Wednesday 10 April 2024 


Changes to NSW local government regulations dropped just before Christmas will push up council rates, give unions veto power over new waste and resource recovery (WARR) contracts and could lead to the disruption of all waste services, the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) and the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) warned today.

Released quietly five (5) working days before Christmas, NSW Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig dropped the changes on the WARR industry and the local government sector without any prior consultation or warning. Meetings with both the Minister's Office and the Department of Local Government have failed to elicit any response to our significant concerns.

Under changes to the Local Government (General) Regulation 2021, it requires unions to be ‘satisfied’ with all waste services contracted before council enters into a contract for service. It also requires all staff under existing contracts to be transferred to new services on the same terms, regardless as to whether it's a different service, the staff service multiple councils or they could earn more. Unbelievably, there is no definition of what constitutes union ‘satisfaction’.

This approach fails to take into account changes which may occur to services as needs change, such as the introduction of new or even less services as we reduce the creation of waste or recycle more.

“The amendments are already having damaging consequences – driving up the price on WARR contracts, creating uncertainty, stifling competition and putting at risk the state’s ability to meet its environmental targets,” WCRA Executive Officer Brett Lemin said.

“This could ultimately lead to a disruption of all kerbside services - not just collection but also processing as the Regulation is so broad and uncertain - which is obviously something we want to avoid,” WMRR Chief Executive Officer Gayle Sloan said today.

“We have already seen several tenders delayed and one (1) major facility operator refusing to tender for work given the uncertainty created by this change, making it nearly impossible for councils to receive competitive responses through the tender process.”

The changes have clearly not been thought through with basic questions unable to be answered, such as:

  • Do the changes cover call centre staff, education staff, managers?
  • WARR facilities usually service many local government areas, so does the regulation cover those staff as well?
  • Several different unions represent WARR employees, so what happens if one union is ‘satisfied’ and another is not? 
  • When and how will the transfer of entitlements for employees be quantified to provide certainty to tenderers and who will pay for it? And what happens if workers decline to be transferred? 

WMRR and WCRA call on the Minister to urgently repeal this regulation before it impacts more councils and starts to flow through to ratepayers.

We ask Minister Hoenig to consult with the WARR industry and the local government sector to identify the issue he believes needs addressing so we can work collaboratively on a solution.