VEC Ballot Paper Unfairly Favours Some Candidates

Introduction

Analysis of the primary voting pattern in 2016 Victorian local government Council and Shire elections highlights the failure of the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) to minimize the Donkey Vote. Analysis of the primary voting results shows the impact of the 20.86% to greater than 54.69% 'donkey vote' unfairly favours the candidates who the VEC place as the first listed candidate on ballot papers, this distortion is excessive, unfairly influences the election of candidates and the current VEC process maximizes the impact of the Donkey Vote.

Definition Of A Donkey Vote

Various dictionaries like the Collins, Oxford, etc., include similar definitions for a Donkey Vote. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) definition in their Glossary is:

A ballot paper marked 1, 2, 3, 4 straight down (or up) a ballot paper.

In relation to the Donkey Vote in 2010 State Parliament elections the Victorian Electoral Commission in Section 11 Statistical overview Of The Election, Page 73, Donkey Votes their election report included:

A donkey vote is a vote cast by a voter who numbers the squares down the ballot paper, without caring about the nature of the candidates on offer. Candidates are pleased if they get the top spot on the ballot paper when the draw for position takes place, because they will have the advantage of the donkey vote. The size of the donkey vote has been a matter for discussion.

The VEC counted the donkey votes as part of its survey of ballot papers. To measure real donkey votes, it is necessary to distinguish them from votes following party advice and from votes that were logically in this order given the nature of the candidates. ...

Figure 64: Proportion of donkey votes minus proportion attributable to random variation on Page 73 demonstrated how miniscule impact of the Donkey Vote had on the election. In Figure 64, the proportion attributable to random variation has been subtracted.

While Wikipedia provides an article explaining the meaning and impact of a 'Donkey Vote' and it includes the following extract:

A donkey vote is a ballot cast in an election that uses a preference voting system, where a voter is permitted or required to rank candidates on the ballot paper, and ranks them based on the order they appear on the ballot paper. The voter that votes in this manner is referred to as a donkey voter.

Typically, this involves numbering the candidates in the order they appear on the ballot paper: first preference for the first-listed candidate, second preference for the second-listed candidate, and so on. However, donkey votes can also occur in reverse, such that someone numbers the candidates from the bottom up the ballot paper. In systems where a voter is required to place a number against each candidate for the vote to be valid, the voter may give the first preference to the candidate they prefer, then run all the other numbers donkey fashion.

The Wikipedia article included a section on the Australian House of Representatives and currently states:

The donkey vote has been estimated at between 1 and 2% of the vote, which could be critical in a marginal seat.

Starting with Wikipedia's first type of donkey vote where the voter just numbers straight down the ballot paper the current VEC design favours the first listed candidate by ~25% to greater than 46%. The second type of Donkey Vote (reverse) appears to have no impact therefore not a significant issue. Determining the impact of the variant based on an initial vote then numbering a donkey vote basically requires analysis of every VEC spreadsheet for every ward and I will not be providing that detailed an analysis at this time.

I would suggest another form of Donkey Vote is possible in Council Elections. The Labor and Liberal parties do not endorse candidates while the Greens party does endorse its candidates. For postal elections the VEC did not distribute How To Vote cards therefore there is no need to distinguish real Donkey Votes from votes following party advice. Given 20 to 40 candidates for some Wards there is the situation where a voter may initially vote for a limited number of candidates scattered about the Ballot Paper and then completes their ballot following a Donkey Vote pattern.

Simple Examples Of the Impact of Donkey Votes

For some simple examples I will limit the calculations to 2 decimal places (same as the VEC). I will start with the case where there is no donkey vote and every candidate receives the same percentage of primary votes. Assuming these elections are for one Councilor to be elected for wards of 1,000 voters. With three wards (A, B & C) with five (5), ten (10) and twenty (20) candidates the results would be:

One simple method to check for a donkey vote is to compare the primary votes of the first and second candidates. Unfortunately the results for a single Ward does not provide sufficient information to calculate the 'donkey vote'. Using the primary voting results from multiple wards does allow the Donkey Vote to be estimated.

If you were to average the primary votes for 1st and 2nd position candidates for this example elections for Wards A, B & C the result would be 116.67 primary votes for both 1st and 2nd listed candidates (i.e. no Donkey Vote). If you were to keep adding results for more Wards without a Donkey Vote the total number of primary votes would increase and you would have more confidence in stating there was no 'Donkey Vote'.

