The 2021-22 State Budget a mixed bag for Queensland councils 

Published: 18th June 2021

This week’s State Budget for the 2021-22 year has been revealed as a mixed bag Queensland councils. 

The biggest concern to emerge relates to rubbish, and uncertainty over the future of the State Government’s commitment to provide advance waste levy payments to the 39 councils across Queensland impacted by the levy to ensure their residents are not impacted. 

Let’s focus firstly on the wins: and a good win for local government was the new $70 million funding allocation for water, under the Building our Regions program. This will help rural town councils address critical issues due to ageing water and wastewater infrastructure. 

The LGAQ has been having constructive negotiations with the State about these issues. We’ve thanked them for this announcement, it’s a great start, and we’ll keep talking to the government about further funding opportunities for councils to ensure a safe water and wastewater system for all communities. 

The State’s new $1.9 billion funding for social housing and homelessness was another good outcome. There are many different housing concerns across Queensland, social housing is one of them. 

The Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme (TIDS) funding is being retained at $70 million to local governments for the next financial year, which means our budget submission to grow that to $80m for the coming year was not successful. We are not resting on our laurels on this. We met with Transport Minister Mark Bailey and his Director-General Neil Scales on Wednesday, the day after the Budget was handed down, to reiterate the case for an increase to TIDS as well as the reinstatement of the Western Roads program. 

However, let’s go back to rubbish. And what was missing in the State Budget was evidence as to how the Queensland Government will continue to protect ratepayers from the cost of its waste levy. 

When the State announced it would introduce this levy in 2018, it made repeated promises that householders would not be left paying a wheelie bin tax as a result of its levy. 

Even this week the state government website was still saying:

The Queensland Government has committed to ensuring the levy has no direct impact on households. To deliver this, councils receive annual payments to offset the direct costs of the waste levy.”

What the State Budget has confirmed is that the advance payments will continue until June 2022. However, the forward estimates contained no allocation for advance payments after that. 

We have always known that a legislative review was planned before June 2022. 

However, we have never been told, or received in writing, any suggestion that the state government’s promise not to tax household wheelie bins would expire after just three years. The LGAQ had understood this review would consider the efficacy of the waste levy, rather than being a budget/monetary review that places those advance payments under threat.

To remove this household subsidy without first fostering the industries and technologies needed to divert more material from landfill would be premature and would work against what the State wants – and let’s face it, what all councils want. We are all on the same page in wanting to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, and increase recycling rates.

The LGAQ has expressed its disappointment to the government that advance payments to cover the cost of the levy on household bins have vanished from the Budget after next financial year, before the consultation with councils has even taken place.

We won’t accept anything that will cost households more. And after the recent Auditor-General report which highlighted financial sustainability issues for councils, we are certainly not prepared to accept anything that would put a further financial burden on Queensland councils either.  

We’ve sought an urgent meeting with the Environment Minister, and we will keep members updated on this important issue.