Western Australia
Thu 23 November 2017

Call to allay levy fears

CCF WA’s submission to the State Government’s review of waste management legislation has called for an end to the current uncertainty around the classification of clean fill used for land development.

As part of the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s Waste Reform Project, DWER released a discussion paper looking at proposed approaches for legislative reform and requested industry submissions.

CCF WA’s submission said it was disappointing that the discussion paper did not seek to provide more clarity around a ‘grey area’ of great concern to the WA land development and civil contracting industries – that is, how the landfill levy applies to clean fill used in bulk earthworks for residential subdivisions and commercial land developments.

The WA Court of Appeal’s decision in the Eclipse case confirmed that clean fill transported from one development site to another meets the definition of ‘waste’ applied in the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Regulations. This ruling has raised concern that any development site that receives more than 500 tonnes of fill in a year is liable to be assessed for the landfill levy – an outcome that would render most subdivision development uneconomic.

Transported clean fill is routinely used for constructing new residential subdivisions, so any move to treat clean fill as waste would have huge knock-on effects to the housing market, restricting land supply and reducing housing affordability.

The discussion paper notes that the current definition of disposal premises “…does not include development sites with incidental earthwork operations, or marina and land reclamation, as these premises are not being used for the dominant purpose of receiving waste and therefore the levy would not apply at these premises.”

Concerningly, however, the paper goes on to recommend that the current definition be amended to ensure “its application to all waste disposed to land”.

In the light of the broad definition of ‘waste’ in the Eclipse decision, there is ongoing concern that DWER is proposing amendments that will require the application of the levy to all fill used in land development.

CCF WA’s submission recommends that materials recycled for use in construction – including clean fill for land development and crushed materials used for road base and other purposes – should be explicitly excluded from any definition of waste, and that any new definition of disposal premises should exclude land development sites with incidental earthwork operations, or marina and land reclamation.