Assume there is a uniform 10% donkey vote then each first listed candidate would gain 10%. The results for each of the first listed candidates would be:

In this simple example all other candidates in each ward would contribute an equal share of their vote towards the votes gained by the first listed candidate in each ward therefore the decrease in the primary vote for each second listed candidate will vary. The results will be:

The average primary vote for the 1st listed Candidate is 128.33 which is 10% higher than the no Donkey Vote results of 116.67 votes. The average primary vote for the second listed candidate is 114.54 which is 98.17% of the primary vote for the 'no Donkey Vote' case i.e. not 10% less than the 116.67 primary votes for the 'no Donkey Vote' case. Obviously this is not symmetrical and the actual percentage change is:

To simulate the situation where the average Donkey vote is 0% but the Donkey Vote is not uniform with Ward A +10% Donkey Vote and Ward B 0%, then to achieve a 0% average Donkey Vote the 1st listed Candidate in Ward C will have to receive 10% less primary votes with the excess primary votes distributed evenly across the other candidates in that Ward. The primary votes for the candidates would be:

The aim of this simple example is to show what would be the impact of the different Donkey Vote rates when the average is 0%. In this case the first listed candidates average increase above the no Donkey Vote case is +4.28% and the average for the 2nd listed candidates is -2.78%. Therefore simple counting of primary votes for elections with varying voter and candidate numbers is not going to produce meaningful result except in the special case where there is a uniform Donkey Vote. In practice the Donkey vote will not be uniform across Wards so counting the number of primary votes may show there is an imbalance but not deliver useful results.

A solution is to use the percentage of primary votes received by each candidate so that Wards with a small number of candidates do not swamp the Wards with a large number of candidates. It is possible for a candidate to receive multiples of the average vote e.g. a candidate could receive a 20% primary vote or a 300% increase (20-5/5) in a field of 20 candidates where the expected average is 5%. If there is no Donkey Vote and a large enough sample size then candidates with high percentage votes will be evenly distributed and the 1st and 2nd listed candidates will have the same average percentage i.e. 1st and 2nd candidates are equal then there is no Donkey Vote.

The problem of using only one Ward is a higher primary vote for the first candidate may just reflect they are just more popular with the voters than the second candidate. If you increase the number of Wards (i.e. sample size) then the popular candidates should be randomly distributed across the list which in effect means the popularity of individual Councilors will balance out or be averaged out of the results. Refer to the Wikipedia article on the Central Limit Theorem and for a discussion on sample sizes refer to the Forum Discussion and the Statistical Rules of Thumb for further details. Given a large enough sample size then any primary vote imbalances between 1st and 2nd listed candidates may be due to a donkey vote. In practice each ward would have a different number of voters with varying numbers of candidates. The VEC publishes the primary vote results so it is simple to add up the percentages differences and then compare results.

The Donkey Vote could be expected to increase with an increasing numbers of candidates standing in a Ward for election. One Ward in the 2016 election had 41 candidates and may have had a high Donkey Vote. As there was only one Ward with 41 candidates it is impossible to estimate the size of any Donkey Vote. By increasing the sample size using the results from other Wards it is possible to determine the existance of a Donkey Vote.

Election Results

In the table below a sample includes all the Wards where the number of candidates is greater than or equal to the table entry. To create a reasonable sample size of 31 the Wards with 16 candidates or more has been grouped together in the following table.

Candidates Sample size 1st 2nd
>= 16 31 54.69% -28.38%
>= 15 35 50.36% -10.05%
>= 12 66 45.36% -9.57%
>= 10 94 35.80% -10.87
>= 5 161 26.62% -4.62%
>= 2 222 20.86% -3.82%

As the candidate numbers increase in Wards it can be seen that the Donkey Vote increases, therefore the Donkey Vote has a much greater impact on these elections results. For example, when there are 15 candidates or more standing for election the 1st listed candidate on average will receive 60.41% (50.36% - (-10.05%) more primary votes than the 2nd listed candidate. This does not mean the 1st listed candidate will receive 50.36% of the primary vote and be automatically elected. It indicates the 1st listed candidate has an unfair advantage. Without How-To-Vote cards being distributed with the 2016 Postal Vote Election Packs voters have less direction and are more likely to cast one of the forms of Donkey Vote.

Elimination of the Donkey Vote Bias

The Donkey Vote bias is maximized by the ballot currently printed by the VEC and the bias can be simply removed by the VEC

Of course the candidate who is lucky enough to be selected by the VEC as the 1st listed candidate is going to be happy when there is a large field of candidates. Currently in Postal Elections there are no How-To-Vote cards distributed with the election packs so there is no requirement to have a fixed order in the ballot. An obvious counter to this bias is for VEC to distribute ballots with different orders of candidates so that no one candidate receives the benefit of the donkey vote. There appears to be no restriction in the Local Government Act or Regulations that prevents the VEC from distributing alternative ballots designed to remove the Donkey Vote bias.

The VEC may state that the Donkey Vote is minimal but its impact is disproportionate. There were 222 election results and greater than or equal to 9 candidates was a sample size of 110, 1st listed candidate +32.66% and 2nd listed candidate was -8.53% on average. To achieve a +32.66% vote above the average of 11.11% for 9 candidates translates into a primary vote of 14.74% or the Donkey Vote starts at 3.63% of the primary vote. The Donkey Vote for 9 candidates will increase significantly from this starting point when including the Directed Donkey Votes..

Popularity of Councillors

The 2016 election results are now released by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). A number of Councillors increased their personal vote and still failed to be re-elected. What is of note is the similar popularity loss of Sam Aziz (-5.4%) and Gary Rowe (-5.75%). The power of preferences is demonstrated by the re-election of Sam Aziz and failure of Gary Rowe. to be re-elected.

