Local, Science/Environment

Our region is up to its neck in waste and it’s costing us ‘heaps’! But opportunity beckons.

We are inundated by a mountain of waste at the England Road waste treatment facility. But in the crisis also lies a golden opportunity if our local leaders are visionary enough.

By Dr Grant Cairncross (CCO editor)

And this means Coffs Harbour City Council faces ongoing unprecedented costs trucking the rubbish out of the region to Tamworth for almost $68,000 a week.

Yet it would appear Council has no plans on how to deal with what for any Council must rate as a first order crisis.

Coffs Harbour Waste facility Englands Road. Photo Trevor Veale / Coffs Coast Advocate

CCO understands the problem has been worsening ever since October 2018 when the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) stepped in and mandated that the fertiliser being produced was not safe according to their specifications and regulations.

In 2005 the Coffs Harbour City Council , also operating together with the Nambucca Valley and Bellingen Shire Councils, entered into a contract to 2027 with Biomass Solutions to build and operate an Alternate Waste Treatment plant at Englands Road waste facility.

The Englands Road Waste Management facility.
The Englands Road Waste Management facility. Photo Trevor Veale, the Coffs Coast Advocate

The contract allowed waste from the red bins to create a fertiliser known as Mixed Waste Organic Output. This is what the EPA ultimately ruled against.

So when the EPA stepped in and deemed the product unsafe for use, Council was left with a huge bill for transport, disposal and the associated other charges.

Initially the NSW Government stepped in with an initial package to cover these costs. However, this has been phased out over time and as of May 1 this year Council is looking at covering the entire bill which amounts $270,000 a month, or $3,240,000m a year.

As a result, as reported by Janine Watson in The Coffs Coast Advocate online yesterday, Cr Sally Townley is calling on the State Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh ​and the Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey to step up and help. She believes State Government has a duty to help given it encouraged the red waste idea initially to several NSW Councils including the three Coffs Coast Councils.

According to the Advocate Cr Townley argues the $3.24m cost to Council per year is “a huge burden, and ironically, the State Government are reaping almost $80K per month from our community for the Waste Levy. So they are profiteering at our cost.”

Cr Townley told The Advocate that Coffs Harbour “is on the edge of a waste management abys”

In addition Biomass, is also facing a potential loss as a result too.

CCO has been aware for some time now that Biomass and the Coffs Harbour City Council are now in a legal dispute over the future of the contract and that a court case in relation to this concluded recently.

This issue is why we mentioned council provision for potential legal costs in this article here last week; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/?p=35059

An outcome from the court case between Biomass and the CHCC is expected within a month.

The Coffs Coast Advocate reports Cr Townley says the situation is critical and needs immediate and sustained investment by State Government who she believes needs to help Councils adapt to and adopt to newer more modern waste management processes.

Waste is seen as a problem. But it could be a golden jobs also and electricity generating opportunity that could attract other businesses to the Coffs Coast given visionary leadership.

CCO has published quite frequently on this and we believe new high tech answers exist that could turn this problem into a golden opportunity.

These high tech answers could see the Coffs Coast become a potential growth area in waste management, provide electricity generation and that would also provide sustainable new green economy jobs while being an geographical attractor to other businesses. The answer lays in adapting and adopting the ideas and existing inventions outlined in the following articles;

For more on Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactors and Licella see: http://Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor

Also for more on how Sweden is turning waste into clean energy – See; https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/21/climate/sweden-garbage-used-for-fuel.html


  1. Waste Warrior

    Council is acting as if this is all news and the fault of the State Government when the truth is much simpler.
    Old Council documents reference the closure of the landfill likely by 2020, yet they sold off property previously set aside for a new landfill.

    Further to this the following story was in the Coffs Advocate in 2011.
    This story clearly highlights that Council has been aware of this problem for a number of years and has done nothing to remedy it. Interesting that this story is in 2011, I believe the current GM started in 2010 so he should certainly be across the problem.
    Further to this a story featuring Councillor Townley was in the ABC news in 2018 (link below).
    Once again this highlights that they were aware of the problem in 2018 and again have done nothing to remedy it.
    The material that is being transported to Tamworth isn’t going into the Coffs Harbour Landfill so it has no relevance to the imminent closure of the landfill due to poor planning and management from CHCC.
    With a quick review of the above information it’s easy to see that Council has not only known about this problem since the early 2000’s, they have had staff and Councillors comment on it but have still failed to do anything to remedy it.
    Council blaming the current situation on the Government is a joke. The prime news story was also a great watch with the GM’s sidekick Director Mick Raby saying they are looking at waste to energy options. Given there are currently none in the state and the lead time on projects of this type including EIS, D/A’s, Community Consultation and build times would be a minimum of 8-10 years it would seem both he and Council have no plan.
    Whilst Coffs Coast Outlook ideas of embracing new technology etc has merit it’s not likely to save the situation given the critical timeframe.

  2. Brigit Mackenzie

    Be interesting how Council deals with this. State Government fail and still making money from it.

  3. Thanks for the very informed comment Waste Warrior. We did know EIS, D/A’s, Community Consultation and build times would ensure it would not happen overnight but 8-10 years is highly problematic in 2020.

    It is clearly time for all levels of government to shorten that by about 60% at least.

    It seems obvious Council has no plan as you say yet they have known about this for a long time and have basically just ‘sat on their hands’.

    We have been told that the Director you refer to was encouraged to consider waste to energy options approximately two years ago and replied to those suggesting it then that it could not be done and that it was not legal.

    If this is correct then right there are roughly 48 months of inaction we would argue.

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