Council approves measures to fix offensive odour at tip and reveals $4.3m legal costs

Long standing issues at Coffs Harbour’s England’s Road Waste Management Facility will be addressed by Council under a series of measures, including increasing the landfill height. Photo: Emma Darbin.

 

OFFENSIVE odours emanating from the Coffs Harbour Waste Management Facility will be addressed by Council under a series of new measures, including increasing the height of the landfill site by 4 metres in the interim.

Much debate ensued on the issue at Coffs Harbour City Council’s meeting on Thursday 10 June, with many councillors of the belief that Council must take responsibility for its past mishandling of the issue.

The Englands Road Landfill site at North Boambee Valley has been operating as the primary landfill for Council since the 1960s and is now reaching its end date.

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Council staff had recommended that the landfill site be increased in height by 10 metres, from 32 metres to 42 metres.

Cr Sally Townley, however, moved an alternate recommendation that Council commit to seeking a 4 metre rise in the landfill height at the Englands Road facility in the interim, and meet with Bellingen Shire Council and Nambucca Valley Council to discuss landfill height options, pathways to transition to secure and sustainable waste and resource recovery actions, and progress towards a sustainable waste management solution for the region.

“I think we all agree that our transition to a secure and sustainable waste management option for our community is long overdue,” Cr Townley said.

“This (motion) is something that we’ve got to go forward, it’s some sort of commitment that we’ve got to the community.

“The time is now, a little bit less conversation, a little more action.”

Cr Townley likened increasing the landfill height by eight or ten metres to putting on a bandaid.

“Putting an 8 metre or a 10 metre height on the landfill is literally just putting a bandaid,” Cr Townley said.

“The solution is not just to make the landfill higher, but it’s a whole integrated regional solution.

“I hope we all take some sort of responsibility in some way for not driving this harder and faster and earlier.”

Cr Townley also questioned Council at the meeting over its failure to disclose to the public the amount of money it has spent on legal fees against Council’s waste management contractor Biomass.

“Why is it a secret that we’ve spent $4.3 million dollars on legal fees and we’re not disclosing it, when the Local Governor General regulation requires us to disclose a summary of all the amounts incurred by Council in relation to legal fees?” Cr Townley asked at the end of the Council meeting.

“We’re required to disclose that annually.”

Council’s Group Leader Government Services stated, “yes, that is required to be disclosed in the annual report on litigation matters on an annual basis”.

Cr Michael Adendorff called on Council to report on the current odour issues at the tip and the measures to be implemented to control the offensive odours emanating from the facility.

“This is a multifaceted endeavour and there are aspects that are out of our control, which is in the control of Biomass, but I think we need to take responsibility for what is outside of our control and we need to find a holistic solution to this problem,” Cr Adendorff said.

Cr Keith Rhoades questioned what action Council had taken in the past two months to fix the “obnoxious odour problem currently being emitted from the tip”.

“That’s what the community wants to know,” Cr Rhoades stated.

Council’s Director of Sustainable Infrastructure Mick Raby said the odour issue had been investigated and the findings indicated it was “a one off issue with the landfill”.

“It’s a section of the landfill that was filled and closed off about 12 months ago,” Mr Raby said.

Council has been undertaking a “recapping process” to address the odour issue.

“We are making positive progress, the gas readings are continuing to fall,” Mr Raby said.

Cr Rhoades also called on Council to provide the community with an “end date” to the offensive odour emanating from the tip.

“It’s been going on for so long, we’ve got to have an end date,” Cr Rhoades stressed.

Mr Raby said he couldn’t provide a specific end date but that the Council was making “significant progress”.

“We will fix it, it will be fixed, whether that takes a week, a month, six weeks I honestly couldn’t commit to,” Mr Raby said.

“I would suggest it’s a matter of weeks rather than months.”

Cr John Arkan was against raising the height of the landfill in the interim and believed this action would not fix the problem.

“I don’t think we should be raising that wall again a little bit or a lot,” Cr Arkan said.

“Are we really gonna fix it in that spot; the odours are there because possibly it’s full.

“I would suggest the odours haven’t got an end date because we haven’t got an end date and that’s possibly because that area is full, it’s not the space for a tip anymore.”

Councillors voted 5 votes to 1 in favour of Cr Townley’s motion with Crs Paul Amos, Michael Adendorff, George Cecato, Sally Townley and Keith Rhoades voting for the motion and Cr John Arkan voting against.

Council will now seek a 4 metre rise in landfill height at England’s Road as an interim measure, commence the preparation of documents required for a development application, and meet with Bellingen Shire Council and Nambucca Valley Council to discuss landfill height options, and pathways to transition to secure and sustainable waste and resource recovery actions.

Council will also progress towards a sustainable waste management solution for the Coffs Harbour LGA, receive bimonthly reports on progress towards a new waste management solution and report on odour emissions, investigate and report within one month on measures being implemented, their results and future measures at the facility to control offensive odours emanating from the facility, and investigate and report on the existing facility being converted to a waste transfer station.

 

By Emma DARBIN

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