Name Ward Change in Primary Vote
(from 2012)
Status
SEREY, Susan Edrington +11.72% Elected
CRISTANI, Rosalie Four Oaks +9.08% Elected
BEARDON, Steve Four Oaks +6.28% Elected
MOORELAND, Mick Edrington +5.96% Failed
KAPLON, Rafal Four Oaks +2.74% Failed
BERKELMANS, Louise Springfield +2.25% Failed
STAPLEDON, Amanda Mayfield +1.77% Elected
SMITH, Wayne River Gum +0.05% Elected
JACKSON, Timothy Edrington 0% (No history) Elected
GILICH, Mila Four Oaks 0% (No history) Elected
ABLETT, Geoff Balla Balla -0.44% Elected
ROSARIO, Damien River Gum -0.56% Elected
FLANNERY, Rex Springfield -3.42% Elected
AZIZ, Sam Springfield -5.4% Elected
ROWE, Gary Mayfield -5.75% Failed

I have attempted to show the results for candidates who have a history of standing for election in the City of Casey. What is most striking is the turnover in candidates and that candidates from 2008 and 2005 all had significant support with the minimum vote being 12.48%.

Name Ward (2016) 2005 2008 2012 2016 Change
ABLETT, Geoff Balla Balla 68.92% 55.57% 55.13% -0.44%
SAHHAR, Linda Balla Balla 11.72% 9.09% -2.63%
MOORELAND, Mick Edrington 39.25% 23.15% 11.73% 17.69% +5.96%
SEREY, Susan Edrington 16.51% 28.23% +11.72%
JACKSON, Timothy Edrington 8.98% New
BALMES, Shar Four Oaks 12.59% 10.14% 5.46% -4.68%
CRESTANI, Rosalie Four Oaks 8.09% 17.17% +9.08%
GLAZEBROOK, John Four Oaks 2.01% 3.19% +1.18%
KAPLON, Rafal Four Oaks 7.24% 9.98% +2.74%
GILICH, Milla Four Oaks 8.15% New
BEARDON, Steve Mayfield 14.46% 13.64% 8.66% 14.94% +6.28%
HALSALL, Rebecca Mayfield 8.72% 3.33% -5.49%
LOKOT, Suzanne Mayfield 6.54% 9.30% +2.76%
ROWE, Gary Mayfield 14.38% 20.32% 14.57% -5.75%
STAPLEDON, Amanda Mayfield 14.72% 20.17% 18.40% +1.77%
WARD, Rob Mayfield 3.76% 5.92% +2.26%
FONSEKA, Gamini River Gum 2.99% 4.13% +1.14%
KELEHER, Lynette River Gum 21.65% 10.23% 10.06% -0.17%
ROSARIO, Damien River Gum 9.29% 8.73% -0.56%
SMITH, Wayne River Gum 28.69% 20.24% 23.98% 24.03% +0.05%
AZIZ, Sam Springfield 12.48% 24.95% 19.55% -5.40%
BERKELMANS, Louise Springfield 4.74% 6.99% +2.25%
FLANNERY, Rex Springfield 15.00% 11.58% -3.42%
PAGE, Garry Springfield 7.07% 7.48% +0.41%
RICHARDSON, Paul Springfield 15.49% 18.20% 6.92% 6.00% -0.92%

Seven Councillors are returned with four new Councillors. Steve Beardon has been a Casey Councillor and he has displaced Gary Rowe in the Mayfield Ward. The other three are brand new, freshly minted as Councillors.

In Balla Balla Ward Geoff Ablett has received nearly the same percentage in 2016 as he received in the 2012 election when he stood against four candidates. In 2016 he was standing against five candidates which represents a significant increase for Balla Balla Ward. Geoff Ablett's -0.44% represents an increase in popularity when taking into account he was standing against a larger field of candidates i.e. his popularity is solid. Issues that could have caused a decrease in the popularity of a sitting Casey Councillor (e.g. the failed 0.97% rates increase, $125 million price tag on the Bunjil Place project, the history of Casey rates increases, Council governance, etc.) have generally had no impact on Councillor popularity.

I have attempted to show how closeley voters follow a candidate's preference suggestions in this Casey Council election?

