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Waste levy increase of 600%

WHAT do you call a waste levy increase of 600% over three years? According to a slew of angry Sunshine Coast retirees, it is complete rubbish.

Yesterday, the vocal group met at Warana’s The Palms, a community for over 50s, to protest against the Sunshine Coast council’s “user pays” waste levy – which has increased from $25 to $151.30 over three years.

The cost increase has affected hundreds of residents of three villages in the old Caloundra City Council area – The Palms, Park Haven and Island Point Villas.

They will have to pay the fee, even though individual home owners do not receive rubbish and recycling bins.

Clasping a plastic shopping bag filled with her total week’s waste, pensioner Joy Sandham, who has lived at Park Haven for 13 years, described the levy as “the great wheelie bin rip-off”.

“For me and many other residents of community title schemes this is the straw that’s broken the camel’s back,” Mrs Sandham said.

“It’s a rip-off, plain and simple.

“It’s ridiculous to expect us to pay the full levy when we don’t even have individual bins, just share them.

“I have a worm farm for my compost and do my own recycling.

“This is my rubbish for the whole week.

“We’re saving the council money by cutting down its workload. But if they expect us to pay this levy, we’ll be demanding our bins.”

At The Palms, which consists of 310 villas, residents share 45 wheelie bins. At the 164-villa Park Haven, about 30 bins are used each week, and at Island Point Villas residents dispose of their garbage in a skip. All said they felt the old charge was reasonable, but said the new fee was exorbitant, especially given last financial year they were not charged a waste levy at all.

“How can they charge you for something we don’t have?” one outraged man from The Palms said.

“It doesn’t seem to matter how much or how little you produce. We all get slugged the same.”

The meeting was organised by the State Member for Kawana Jarrod Bleijie after receiving numerous letters from concerned residents.

Mr Bleijie said it would be impractical and costly for every household in the communities to have two bins, but said if residents were being charged for the service, it was their right to have them.

“These residents have now been slugged with a charge that has increased by more than 600%,” he said.

“It is not practical and completely unnecessary for each ratepayer in these complexes to have two bins each, and for many years they have been under a shared bin system which works well and is environmentally responsible.

“If council want to be fair with the residents then they should provide a bin to each ratepayer that has been charged with this fee.”

Mr Bleijie wrote to the council regarding the issue and was told by waste manager Wayne Shafer that, though the levy was “unpopular”, it represented a move towards a “user pays philosophy”.

He also admitted last financial year that the council lost $1.2 million in revenue by not charging the waste levy in the northern and southern areas of the Coast, a situation that “needed to be rectified in 2010-11”.

“In recognising the significant range of costs associated with waste management services, the council resolved to impose a minimum ($151.30) charge in 2010-11 upon all premises, irrespective of the number of bin services at the premises,” Mr Schafer said.

“The minimum charge ensures that each separate tenancy contributes a minimum amount towards the total cost of providing waster and resource recovery operations within the Sunshine Coast region.”

Mr Bleijie was scathing of the council’s response.

He said the insinuation that residents in the former Caloundra City Council area had been subsidising other parts of the Coast was nonsense.

In fact, the new levy showed no signs of a user pays philosophy, he said.

“These residents should not have to pay for the council’s lost revenue,” Mr Bleijie said.

“And as for user pays, well, in the past that was exactly what happened. They paid for the services they used in an environmentally responsible, efficient and cost effective manner.

“This is not a sustainable approach to the issue at all.”

By Anna-Louise Brown

Source: Sunshine Coast Daily

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