NSW Shadow Minister for the Environment, the State Labor Members for Gosford, Wyong and The Entrance, The Greens NSW and the Community Environment Network are all demanding that the NSW Government urgently intervenes to resolve waste issues confronting the Central Coast.
A report on the August 8 edition of ABC 4 Corners program revealed significant problems with the waste industry across NSW, with two important Central Coast examples highlighted.
The Community Environment Network (CEN) has called for a full inquiry into the actions of decision makers for their role in the dumping of nearly one million cubic metres of waste at Mangrove Mountain since 2008.
“CEN and locals have been pilloried, ignored and accused of misleading the public,” said CEN chairman, Mr John Asquith.
“Monday night on ABC 4 Corners, we found out why? – corrupt staff, massive amounts of money and self-interest,” he said.
The object of the dumping was originally to level a small part of the Mangrove Mountain RSL Memorial Golf Course with clean fill.
“Since then, it has grown to nearly one million cubic metres, with another 1.3 million tonnes awaiting an EPA licence.”
According to CEN, the whole board of the EPA was culpable and should be sacked by NSW Premier, Ms Gladys Berejiklian
“There needs to be an investigation into the sordid facts behind Gosford Council’s and the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s apparent gross neglect of statutory responsibilities.
“In 2014, former Mayor and then state member for Gosford, Mr Chris Holstein, defended the dumping by claiming that the EPA had assured him that the waste was safe and not a problem.
“However, the waste dump by that time was already well above the level of the 280,000 tonnes approved by Gosford Council.
“Large sections of the waste were of unknown origin.
“There needs to be an investigation into the sordid facts behind Gosford Council’s and the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s apparent gross neglect of statutory responsibilities. – John Asquith
“We now know that corrupt staff were involved at that time.
“Presumably, Mr Holstein took their advice and did not check or believe the community that elected him.”
CEN wants to see the dump closed and an Inquiry into the actions of the EPA.
Mr Asquith said that it was time that investigation of environmental issues worth over $20 million was taken away from the EPA and local councils and managed by the NSW Police, in the same way that similar high-value planning matters were managed by the NSW Government as state significant.
“In the four years to 2016, there had been no prosecutions by the EPA of anyone for causing serious harm to the environment.
“Incredibly, fines for less serious breaches have been an average of only 84 per year for the past 10 years.
“CEN wants to see the EPA Board sacked immediately,” Mr Asquith said.
According to CEN, over the past six years that EPA had: overseen no prosecutions for causing serious harm to the environment (Tier 1 Offences); allowed illegal dumping to flourish; taken no action on waste dumping from NSW in Queensland; ignored the collapse in recycling rates to occur with no planning, support or strategies; allowed a culture of misleading information and spin to be foisted on the public; tolerated poor behaviour and corruption and attempted to cover up, instead of clean up; attacked and marginalised anyone who complained; and, kept information secretive with no real transparency.
One year ago, Greens MP, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, gave notice for a parliamentary enquiry into the Mangrove Mountain landfill and the role of both the EPA and the former Gosford Council in approving the private tip at the head of the water catchment of the Central Coast.
“The 4 Corners program has highlighted the need for a full parliamentary inquiry and the Central Coast Greens demand that it now goes ahead immediately,” said Central Coast Greens spokesperson, Ms Kate da Costa.
“The Central Coast Greens particularly support an investigation into Gosford Council’s actions.
“For several years, members of the Central Coast Greens have supported the calls by Mangrove Mountain residents, who have been concerned about allegations of improper dumping, water contamination and overdevelopment.
“CEN wants to see the EPA Board sacked immediately.” John Asquith
“During the last council, former Greens councillor, Ms Hillary Morris, attempted to shed light on the Landfill,” Ms da Costa said.
According to Ms Morris: “Unfortunately every single decision regarding the Landfill at Mangrove Mountain was made during confidential briefings.
“At no time were the public allowed to be informed of the scenarios being presented to councillors.
“At one time, I remember receiving a lengthy memorandum of advice regarding the legal process and having to give a response within a very short time frame.