Name Ward Available Preference
BEEBY, Rick Four Oaks 20/21 40.51%
LIPSKIi, Dominik Four Oaks 19/21 27.87%
PALATSIDES, Nikolaous Four Oaks 18/21 33.88%
TYSZKA, Bbart Four Oaks 17/21 25.64%
ELVISH, Paul Mayfield 14/18 35.14%
HUMPHRIES, Paul River Gum 14/15 21.30%
BARGASHOUN, Anthony Springfield 14/15 23.88%
HASSAN, Waleed Springfield 13/15 14.29% 14.69% to Sam AZIZ
MIRRA, Natasha Four Oaks 12/21 24.92% 27.03% to Rosalie CRESTANI
WALDEN, Jenni Mayfield 12/18 26.84%
GEDYE, Cassandra Springfield 12/15 29.93%
SAMUEL, Lyndon Four Oaks 11/21 45.43%
LAWLER, Andrew Four Oaks 10/21 51.58%
CRANE, Colin Mayfield 10/18 42.49%
FONSEKA, Gaminitd> River Gum 10/15 29.26%
McCORMACK, Rory Springfield 10/15 35.81%
JURICEVIC, Nicholas Four Oaks 9/21 37.78%
SPENCER, Ian River Gum 9/15 37.81%
MAVROUDIS, Rhonda Springfield 9/15 23.27% 53.97% To Kayla HARRISS
BARROW,Richard Four Oaks 8/21 46.78%
HALSALL, Rebecca Mayfield 8/18 41.65%
RICHARDSON, Pauil Springfield 8/15 37.92%
SMITH, Graham Mayfield 7/18 43.43%
SKALIARIS, Elizabeth-Rose River Gum 7/15 29.37%
PERERA, Ray Edrington 7/10 44.94%
SACCO, Robvert River Gum 6/15 45.59%
NAJIBI, Faisal Springfield 7/15 47.20%
ALTER, Stephen Springfield 6/15 23.27%
PRVULJ, Sandra Edrington 6/10 53.98%
BALMES, Shar Four Oaks 5/21 42.21%
WARD, Rob Mayfield 5/18 51.06%
REXHEPI, Aladin River Gum 5/15 60.29%
HARRISS, Kayla Springfield 5/15 35.89%
KAPLON, Rafal Four Oaks 3/21 63.11%
MENDI, Kasuni Springfield 3/15 55.52%
KRUITHOFF, Glenn Edrington 3/10 35.63% 45.13% to Timothy JACKSON
WISE, Anne-Maree River Gum 2/15 47.45% 52.55% to Lynette KELEHER

From these figures it is bleedingly obvious that voters do not slavishly follow candidate 'How to Vote' suggestions in the candidate statements. Even when the allocation of preferences is down to the critical last few the candidate statements do not deliver 100%. The obvious solution for a candidate is to have a relatively large number of candidates preferencing you.

Increasing the number of Wards in this analysis will increase the accuracy but not change the outcome. In the 2012 elections 'How to Vote' cards were supplied by candidates and it would be interesting to compare preference allocations. I will do this when time permits.

When time permits an analysis of the Donkey Vote' will go in here. Initial analysis for 64 elections appears to show the Donkey Vote may be smaller than expected.

There were far fewer 2012 candidates re-contesting this election than I would have expected. Once you remove the 11 Councillors re-contesting for their positions I could only identify 12 candidates out of a pool of 73 that are re-contesting this election or just 16% of this pool of candidates are back for another attempt.

The VEC records the results of past council elections and candidate counts for the existing ward structure are 2005, 2008 and 2012. Prior elections used a radically different ward structure so only the total candidate count is shown for 2000 and 2003.

Ward
2000
2003
2005
2008
2012
2016
Balla Balla


4
2
4
5
Edrington


4
7
18
10
Four Oaks


14
10
22
21
Mayfield


9
11
14
18
River Gum


5
7
16
15
Springfield


8
15
11
15
Total
68
83
44
52
85
84

Allocation of Councillors

One of the first items of business is the allocation of Councillor to positions, committees, etc. Standard practice is to appoint all Councillors to the Special Committees of Planning and General Purposes therefore I have split the allocation into two tables so that it highlights the allocation of Councillors to the other positions..

Committee Ablett Aziz Beardon Crestani Flannery Gilich Jackson Rosario Serey Smith Stapledon
Mayor Mayor
Deputy Mayors Deputy Deputy
Planning Committee Chair Member Member Member Member Member Member Member Member Member Member
General Purposes Advisory Committee Member Member Member Chair Member Member Member Member Member Member Member

The allocation of Councillors to positions on the other committees appears to be very unbalanced.

Committee Ablett Aziz Beardon Crestani Flannery Gilich Jackson Rosario Serey Smith Stapledon
Audit and Ethics Committee Member Alt Member
Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee
Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee Member Member
Casey Cardinia Tourism Advisory Committee Alt Member
Casey Australia Day Awards Selection Advisory Panel Member Alt
Casey Economic Development Partnership Member Member Member Member
Casey Equestrian Reference Committee Member Alt Member
Casey Fields Steering Committee Member Member Member Member Member
Volunteer Awards Advisory Member Alt
Cranbourne Motorcycle GP Run
Conservation Advisory Committee
CEO Performance Review Member Member Member Member Member
Hampton Park Town Structure Plan Member Member
Mayoral Charity Concert Advisory Member
Municipal Association (MAV) Alt Member
Casey Cardinia Library Corporation Member Alt Member
Local History Reference Group Alt Member
Aboriginal Consultative Committee Member Alt
Waste and Resource Recovery Alt Member
Casey Radio Member Alt Member
Multifaith Network Member Member
Community Theatre Alt Member
John Pandazopoulos Hall Member Alt
Soccer Member Member Member Member
Local Government Association Member Alt
Count of Memberships 4 8 2 4 0 1 2 7 2 5 9
Count of Alts 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 5 3

What is interesting is the uneven distribution of Councillors to memberships and committees, etc.

