Illegal Rubbish Dumping
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: I direct my question to the Minister for the Environment. What is the latest information on illegal dumping in New South Wales?
Mr BOB DEBUS: I thank the honourable member for his question and acknowledge his interest in this very serious problem across the State, and particularly in Western Sydney. Unfortunately, the cleanup of illegal dumping costs the State Government and councils tens of millions of dollars each year. Illegal dumping obviously creates a health risk and spoils the landscape. It damages the environment by impacting on native plants and animals and it affects the health of regional parks and forests, not to mention the water supply in local catchments and waterways. The Government has a strong record with regard to action on illegal dumping. Since mid-2002, penalties have increased dramatically. Offenders found guilty in court can face a fine of up to $1 million and substantial gaol sentences.
Last year the Department of Environment and Conservation launched a $2.5 million program that targeted trucks to ensure that carriers cover their loads, provided education and cleaner industry programs, and undertook enforcement action, including the use of regional illegal dumping squads. Last week a man was find $10,000 in the Land and Environment Court for running an illegal tip at Marsden Park, in Western Sydney. In what has become a rather disturbing trend, the man's business was illegally accepting up to 20 truckloads of waste a day, including asbestos waste. Waste in New South Wales, and particularly in Sydney, is big business, and responsible operators must be assured that operators who flout the rules will not gain an unfair advantage.
Two significant initiatives have been implemented. Operation White Ibis is an imaginative program that represents part of the Government's crackdown on shonky waste operators. The sacred white ibis is an Australian native bird usually found near wetlands. However, it has now adapted itself to urban areas, where it feeds on food scraps. Departmental officers know that if they see a white ibis near a landfill facility, food waste has probably been dumped there. Many of the sites are not licensed to dispose of food waste, so the bird operates as a red flag indicating that food waste is being dumped where it should not be. Illegal dumping can lead to serious groundwater contamination. The operation has involved more than 60 inspections and has resulted in a large number of on-the-spot fines for breaches such as illegal dumping and illegally transporting waste.
A Regional Illegal Dumping [RID] squad will be established in the Southern Highlands, Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla, and Wingecarribee shire areas. The Western Sydney RID squad, which was established in 1999, covers the Fairfield, Blacktown, Liverpool, Penrith and Bankstown council areas. It has been very successful and officers have issued hundreds of infringement notices. From 2000 to 2002, Shoalhaven shire officers located or investigated 331 dumping incidents on Crown land, 250 in national parks, 204 in State forests, and 342 on council land. That demonstrates the scale of the problem, and that activity will be the focus of the new RID squad. I am sure that the residents of Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Wingecarribee will benefit from the work of the squad in combating the menace of illegal dumping.