Sutherland Shire Council aborts move for permanent household chemical waste recycling facility at Kareela

Plans to establish a community recycling centre where Sutherland Shire residents could dispose of household chemicals, paint and other low toxic waste seven days a week, have been shelved.

Sutherland Shire Council decided it would be heavily out of pocket running the centre, which was to have been established on the site of a former sullage depot below football fields off Bates Drive, Kareela.

The decision means residents will have to continue to cart problem waste, including gas bottles, batteries, oils, lamps containing mercury and smoke detectors, to a twice-a-year temporary waste collection centre at the Bellingara Netball Centre, Miranda.

In a bipartisan move, the council resolved to advise the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) it no longer wished to proceed with the facility “due to the current funding arrangements, restrictions and limitations”.

It would seek further talks to seek an improved funding model, possibly in partnership with other councils in the region.

A $223,000 grant for a community recycling centre (CRC) was awarded by the EPA in 2015.

The Kareela site was subsequently rezoned and the facility was expected to begin operating by July, 2017.

However, the council found last year construction costs would exceed the state government grant and annual operating costs would be more than $390,000 a year.

A staff report, which was considered at the last council meeting in 2017, said the Environment Protection Authority had agreed to provide $200,000 annually until 2021, with no commitment for further funding.

The report said the EPA and Sydney Water had historically collected the materials that would be handled by a CRC.

“Council undertaking this role can be viewed as a cost shifting exercise by the NSW Government,” it said.

The report said, since the council’s original grant application in 2015, a number of other metropolitan councils had constructed and started operating CRCs under the same grant program.

“Nearly all of the sites experienced significant delays in approvals and construction cost blow outs,” the report said.

“The cost overruns were due to unforeseen construction issues that were not identified in the original grant application.

“It has also become apparent that the cost to council(s) to operate the CRC facilities has in most instances exceeded their original estimates.

“For example, the construction cost for the Randwick City Council CRC exceeded $900,000, well in excess of the original $250,000 grant.

“North Sydney has recently opened a jointly operated CRC between North Sydney, Ryde, Willoughby, Lane Cover and Hunters Hill Council.

“This facility operates from a commercially leased property at an expense of $250,000 per annum in lease fees.

“As this is a site remote to other council depots it is required to be staffed by a minimum of two staff at all times.

“Council staff at North Sydney have indicated that the labour costs to maintain this facility are in the order of $200,000 per annum, and this is in addition to utility costs estimated at around $50,000 per annum.”