Stapledom 9
Aziz 8
Rosario 7
Smith 5
Ablett 4
Crestani 4
Beardon 2
Jackson 2
Serey 2
Gilich 1
Flannery 0

Narre Warren Power Station

At least 250 residences are within the 500 metre landfill buffer that also contains the Narre Warren Power Station and Casey Council has not requested or required a Section 53V Audit for subdivisions and/or developments within the buffer. It appears Casey Council has not followed EPA guidelines which could jeopardize the health of residents and impact on the value of some of the most expensive residential land in Narre Warren. Even though the EPA has failed to follow its own guidelines it appears the EPA has passed the buck to Casey Council while Councillors appear to have failed to do the boring and mundane work that the community expects of a Council.

The Narre Warren Station is a complex issue that requires documents from various sources and that results in a lengthy section. I have included links to source documents and this section represents my best efforts to determine the current situation.

The Narre Warren Power Station is located on the site of the closed Berwick Municipal Tip, Quarry Road, Narre Warren and the documentation for the power station EPA Licence 74296, EDL LFG (Vic) Pty Ltd, Page 19, Premises Reference Number 68956 Locality Plan provides a diagram showing the immediate vicinity to the west and south of the power station.

City of Casey, Council Meeting Minutes Tuesday 6 September 2011, Section 7 Public Question Time, Page 6 (Minute Book Page Number 371), Question 2 Garry Page

ii Taylors Road Landfill, Lyndhurst

The Department of Health is undertaking a health assessment of Dandenong/Lyndhurst residents living in the vicinity of the Lyndhurst landfill site to determine whether cancers, birth abnormalities or problems with pregnancy are more common. The landfill gas from mixed Prescribed Industrial Waste and Municipal Waste cells is extracted from the Taylors Road Landfill then burnt in the power station near residents in Narre Warren North. Therefore it is the Narre Warren North residents that have the highest exposure to the Taylors Road Lyndhurst's landfill gas combustion by-products.

How many residents are located within a 500m safety buffer distance that could be taken as current siting best practice (EPA publication 788.1) for the Taylors Road Landfill's gas exhaust stacks located in Narre Warren North, and did the City of Casey specifically request these Narre Warren North residents be included in the health assessment.

The question was answered by the Manager Waste Management.

Approximately 250 houses are within 500 metres of the power station. The 500 metre buffer in the EPA guidelines was introduced after the construction of the power station.

The City of Casey did not specifically request these residents. The health study was specifically targeted at the area surrounding the Dandenong South Special Industry Zone and the Taylors Road Landfill. There have been no concerns raised by EPA or any other authority with respect to the operation of the power station at the closed Narre Warren Landfill.

As discussed below, Casey Council as the planning/responsible authority has the responsibility to ask for and access the environmental audits for developments within the buffer. The original Landfill and power station Works Authorities/Licences issued by the EPA would predate the encroachment of houses and the addition of Prescribed Industrial Waste into the Taylors Road Landfill therefore the environmental risks to Narre Warren and Harkaway residents in the City of Casey associated with the operation of the power plant would not have been assessed by the EPA. Therefore Casey Council through the planning processes and health studies has to raise any concerns to the EPA.

EPA, Appendix 5: Gas Management Works Undertaken By Landfill Operators, 2. Landfills with Methane Detected of Landfill Origin, 2.1 Landfill Address: 890 Taylors Road, Lyndhurst, Page 2.

Following the closure of the Tullamarine landfill in 2008, Taylors Road landfill became the only remaining landfill in Victoria licensed to receive Category B prescribed industrial (hazardous) waste. This prescribed waste is treated before being received onsite, to reduce the likelihood of adverse environmental impacts, and is unlikely to generate significant quantities of methane.

The landfill licence for this landfill requires that no more than 35 per cent of the waste in the landfill is prescribed waste. Hence, municipal biodegradable waste is the dominant waste type contained within the landfill cells. This landfill has received large volumes of organic waste since the 1990’s, which means the landfill produces significant volumes of methane. Current cells are designed above best practice standards, with double liners, an extensive groundwater and gas monitoring network and a gas extraction system in filled cells. However, the older cells at the landfill that contain the most biodegradable waste were designed to standards that predate EPA’s best practice guidelines. These cells have been closed and a gas extraction system collects the gas generated from organic waste and uses it to generate electricity.

EPA Publication 1275, Regulatory Impact Statement, Draft Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations, 1.2 What is prescribed industrial waste?, Page 10

Prescribed industrial wastes are a particular class of industrial waste. They are defined in the Regulations. They are generated from commercial or industrial sources and are highly oderous or potentially hazardous to humans, or the environment. Car repair workshops, dry-cleaning services, fast-food chain stores, food processing plants, chemical paint and plastics manufacturing, dental surgeries and hospitals generate types of prescribed industrial waste.

EPA Publication 1275, Regulatory Impact Statement, Draft Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations, 1.3 The current Regulations, Page 11

Category B is high-hazard waste. It can be disposed of to a Category B licensed landfill (there is only one such licensed site in Victoria, at Lyndhurst), or it may be treated to further reduce its hazard and allow disposal to a Category C licensed landfill. Examples of this waste are residual waste from a waste treatment facility, paint residues from car manufacturing or lacquers or glue waters.

