Garbage king proposes giant Queensland dump amid interstate stink


Queensland waste magnate Balfour Irvine has proposed a giant new landfill in Ipswich as controversy mounts over the growing interstate waste trade and the state government’s failure to curb it.

Austin BMI Pty Ltd, a company owned and directed by Mr Irvine, this month submitted a development application to Ipswich City Council for a dump at New Chum that would initially take 650,000 tonnes of mostly construction and demolition waste each year, rising to more than a million tonnes a year over the 18 to 20-year life of the site.

BMI owns waste facilities in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and this recycling plant on the site of a former coal mine at Swanbank in Redbank Plains, Ipswich, near the proposed new dump. Photo: Mark Solomons

New Zealand-born Mr Irvine has been a major financial backer of Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and more recently a donor to the Liberal National Party.

BMI runs waste facilities at Acacia Ridge, Mt Gravatt and Nudgee in Brisbane, at Lawnton north of the city, at Stapylton on the Gold Coast and at Swanbank in Ipswich, although some of Mr Irvine’s most profitable activities have been in Brisbane property development.

A truck carrying interstate waste that rolled in Acacia Ridge this month was on its way to a BMI Group facility, the ...
A truck carrying interstate waste that rolled in Acacia Ridge this month was on its way to a BMI Group facility, the company says. Photo: 7 News Brisbane.

The volumes of construction waste at the proposed dump, in a former coal mine on Austin Street, would rival those at Cleanaway’s landfill on a neighbouring site in New Chum, which is the largest in the region and filling up rapidly.

Mr Irvine’s plans have angered local environmentalists and will put pressure on the state government, which is mulling the reintroduction of a waste levy.

“It’s an 18-year catastrophe for local residents,” said Geoff Yarham, secretary of local campaigning group Ipswich Residents Against Toxic Dumps.

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Mr Yarham said consultants working for Mr Irvine had not alerted IRATE to the impending development application, in spite of promising to do so during meetings in December.

“So either they lied or they were told to go ahead without us by BMI,” he said.

The amount of interstate waste arriving for burial at Cleanaway’s nearby site tripled last year to 130,000 tonnes, according to confidential Environment Department documents tabled in state Parliament last year. The department attributed the growth in part to the failure of the NSW government to enforce rules supposed to prevent the long-distance transport of waste by road.

But the main driver of the rising trade is Queensland’s lack of a waste levy since the Newman government dropped it in 2012. NSW charges $138 a tonne to bury waste at landfill, the highest rate in Australia.

Mr Yarham said Cleanaway had told his group at a community meeting this month it was looking into expanding the footprint and height of its landfill at New Chum.

BMI said it anticipated the return of a waste levy in Queensland and expected that "NSW waste will stop when it does".

Company general manager Mark Dekker said the company's decision to develop its New Chum site, which it acquired in 2013, had been driven by the fact that within four years, three rival facilities nearby would be full.

"While a levy will come in, it will not be sufficient to divert all waste from landfill," he said.

In a statement, BMI said its New Chum site had a “dangerous, unmanaged” mining void and that the landfill would “support the progressive rehabilitation”of the void.

BMI said the site would take waste from NSW, that this was lawful, and that transporting the waste would “necessitate multiple truck movements per day”.

The company told Fairfax Media that a B-double truck carrying interstate waste that rolled at a roundabout in Acacia Ridge earlier this month was heading to one of its facilities.

Because of the scale of the proposed dump, the application must be referred to the state government.

Before last year's election, then-environment minister Stephen Miles said the government was considering a moratorium on new dumps and advised Ipswich City Council to knock back any such proposals.

A spokeswoman for present Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said: “The minister has been advised that in August 2017, the former Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) undertook an analysis which indicated that placing a moratorium on new landfills would not be an effective deterrent to the transport of interstate waste into Queensland.

"This was on the basis that current landfill capacity will continue to service landfill needs for decades into the future."

Comment has been sought from Ipswich City Council.

In 2016 Mr Irvine sold the Breakfast Creek Wharf in Brisbane’s Newstead to a Hong Kong company for $26 million, four times what he had paid for the site four years earlier and without obtaining any rezoning or change of use.

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