revenue should be used ‘to help fund the timely rehabilitation of high-risk landfills’.

‘‘While we welcome the state government’s long-overdue willingness to spend the levy revenue, it’s difficult to see how budget initiatives, such as a timber plantation, solar trams for Melbourne, a new website for a government agency and remediating land at gun clubs will reduce waste to landfill.’’

Mr Walsh said he was savage about this abuse of trust.

He said all Victorians had been sold a pup as a ruse to simply extract more money for use in Melbourne and surrounds.

‘‘A lot of people, as well as councils, were concerned about the lack of transparency around the Sustainability Fund from the word go,’’ Mr Walsh said.

‘‘It contains money paid by households and businesses through the landfill levy.

‘‘Councils have previously called for the fund’s income and expenditure data to be publicly disclosed.

‘‘We believe the government needs to end the mystery, and growing scandal, around this fund.

‘‘The taxpayers of Victoria have every right to expect their landfill levies are used to reduce waste.’’

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