A power station was established at the Narre Warren North landfill to burn its landfill gas. The City of Casey became the responsible authority for the Taylors Road, Lyndhurst landfill (inherited from the Shire of Cranbourne at the amalgamation with Berwick). Subsequently the City of Casey signed the contracts to establish a gas pipeline from Taylors Road Landfill to Narre Warren North so that the landfill gas from Taylors Road Landfill could be pumped to the Narre Warren North site.

City of Casey - Environmental Education Kit,Resource Recovery and Waste Minimization 2004, Resource Recovery, Narre Warren Landfill, Page 18.

Often valuable resources can be recovered from waste. An example of resource recovery in Casey is the landfill gas power plant at the closed landfill in Narre Warren. This is resource recovery because it recovers methane from rotting garbage to generate electricity for the community.

The Narre Warren Landfill was formerly known as the Berwick Regional Landfill. The Landfill is located at the end of Quarry Road in Narre warren, accessible via Ernst Wanke Road. The site is located on a prominent ridgeline and provides uninterrupted views to the west over the City of Casey towards the Central Business District of Melbourne, with glimpses of Port Phillip Bay, and to the south, Western Port Bay and the Strzelecki Ranges.

Melway Reference 108 J12.

The Narre Warren Landfill was previously a basalt quarry and was opened as a Landfill in October, 1982. The characteristics of the former quarry made the site an ideal location for a landfill. The landfill closed in January 1996 and during the operating 13 years, 1.5 million tonnes of waste was deposited.

Methane is produced by the anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of garbage within the landfill. The decomposition produces landfill gas, which is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. Typically the landfill gas comprises of 55% methane and 45% carbon dioxide, with minor concentrations of CFC's (chlorofluorocarbons), oxygen and hydrogen.

If not controlled, landfill gas migrates to the atmosphere. This has a number of adverse effects, including odour emissions, reduction in greenhouse gases, inhibition of site revegetation and safety hazards. Also methane from landfill gas is utilized for electricity production and replaces other fuels such as coal, thus transforming an environmental problem into a useful energy source.

A power station was developed and built by Energy Developments LTD (EDL), and it comprises a gas extraction system, gas processing plant and power plant. The power plant comprises Caterpillar 3516 SITA spark ignition reciprocating engine generator sets operating on landfill gas fuel. These are 7 x 1000 kW units.

Given the EPA statement regarding up to 35% Prescribed Industrial Waste in the mixed landfill cells at Taylors Road that feed landfill gas to the power station it is appropriate to review the City of Casey's responses to Public Questions related to PIW and the power station.

City of Casey, Council Meeting Minutes Tuesday 4 June 2013, Section 7 Public Question Time, Page 10 (Minute Book Page Number 185), Question 5 Garry Page.

Environment Education Document

The City of Casey publishes an Environmental Education document. As these documents are the only sources of information the City of Casey publishes on the operation of the Narre Warren Power Station site and given the errors and omissions would the Council consider referring the documents to the Conservation Committee for updating with current information?

The question was answered by the Manager Waste and Recycling

The Environmental Education Kit was produced for schools and was last updated in 2004. The kit will be updated or replaced as resources become available to do so. The Conservation Advisory Committee has an advisory role to Council. It provides strategic advice to the City of Casey on conservation, sustainability and heritage matters of relevance to the municipality. It is not the committee’s role to update or review Council documents. The information on Narre Warren Landfill is dated but it is correct with the exception that now only 5 generators operate rather than 7 and that only one company now uses the waste heat from the power station. The landfill section in the kit was not intended to be a comprehensive environmental reporting tool for the site. The site operator, EDL, reports on emissions directly to the Environmental Protection Authority. The pipeline from Taylors Road is not lined to cells containing prescribed waste at Lyndhurst.

I added emphasis on the above text to highlight where the answer on the public record by the City of Casey is incorrect.

City of Casey, Council Meeting Agenda Tuesday 2 July 2013, Planning for Casey's Community Section, Item 1, Attachment 1, City of Casey Conservation Advisory Committee, Minutes for Meeting 3 April 2013. Page 4, Section 9 Other Business

Narre Warren power station landfill gas - Tony O'Hara

Tony highlighted his concerns with the response to a public question at the 4 June Council meeting about the nature of the landfill gas in the 15 kilometre pipeline that runs from the Taylor's Road landfill in Lyndhurst to the old landfill site in Narre Warren, where it is burnt to generate power.

Tony informed the Committee that the landfill gas does contain hazardous waste with putrescible waste in the Lyndhurst landfill cells. Tony noted concerns with the gases that are burnt and released into the atmosphere.

Action: Council officers to follow up with Council's waste department and request information from relevant authorities that manage air quality and landfill on the matter.

Given the incorrect information on the public record I attempted to have a correction provided by a follow up Public Question.

City of Casey, Council Meeting Minutes Tuesday 2 July 2013, Section 7 Public Question Time, Page 8 (Minute Book Page Number 225), Question 1 Garry Page.

Taylors Road, Lyndhurst Landfill

In the minutes of the Council Meeting 14/6/2013 in answer to Public Question 5 the Manager Waste and recycling stated "The pipeline from Taylors Road is not lined to cells containing prescribed waste at Lyndhurst" while the minutes of the Conservation Advisory Committee Meeting (File 71-35) included in this Council Meeting Agenda (2/7/2013) states "Tony informed the committee that the landfill gas does contain hazardous waste in the Lyndhurst landfill cells. Tony noted concerns with the gases that are burnt and released into the atmosphere". Council officers were to follow up and request information from the relevant authorities.

