Local, Science/Environment

Biomass v CHCC decision imminent as Bellingen and Nambucca wrestle with associated waste management problems

With no solution yet to the vexed question of what will happen with red bin waste gathered under the Coffs Coast Waste Collection contract and processed by Biomass, both Bellingen and Nambucca Shires are considering their options.

By Ute Schulenberg – The Bellingen Courier-Sun

In Bellingen’s case, one option is whether their southern neighbour could help out in a worst case scenario, to which Nambucca has responded “not at this point in time”.

Arbitration decision on case between Biomass and the CHCC is imminent

Related:Bellingen Shire asks for Nambucca’s help with its rubbish

Bellingen Shire’s General Manager Liz Jeremy said other options being explored by the council included:

  • Sending detailed submissions to government regarding the repercussions of the EPA decision on the councils and their communities.
  • Participating with a large number of councils on the north coast and the Department of Regional NSW, in the north coast investment report process which aims to identify alternate options for the disposal and processing of waste.
  • Undertaking a review of the shire’s waste services, including a strategic look at landfill capacity and alternate options.

Back in the Macksville council chambers, Nambucca Valley councillor John Ainsworth said he had a real concern about taking landfill from other councils at the moment.

“Legislation can change and we don’t want to find ourselves in a bind,” Cr Ainsworth said.

Cr Rhonda Hoban said any decisions needed to wait until the situation with the current contract was clear.

Cr Ainsworth asked the general manager, Michael Coulter, if there was any news about the arbitration* between Coffs Harbour City Council and Biomass.

*When EPA regulations changed, Biomass lodged a $32 million claim against CHCC for additional costs and loss of revenue.

Mr Coulter said the legal response to the matter was imminent.

Yesterday, he told the Courier-Sun the determination had been made and that CHCC was working through the implications for itself, as well as Nambucca and Bellingen Councils. (CCO emphasis added)

“There has always been an inherent governance problem in the tripartite agreement,” Mr Coulter said.

“Under the contract Coffs undertook to make the Englands Rd landfill available for the life of the contract (to 2027) – and we paid fees accordingly. With the EPA changes, they now say that Englands Rd has no more capacity.

“The question put very simply is whether we are partners with Coffs or customers … we see ourselves as customers.”

He said the council would be seeking its own legal advice depending on the impact of the arbitration on Nambucca and Bellingen.

Currently the interim measure of transporting the waste to Tamworth, is being paid for by Biomass and CHCC.

The above was first published at The Bellingen-Courier-Sun – Monday 17 August 2020. See; https://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/6882082/not-now-neighbour-nambucca-says-no-to-bellingens-request/


  1. Waste Warrior

    Looks like the bad news is starting to filter through about the multi-million dollar legal loss to a local waste contractor.
    Funny how Bellingen and Nambucca have reported it but as yet nothing from Coffs Harbour.

  2. Has anyone ever done a reckoning and taken a close look at the history of court cases against CHCC ?
    It would seem that a great deal of our Rates are spent on litigation; meaning the Orders found against Coffs Harbour City Council have amounted to Millions of our Dollars being forked out to successful plaintiffs, plaintiff’s legal costs PLUS all the fees and charges paid to Barristers & Solicitors hired by CHCC.

    Just how many times has our Council been involved in court actions over the last decade ?
    Wouldn’t mind betting compared to other regional councils in our part of NSW we have a standout record of Court actions.

    What’s this latest case over waste management issues going to cost us – many more millions no doubt !
    There is something very seriously wrong with the management of CHCC and something drastic needs to be done. Maybe a few of our Councillors need to wake up, damn well earn their keep and justify their positions.

  3. Margaret Beckett

    Yes, Reginald that would be a good start. What you don’t know is that the CEO, and his Director, Mr Raby, were completely disinclined to discuss anything apparently. The Waste Contractor tried continually to get the latter to listen to an alternative solution which required no litigation. Perhaps hubris may be the cause?

    The problem has arisen because for ten years the GM has apparently refused to source another landfill site. It should have been his priority from day one.

  4. Just a simple question who does the legal work/ litigation for CHCC?

  5. To be fair, Councils across the nation are increasingly vulnerable to litigation, whether they like it or not. Any Developer with sufficient funds can force a Council to the Land and Environment Court for a deemed refusal regardless of the justification or otherwise of their claim. A Council is then obliged to mount a defence for which it pays. If it wins it then has to pay for the complicated process of calculating what costs it may be able to recoup from the loser Developer. Our Council in Coffs has forked out hundreds of thousands (actual figures and circumstances are available in old Council meeting minutes if you care to look on the website) attempting to defend it’s position in many instances on behalf of it’s Citizenry which it has attempted to listen to and oblige, or upholding it’s own Development Control Plans which are underwritten by State Legislation but are still able to be challenged in the LEC.
    Unfortunately (or fortunately – depending on what side of the courtroom you are in) we have created this litigation monster which is threatening to bring the very fabric of our society undone. Have a look at the offshore litigation vultures behind the latest Covid Class Actions being mounted against the Victorian Government for loss of earnings during the lockdowns.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *