High Court rules on landfill case

Urban development in Perth may become more expensive after the High Court dismissed Perth waste management company Eclipse Resources’ leave to appeal against $20 million in landfill levies and penalties.

The decision, on Friday, marked the end of long-running litigation between the State of Western Australia and Eclipse, which had been ordered by the Supreme Court to pay levies and penalties for its reuse of non-contaminated to fill inactive quarries in Perth.

WA Minister Environment Stephen Dawson welcomed the decision, saying the landfill levy acted as an incentive to reduce waste disposed of to landfills and encourage the recycling of waste.

But a spokesperson from Eclipse said today the High Court decision was at odds with state regulations because it favoured levy collection over recycling.

“Most of the landfill is virgin sand, taken from large projects such as Elizabeth Quay, the Perth Railway Tunnel and the Osborne Park IKEA site,” he said.

“All of these projects generate huge volumes of soil. If you reuse this, it’ll now be taxable at $90 per metre in levies. You may as well open a new site to extract virgin sand for $12 per metre.”

Eclipse had not paying levies on the grounds that its landfill was repurposed natural material including sand, and therefore not waste.

Curtin University School of Built Environment lecturer Jake Schapper said landfill, produced largely by sand extraction, was used extensively in Perth to raise development sites above the water table.

“Buying sand for landfill from sand extraction companies pushes up the price of sand and other building materials,” Mr Schapper said today.

“Eclipse was recycling material that could no longer be used. This decision will be a big blow to their business model.

“If builders have to pay excessive amounts for uncontaminated byproducts, it pushes up the price. They’re not creating new sites, they’re remediating old sites back up to grade.”

As part of the state’s Sequential Land Use laws, Eclipse fills disused quarries with sand and soils before rehabilitating them for use as subdivisions or parks.

Any licensed development site within the metropolitan area may use up to 500 tonnes of uncontaminated soil or clean fill per year without paying levies.

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