Hume councillors are calling on the state government to make it a criminal offence to illegally stockpile chemicals, saying they are “sick” of fires at waste storage facilities in the municipality.
At last night’s council meeting, councillors voiced their frustrations at the “horrific number of fires” the Hume community had been confronted with in recent years.
About 100 residents gathered outside the council chamber ahead of the meeting to demand tougher regulations for the waste industry and to send a message to the government that “enough is enough”.
Councillors Joseph Haweil and Drew Jessop said it was time the government introduced legislation to make it a criminal offence to illegally stockpile chemicals and waste.
Cr Jessop said Australia was a first-world country, yet its chemical disposal processes were “third world”.
“If there is not the legislative ability to crackdown then that needs to change,” he said. “It is simply not good enough.”
Cr Haweil said Hume didn’t deserve to be a dumping ground for waste.
“I think if this were to have happened in Toorak or Hawthorn or Kew or Brighton, you would have seen a lot more action and you would have seen it faster,” he said.
“Fines and infringements are insufficient … I think people should be criminally charged. The state government must come to the party.”
— Gaye Demanuele (@gayedemanuele) April 8, 2019
Cr Naim Kurt said it had been a horrific weekend for Hume residents off the back of another industrial fire.
Cr Kurt said the community had been confronted by fires at SKM Recycling, a battery and cartridge factory and a tyre storage yard, in addition to last Friday’s massive blaze at Bradbury Industrial Services.
He said the community was also concerned about the discovery of 19 million litres of illegally stored chemicals in warehouses across Hume and Whittlesea in December.
“Ultimately, it is the community and businesses that feel the impact of this illegal industry and the time for talk is over,” Cr Kurt said.
“The practice of these operators has compromised the safety and wellbeing of our community too many times.
“This is an issue that is happening across the state … at its core, it is illegal activity. It is a crime – there is no doubt about that.”
The council will write to Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Broadmeadows MP Frank McGuire to demand urgent action on the issue and to call for greater powers for the EPA and WorkSafe.
“Those who think they are above the law and are undertaking illegal activities must be stopped,” Cr Kurt said.
“We want agencies like WorkSafe and the EPA to be given resources and powers to police these businesses and better protect our community.”