Central Coast Council loses legal battle over mega dump, but environmentalists say it’s far from over

A new court ruling has backed an approval in 2014 for the expansion of a massive landfill that sits in the Central Coast watershed of New South Wales NSW, but local opponents say it is not a green light.

The “Mangrove Mountain Dump,” as locals call it, transformed itself more than two decades ago from a simple redevelopment of a golf course.

As a huge mound of earth, large crater and leach ponds have emerged over the years, the community has also been concerned about the development’s potential impact on the environment, particularly the local water supply. water that supplies the whole region.

In 2014, the Land and Environmental Court gave landfill operator Verde Terra permission to dump an additional 1.3 million cubic meters of waste at the site over 10 years, 25 times the original permit. .

Eight years later, the same court has now upheld that decision after the Central Coast Council tried to have it overturned.

Some of the landfill’s retention ponds remain unlined.(Provided: Association of Mountain Districts)

But landfill opponents such as the Community Environment Network (CEN) described the decision as a ‘mixed bag’ and insisted there was still a long way to go before the future of development was set. known.

The legal battle

The Central Coast Council launched the legal action in 2019 in an attempt to challenge the validity of the dumping operation.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority and Verde Terra, which is affiliated with waste management company BINGO Industries, have also been implicated.

The long-running case involved two sets of proceedings and was described by the commissioner as an “increasingly[ly] complex litigation.

The court ‘broadly’ accepted the operator’s arguments, including that it would suffer financially and that there was no alternative solution offered by the council, if the 2014 consent order n was not confirmed.

But the commissioner also warned against any risk of future contamination of the environment.

Mangrove Mountain landfill runoff, January 2016
The future of the landfill depends on its ability to meet appropriate environmental standards.(By Stephen Goodwin)

“In circumstances where, as the council has pointed out, there is a risk of pollution escaping from waste onto the land, negatively impacting the environment and neighboring properties, this is not satisfactory,” the judgment said.

The community won’t give up the fight

The landfill has faced fierce community opposition for years, with loud calls for it to be closed and the site remediated.

Large locked entrance to the Mangrove Mountain Landfill with a sign
The development sat idle for nearly a decade, but locals say it’s not the right place for a landfill. (ABC: Mary-Louise Vince )

The Mountain Districts Association led the charge, prompting independent reviews, public meetings and an unsuccessful campaign to have the project reviewed by a Board of Inquiry.

The Mangrove Mountain landfill was thrust further into the national spotlight by the ABC’s Four Corners program on illegal landfills in 2017.

What shall we do now?

The court settled some issues, but Mr Chestnut maintains ‘the way forward is actually complex’ and ‘hasn’t exactly addressed what will happen tomorrow’.

Although the latest judgment upheld the 2014 court order, it also ruled that it could not be implemented in its current form because it was based on outdated environmental controls.

According to Mr Chestnut, the operator must either obtain a new consent or have the court order changed, “and that requires a lot of debate on how to move forward”.

All parties have 33 days to review the judgment and determine if there are grounds for appeal.

A large leachate pond is part of the large Mangrove Mountain landfill.
Residents argue that the dump continues to pose a risk to the Central Coast drinking water catchment.(Provided by the Association of Mangrove Districts)

As the fight continued over the future of the operation, opponents expressed fear about the impact it was already having on the region.

“There are 900 cubic meters of waste on site today, well beyond initial approval and 80% of this is unlined,” Mr Chestnut said.

The Central Coast Council and the EPA were reviewing the judgment.

The ABC has contacted attorneys for Verda Terra for comment.

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