Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a three-month investigation after a Four Corners report exposed the transporting of waste by rail and road from NSW to Queensland.
The Four Corners story, which aired last week, detailed the sending of waste – on trucks and trains – north of the border, to avoid a $138 per tonne NSW landfill levy.
Industry is estimating the trade to have reached roughly a million tonnes a year, with interstate operators reportedly dumping waste in disused mine sites.
Palaszczuk said on Tuesday a three-month independent investigation would look into the drama.
“I want to send a clear message to interstate waste generators and companies that Queensland is not a free for all,” she said.
“We need to better understand the actions of those who haul waste several hundred kilometres to Queensland, what responses we can make, and whether national action is required.”
The premier noted that 6000 people are employed in Queensland in the waste transfer and recycling sectors, but seemed to indicate the trend of interstate waste haulage was not wanted.
“Not only is interstate waste haulage unnecessary, it can be unsafe,” she said. “We also need to question the potential cost to Queensland taxpayers and the environment.”
The investigation will consider how the state can limit the incentives currently in place for the interstate waste trade to take place.
It will also consider any illegal practices taking place, the need for regulatory reform, and the role of other states and the Commonwealth in fixing the issue.
State environment minister Steven Miles said the Government already enforced illegal dumping in Queensland, but said the investigation would seek out any operators who slipped through the cracks.
“The good operators want us to see bad elements in their industry stamped out as much as we do and that’s why they’ve been working with us,” Miles said.
“An independent investigation is the best way to bring those in the industry who think it is alright to treat Queensland as a cheap dump into line with community expectations.”