Photo: Residents in south-east Queensland say they are increasingly concerned about what is being tipped down old mine sites. (ABC News: Ashleigh Stevenson)
The Queensland Premier will seek urgent talks with the Premier of New South Wales today over the dumping of waste north of the state border.Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was horrified by the extent of allegations raised in last night's Four Corners program into the dumping of waste from NSW into Queensland.
The Four Corners investigation exposed an organised network of waste transporting and freighting companies sending waste by road and by rail to Queensland to avoid paying the high NSW landfill levy of $138 per tonne.
The trade is so lucrative that the industry estimates the amount of construction and demolition waste now being transported to Queensland has reached about one million tonnes a year, almost double official government figures from the past financial year.
"We were not aware of the extent [of the dumping] until it was highlighted on the Four Corners program last night," she said."Everyone would have been horrified and alarmed at the extent of the waste that was being dumped, transferred from inner city NSW up into Queensland," she said.
Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles said he was well aware that some parts of Queensland, particularly Ipswich west of Brisbane, were waste dumping hot spots but that he was hamstrung.
"We've sought on multiple occasions constitutional advice about whether there is anything Queensland can do to address the exporting of waste from other states to Queensland, he said.
"The constitution is very clear that there is nothing a State Government can do to restrain trade between state boundaries," he said.
NSW proximity law must be enforced: PalaszczukThe NSW Environment Protection Agency (EPA) introduced a law in 2014 designed to stop the interstate waste trade, known as the proximity principle.
It was designed to stop waste being moved more than 150 kilometres from where it was generated, but the law was riddled with holes and easily challenged by industry operators seeking to undermine it.
"I'm going to make it a priority today to speak to the NSW Premier, to ensure that she enforces the NSW proximity laws," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"I clearly do not want to see Queensland being the dumping ground of NSW waste.
"If they do not have enough capacity in their own backyard, they should create more capacity," she said.Acting Ipswich Mayor Paul Tully said he was disappointed the NSW Government was not enforcing its own law on the disposal of waste.
"That law is simply not being enforced and that means its coming across state borders into Queensland and principally into Ipswich," he said.
A spokesman for the NSW Environment Minister said he expected to release a draft regulation, containing a proposal to introduce changes to tighten up recycling, for comment in the coming weeks.
"The proposed changes aim to reduce the amount of waste moving interstate and increase recycling in NSW. Initial consultation was undertaken in November last year," he said.
"A national approach to regulate waste moving between states will be discussed at a meeting of state environment protection authorities later this year. NSW is leading this work."
Queensland rules out re-introducing waste levyQueensland's Newman government abolished Queensland's landfill levy in 2012. Since then, the interstate waste trade has flourished.
Ms Palaszczuk has again ruled out introducing a levy in this term of government, and said it was up to NSW to enforce the law.
Councillor Tully said waste companies had been saving millions of dollars by dumping waste in Queensland since the levy was abolished.
"I'm calling on the state to review that. They have indicated in the current term of office there be no new taxes imposed and that's a fair position to hold," he said."But it is extraordinary that NSW has a huge waste levy and the operators are saving millions of dollars a year by avoiding that levy."
Cleanaway is one waste company that has a landfill in Ipswich.
Head of corporate affairs Frank Sufferini said he would support a levy because his company was competing with rogue waste operators coming into the state.
"We believe it brings greater balance between waste disposal costs between NSW and Queensland," he said.
Abandoned mines to be urgently investigatedResidents in south-east Queensland, where multiple dumps are located, have told Four Corners they are increasingly concerned about what is being tipped down the old mine sites surrounding them.
"I've also asked the Environment Minister Steven Miles to urgently investigate why abandoned mines are being used for this practice," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"It is clearly unacceptable for this waste to be coming across the border and be dumped in unused mine pits, so this matter will be urgently investigated by the EPA, and of course the Government takes these allegations incredibly seriously."
The Four Corners investigation also found hundreds of thousands of tonnes of glass were being stockpiled and landfilled instead of being recycled.
Photo: Four Corners followed the interstate waste trade from NSW to old mine sites in Queensland (Four Corners)
Bio-fuel option to be exploredMs Palaszczuk said she wanted to explore alternative technology for the glass recycling.
"I've just come back from Nevada and we've seen technology which changes that product into a biofuel," she said."We do not have the technology here at present, but that is something we'll look at for Queensland waste into the future."
Mr Miles there was a range of fuel options worth investigating.
"There is a lot of opportunities for recycling, particularly things like organic waste, tyres, all sorts of different products can be changed into a wide range of fuels that can power anything from our cars to big aircraft," he said.
But the biofuel idea did not address the immediate issue of waste dumping in Ipswich, said Mark Sutton, CEO of the Biofuels Association of Australia.
"The technology is not there at the moment," he said."There's no reason why any particular waste stream can't be converted into biofuel. Matter of having right technology and investment and the economics stack up."