By Jess Baker
The operating days and hours of the Southern Downs region’s waste facilities will be reduced from next month, despite hundreds of objections from residents.
Southern Downs Regional Council adopted a new Waste Reduction and Recycling Plan for 2021-24 at last week’s ordinary meeting that will see operating days at Allora and Killarney waste facilities change from Friday to Tuesday to Friday to Monday.
Hours at the facilities will be reduced from 8.00am to 5.00pm to 9.00am to 4.00pm.
Operating days and hours at waste facilities at Pratten, Leyburn, Maryvale, Yangan, Northern Granite Belt, Broadwaster and Wallangarra will be reduced from four days a week to three days a week, and from 8.00am to 5.00pm to 9.00am to 4.00pm.
Warwick and Stanthorpe facilities will remain open seven days a week, with hours reduced to 8.00am to 5.00pm year-round.
The council has estimated that these reductions in hours will provide it a saving of $380,000 per year in operational expenses.
Correspondence tabled at last week’s ordinary meeting included a letter signed by more than 400 Allora residents, expressing the town’s objection to reducing operating days and hours at the Allora Waste Facility.
“As a concerned citizen, one would think if the keyed facilities in the Southern Downs Regional Council area were to close there would be more waste directed to the only major waste facility north of Warwick city, therefore one would conclude less (days) and less hours open is not a thought that has been thought through,” read the letter.
Southern Downs Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley said the large volume of feedback received by the council from residents of both Allora and Killarney was a concern.
“Given the size of the town and population (in Allora and in Killarney), and the growing population in all our areas, I just wonder if we’ve probably been a little bit premature,” Cr Bartley said.
“In actual fact, there’s going to be demands on these facilities now the way the population’s growing.
Cr Bartley said community consultation reflected residents’ desperate desire to see operating hours unchanged.
He suggested the council consider raising waste disposal fees instead of changing facilities’ hours of operation.
“We have 20,000 ratepayers in this region and I guess this reduction in hours and the way we propose to operate will save $380,000,” he said.
“I’m of the mind that if you had 20,000 rate notices and you put them up $20 each, you’d cover that.
“And most people are so passionate about their landfills and transfer stations, they’d probably be happy to pay it.”
Councillor Stephen Tancred said that while the community was passionate, the Waste Reduction and Recycling Plan 2021-24 was well-researched and took the council’s budget constraints into account.
“We have to be responsible. We have to provide a service, but we have to balance the budget,” Cr Tancred said.
Cr Bartley remained unconvinced the waste management plan would effectively address the region’s waste issues, referring to the document’s goal to have a solution by 2030/31.
“That’s a long time after 2024 to have the solution and I don’t know whether we’ll have it by then,” he said.
“… I don’t think our (Waste Reduction and) Recycling Plan is going to give us the result we want personally.”
Council officers noted that a total 98 written submissions, including three ‘petitions’ from Allora, Killarney and the Northern Granite Belt, were received by the council after the draft waste management plan was released.
Most highlighted residents’ concerns about, and objections to, SDRC reducing waste facility operational hours.
Councillors voted unanimously to reduce the operational days and hours of the region’s waste facilities and to review the decision in six months’ time.