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AustraliaIllegal tyre dump shut down in northern Victoria, after owner jailed

09:45  06 december  2018
09:45  06 december  2018 Source:   abc.net.au

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Illegal tyre dump shut down in northern Victoria, after owner jailed© Provided by ABC News The Victorian Government will pay $1.5 million to get rid of half a million tyres at a dump in Numurkah.

A controversial illegal tyre dump in Victoria's north that has posed an extreme fire risk to the community has been shut down by the State Government.

The Government has dipped into $1.5 million of public money to remove the 5,000-tonne stockpile at Numurkah, near Shepparton, a decade after it was established, and five years after a fire tore through the dump.

The move comes after operator Shanan James Sidebottom was fined $50,000 in October and jailed for four months, after failing to comply with multiple orders to remove the tyres.

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Government to move half a million tyres

Victorian Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio told residents at a community meeting in Numurkah that it would take around 10 weeks to remove the estimated 500,000 tyres.

The tyres will be taken to Melbourne-based facility Tyrerecycle and shredded for recycling and will also be used to produce tyre-derived fuel.

"The stockpile has presented a significant risk to the health of the community here, but also the environment," Ms D'Ambrosio said.

"We know that the threat — and it's a real extreme threat that the stockpile has posed to the community — is not just one that presents as a health and safety risk, but also the economic viability of the town if a disaster were to happen."

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) said it would ensure the safety of the community with the removal of the tyres, which could present significant risks, including potential for fire or snakes and vermin escaping the site.

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Regulations tightened around stockpiles

The Sidebottom Group, initially headed by Sidebottom's father Raymond, started collecting tyres in 2007 after the council granted a permit for the site.

The project initially promised jobs and security for the small community but, by 2013, the land and infrastructure had not been developed and tyres began to pile up.

Ms D'Ambrosio said the Government had tightened regulations around approvals for tyre stockpiles that reached beyond the 5,000 mark.

She said the EPA had been given additional powers to address the matter, including the ability to seek removal funds and expenses.

Just last month, the owners of a tyre dump in western Victoria were ordered to pay more than $4.5 million to the EPA, after refusing to move one million tyres.

Moira Shire Council CEO Mark Henderson said the council initially held high hopes for the Numurkah development, and were not immediately aware of any significant risks around the site until the fire five years ago.

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Illegally dumped materials can be hazardous, for example asbestos and chemicals create a risk of soil and water contamination, fire and toxicity. Dumping of weeds & garden waste can destroy local bushland by reducing biodiversity and hindering revegetation.

"At that stage we were trying to encourage employment and opportunities in the shire," he said.

"That permit was issued with appropriate conditions, but I guess we never expected to see the stockpile we've got here today.

"The community has been waiting for this for a long time.

"We had to work through due legal process, we secured a conviction of the site owner, and I think the fact the council got the legal process to that stage, and enabled the EPA and the Government to step in — it's a fantastic outcome."

Locals breath sigh of relief

While the decision has been welcomed positively by the Numurkah community, there were a number of locals who relayed concerns about the time it took Government to intervene and for the Sidebottom Group to face repercussions.

Mr Sidebottom was jailed in October, but the ABC understands he lodged an appeal and was released from prison just one month into his sentence.

Resident Janene Champion said she was elated by the result, but said the process had dragged on and the community had been "at risk".

"The whole family have ducked and weaved for a very long time. A fine of $50,000 for a community cost in the order of millions, not to mention the effect of the safety and health risks, is completely disproportionate," Ms Champion said.

"But I'm encouraged about what the EPA are saying about going on a cost recovery mission, and I do hope they have a strong effect because there needs to be a line drawn in the sand."

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