SA moves on waste reforms

By Staff Writer

South Australian councils will be prevented from charging a single annual service charge for waste collection regardless of whether properties get the benefit of the service at their door under State Government reforms to the Local Government Act 1999, currently before Parliament.

Minister for State/Local Government Relations Gail Gago said the change followed an outcry about the unpopular move by the District Council of Yorke Peninsula which prompted a 700-strong petition by ratepayers objecting to the flat fee when they didn’t receive the benefit of weekly roadside pick ups.

“I flagged the potential for legislative reform when I raised several concerns with the Yorke Peninsula District Council about how unfair its decision was on residents,” Gago said.

“To ensure this problem doesn’t impact on other South Australians in future the State Government has introduced legislative amendments in Parliament to close the loophole.”
Currently councils have two main types of revenue options available to them – ‘general rates’, which fund matters of general amenity including roads, footpaths, public toilets, parks, libraries and specific projects, irrespective of whether ratepayers use the service. 
Councils can also impose an ‘annual service charge’, similar to a fee-for-service type levy, which was intended to only charge those ratepayers who receive a particular service eg wastewater removal. 

Most councils include waste collection as part of the ‘general rate’.
“The Yorke Peninsula District Council chose to apply pretty much the same ‘annual service charge’ for waste collection despite many of those residents not getting the service at their door. This was not the way ‘service charges’ were intended to apply,” says Ms Gago.
“If a council believes that waste should be a general amenity, as most council’s currently do, then they have the power to fund the service through ‘general rates’, and thereby share the cost of that public good evenly across all ratepayers.
“However, if a council chooses to impose a ‘service charge’ for waste collection, then those who are not able to get the service at their property shouldn’t have to pay the full amount.
“I intend to implement a scheme, to be prescribed in regulations, under which a sliding scale of waste collection charges may be imposed, depending upon the level of services provided.
“In future, when a prescribed service such as waste collection and recycling is not made available to the property, a council will not be able to impose the full service charge,” said Gago.
The new regulations will be devised in consultation with the Local Government Association of SA.

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