What has the Council learnt about the mix of Prescribed Industrial Waste and Municipal Solid Waste in the cells at Taylors Road Landfill, and the piping of this landfill gas to the Narre Warren North Power Station?

The question was answered by the Acting Director Infrastructure Services.

Council officers have had discussions with EDL who are the operators of the power station at Narre Warren landfill. It is confirmed that currently the gas for the power station from Lyndhurst and Narre Warren landfills is from putrescible waste and not prescribed waste. Results of the April 2013 emission's test confirmed the power station met the relevant EPA regulatory requirements.

The relevant authorities to report on the contents of the Lyndhurst Landfill cells would have been the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) as the relevant regulatory and licencing authority, and/or SITA (now known as Suez Recycling & Recovery Pty. Ltd.) as the landfill owner/operator. EDL is not the relevant authority on the contents of the landfill cells at Lyndhurst. Both the EPA and SITA should have confirmed the Lyndhurst landfill was licenced to accept up to 35% Prescribed Industrial Waste mixed with the other waste deposited into the landfill cells at Taylors Road and the resulting landfill gas was piped to Narre Warren Power Station.

The EPA licenced the Narre Warren Power Station prior to the licence extension for Prescribed Industrial Waste at Taylors Road Landfill plus the power station was in a rural setting i.e. prior to the encroachment of City of Casey residential housing upon the landfill buffers. As the EPA licencing of the Power Station predated the extension of the licence to accept PIW at Lyndhurst the EPA never set additional buffer requirements for the power station (may be redundant as the Narre Warren landfill predates the power station construction). The EPA licencing of the Power Station also predates the EPA's Energy from Waste (EfW) guidelines therefore the current Power Station emission limits and testing regime does not meet the current EPA regulatory requirements for such an installation. Refer below to the discussion regarding emission discharges in EPA Guideline 1559 Energy from Waste, in the Siting, design and operation of EfW facilities Section.

At the time the Taylor's Road Landfill licencing was extended to include PIW the EPA did not revise the Works Approval, licencing, emission testing requirements or buffer requirements for the Narre Warren Power Station. Later the EPA relaxed the annual monitoring requirements for the Narre Warren Power Station.

City of Casey, Council Meeting Agenda Tuesday 3 September 2013, Planning for Casey's Community Section, Item 2, Attachment 1, City of Casey Conservation Advisory Committee, Minutes for Meeting 7 August 2013. Page 36, Section 10 Other Business

Narre Warren power station landfill gas - Tony O'Hara

The Committee discussed landfill gas associated with the Narre Warren site. Tony noted a response had been given to Council officers by authorities including the EPA and private operators involved in managing the landfill gas. Tony questioned if the information received is accurate and noted concerns with the landfill gas released into the atmosphere.

Given the question mark over the accuracy of the information received and the EPA was listed as a source it begs the question: Has the EPA mislead the Council over the source material for the landfill gas generated at Taylor's Road landfill, or has the Council relied upon statements from EDL?

EPA Publication 788.3, Siting, Design, Operation, And Rehabilitation Of Landfills

5.1.5 Buffer distances, Page 13

Municipal (putrescible) waste (Type 2 landfill), Table 5.2, 500 metres from building or structures.

Buffer distances and encroachment, Page 14

Where this buffer has been or is proposed to be encroached, design and management practices need to be significantly increased to provide the same level of protection to sensitive land uses. In considering any planning scheme amendment or planning permit applications, in accordance with the Planning and Environment Act 1987, the planning or responsible authority must have regard for the effects of the environment, including landfill gas, on development. Responsible planning authorities must also ensure planning scheme amendments or any review of a municipal strategic statement are consistent with the provisions of Waste Management (Siting, Design and Management of Landfills) and with the relevant regional waste management plan.

...

Where the proposed development or planning scheme amendment that would have the effect of allowing development that encroaches into the recommended landfill buffer area or increases the extent of development within the already encroached buffer area, EPA recommends that the planning or responsible authority require an environmental audit be conducted under Section 53V of the EP Act. The audit must access the risk of harm to the proposed development posed by the potential offsite migration of landfill gas and amenity impacts resulting from the landfill. Where a planning or responsible authority has relevant and sufficient information from previous assessments or audits, then this may be relied upon in making a decision.

It is not a requirement for the EPA to inform the City of Casey (as the planning/relevant authority) of risks. Since 2011 the City of Casey has approved construction of houses within the buffer (e.g. Montbrae Circuit, etc.) without environmental audits. Where does this leave the people who have bought current release land in Peak Drive, Harkaway? In 2016 Casey has developed an equestrian trail within the buffer without an environmental audit therefore Casey ratepayers are carrying the risk. At least with Brookland Greens the Council could point to VCAT and developer but in this case neither VCAT or a developer is involved. Just because the buffer had been encroached upon by 250 houses within 500 metres of the power station it does not excuse Casey from commissioning an environmental audit for its own developments (equestrian and walking trail) within the buffer.