“My response was to say that I couldn’t possibly agree, given the limited time frame.
“From memory, most of us were driving back from the National General Assembly in Canberra.
“Towards the end, when the final agreement was reached, I advised all the staff and the councillors that there was no way the community would agree to have the level of fill at the limit set, nor the number of associated truck movements.”
“This is an example of the worst kind of secrecy and collusion between councils, the state government through the EPA, and private landfill operators,” Ms da Costa said.
“If we do not get a parliamentary enquiry, and a total cleanup of the site, we risk every owner of every empty sand quarry on the Mountain being allowed to set up private tips, and further contaminate our water supply.
“We don’t want to end up like Ipswich.
“We have opposed this landfill since the problem was brought to our attention by the Mountain residents.
“There was never a proper DA submitted for the massive private tip; there was never a proper environmental impact statement; the EPA has refused to act on credible reports of illegal tipping; the water monitoring data is secret and it belongs to Verde Terra’s own consultant; and this is clearly not a golf course remodelling – it’s a massive money making operation returning tipping fees to the state government and profits to a private company.
“When Mr Paul Anderson first became General Manager of Gosford Council, he referred Council staff to ICAC over this project.
“Then it dropped off the radar.
“We back Dr Faruqi’s parliamentary inquiry, but if that fails to get support, we call for an independent inquiry into Gosford Council’s processes.
“We also want to know why Wyong Council failed to act, when the landfill overflow has contaminated waterways which are its responsibility.
“Why should community groups have to put in GIPA applications to get the results of water monitoring on operations within our water catchment?
“This data should be freely available, as should the details of every breach of license by the operators of the landfill.
“We know from the EPA website that there have been breaches, and responses, but despite a GIPA from us, the EPA will not release the details.”
Dr Faruqi said: “What is clear from the 4 Corners exposé is that the whole waste industry stinks.
“The community has been campaigning for years to expose the Mangrove Mountain landfill, the culture of cover-ups, mismanagement and the dismissal of community concerns.
“The NSW Government has proven itself unwilling to act on this issue, so the Parliament has to take it into its own hands and begin an investigation.
“That’s why I gave notice for a parliamentary inquiry last year that would cover the role of the Environmental Protection Authority, the landfill operator and the local council.
“With these revelations, I hope that the other parties get on board and support the inquiry to get to the bottom of it all,” Dr Faruqi said.
“When Mr Paul Anderson first became General Manager of Gosford Council, he referred Council staff to ICAC over this project.”
– Kate da Costa
NSW Shadow Minister for the Environment, Ms Penny Sharpe, said the 4 Corners report revealed: “Illegal dumping is running rampant, with the EPA failing to act, and a shocking example of illegal waste dumping on the Hawkesbury at Spencer still outstanding.
“Unsuitable sites like Mangrove Mountain are set to expand and put at risk the water catchment on the Central Coast,” Ms Sharpe said.
“The Opposition is calling on the government to take the following actions: support an expansion of the terms of reference of the current Upper House Parliamentary Inquiry into Energy from Waste to examine the issues raised in the 4 Corners program; demand that the EPA review and report on outstanding illegal dumping investigations and prosecutions to the Parliamentary Inquiry; instigate a special inquiry into the dumping at Mangrove Mountain and safety of the water catchment; and, throw the book at those involved in illegal dumping,” she said.
“The two shocking examples of the massive landfill at Mangrove Mountain and the illegal dumping at Spencer need urgent attention.
“The NSW Government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this broken waste system.
“These issues have gone on for far too long with no action from an uncaring NSW Government,” Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, Mr David Harris said.
“The health and wellbeing of our unique environment on the Central Coast demands urgent action.
“It is time for a special inquiry into the Mangrove Mountain landfill and proper legal pursuit of illegal dumpers,” said Member for Gosford, Ms Leisl Tesch.
“The Gosford community should not have to wait any longer,” she said.
Media release, Aug 8
John Asquith, Community Environment Network
Media release, Aug 8
Julian Lee, office of Penny Sharpe
Media release, Aug 8
Kate da Costa, The Greens Central Coast