The NSW government’s environmental watchdog just referred itself to ICAC

Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) CEO Barry Buffie has referred his organisation to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) over claims made on ABC TV’s Four Corners on Monday night about the state waste industry.

“The Four Corners program contained allegations about corruption in the waste industry and suggested, or implied, corrupt conduct through inaction by the EPA in response to notifications of illegal waste activities,” he said.

The EPA’s director of waste and resource recovery Steve Beaman, who was interviewed in the program, has gone on “recreation leave” for a month, effective immediately.

The ABC revealed it has recordings of a meeting between Beaman and waste industry representatives where he told them the opposite to the statements he gave on Four Corners about the online tracking system which is meant to help keep tabs on the sector.

Beaman told Four Corners he had “confidence” in the system, but when an industry figure asked if he was confident everyone uses the interstate waste-tracking system for more than 10 tonnes, Beaman replied “God no, no”.

Buffie’s actions come just 24 hours after the EPA issued a detailed rebuttal of claims made in the program, which alleged that tonnes of waste were being shipped to Queensland for disposal in order to avoid paying a $138 per tonne landfill levy in NSW. Up to one million tonnes of waste are being shipped to across the border, cost the NSW government more than $100,000 in revenue as a result.

The revelations about interstate waste transfers have concerned Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who wants to meet with her NSW counterpart, Glady Berejiklian, to discuss the issue.

“Everyone would have been horrified and alarmed at the extent of the waste that was being dumped, transferred from inner city NSW up into Queensland,” Palaszczuk said.

NSW has regulations, known as the proximity war, designed to stop waste being shipped more than 150km from where it originates, but the rules are routinely flouted.