GHD, Report for Wyndham City Council - Wyndham Vale Buffer Study CARMS 69507-1, Environmental Audit Report, 31/27648/235466, 6 Default Buffer Distances, 6.1 Guidelines in Victoria, Page 34 included:

The buffer distances are to be scribed as per EPA Guidelines Method 1 (Urban Method). This method requires that the separation distance be measured from the ‘activity boundary’ of the industry to the property boundary of the sensitive land use, where the activity boundary of the industry is a convex polygon containing the activities of the industry.

The new guidelines also enlarge the definition of ‘sensitive land use’ to now include ‘informal outdoor recreation sites’. This term is not itself defined within EPA Publication 1518, however enquiries to EPA have led to the definition adopted in Victorian Planning Schemes where under Definitions, Clause 74, informal outdoor recreation is defined as:

Land open to the public and used by non-paying persons for leisure or recreation, such as a cycle track, picnic or barbecue area, playground, and walking or jogging track.

Therefore it is reasonable to include the walking track constructed by Casey Council on the Quarry Road landfill as a 'Sensitive land Use' that by the EPA guidelines requires the Responsible Authority (i.e. City of Casey) to request a Section 53V Audit. This failure to request a Section 53V Audit can not be blamed on VCAT or the EPA.

EPA Guideline 1559, Energy From Waste

What's Not In Scope Of This Guideline, Page 2

Whilst the use of gas from landfill and from wastewater treatment processes are in scope, their production and capture do not directly fall under this guideline. Gas from wastewater treatment is considered a by-product of an existing process and landfill gas comes from waste that is first disposed to landfill. Information in relation to setting up bioreactor landfills can be found in Siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills (EPA publication 788.1).

Siting, Design, Construction And Operation of Efw Facilities, Page 5

Plants must meet local planning and zoning requirements applicable to the facility, with adequate separation distances to sensitive receptors. EPA’s guideline Recommended separation distances for industrial residual air emissions (publication 1518) provides advice on recommended separation distances between industrial land uses for the purpose of minimizing the impact of odour and dust emissions on sensitive land uses.

EPA Guideline 1518, Recommended Separation Distances For Industrial Residual Air Emissions

This guideline applies only to residual off-site odour and dust emissions from industries which have the potential to impact on human health and wellbeing, local amenity and aesthetic enjoyment, Noise, vibration, ambient and hazardous air pollutants have not been considered in the development of this guideline.

Accordingly, decision-makers and applicants should review all relevant regulations, policies and guidance to ensure that other amenity-reducing issues have been appropriately taken into account (for example threshold distances listed in the Victorian Planning Provisions).

Prescribed Industrial Waste treatment facility (Storage, treatment, reprocessing, containment or disposal facilities handling any prescribed industrial waste not generated at the facility) - 500 metres.

EDL as operator of the Narre Warren Power Station has reported the accidental release of landfill gas at the site. EDL LFG (Vic) Pty. Ltd, Annual Performance Statement, Financial Year 2009/2010, Licence CL67937 (file: CL67937EDLAPS200910.pdf)

b) Summary of particulars of non-compliance (if applicable)

Residual landfill gas in a gas pipeline was expelled during a routine pigging process. During this maintenance, a portion of that landfill gas was expelled and this gas has apparently been detected by the co-tenants at the operational Landfill Gas Project site. Victorian EPA was notified of the event in writing.

Given odour reports were received from the neighbours it is appropriate to include odour in any consideration of separation distances. EDL has acted responsibly in reporting the event to the EPA. By failing to require environmental audits for their developments within the buffer Casey Council has ignored EPA guidelines.

The EPA maintains an online register of audits typically going back to 2011 and there have been no audits performed in the City of Casey for the power station site nor could I identify any audits in the immediate area.

The 2015 53V Landfill Gas Audit, Suez Environnement, Taylors Road Landfill report

Section 3.3 Air Toxics

Landfill gas may also include toxic trace chemicals such as benzene, toluene and chlorinated compounds. Given the site receives Prescribed Industrial Waste and the likely nature or composition of this waste it is considered likely that air toxics may be present in these waste streams. There are known human health and environmental impacts associated with many of these chemicals, and the SEPP AQM) (Reference 11) provides general classification of these compounds and intervention levels.

Section 6.6 Landfill Gas Extraction System

EDL has installed a commercial gas extraction system at the site. A network of gas extraction wells was first installed in 1993/94 at the site in Cell 1 and has progressively been upgraded to include newer cells. The extraction system currently comprises 335 gas collection wells. A gas collection system layout plan dated March 2014 showing the gas extraction system across the site is presented in Appendix R. Landfill gas is extracted from the site and pumped to a 4 Megawatt power generation plant at Berwick.

City of Casey, Council Meeting Minutes Tuesday 6 September 2011, Section 7 Public Question Time, Question 2 Garry Page

ii Narre Warren North and Taylors Road, Lyndhurst Landfills

The volume of landfill gas generated by the closed Narre Warren North landfill has fallen so low that the remaining 5 generators at the Narre Warren North power station are only viable by burning the landfill gas piped from Taylors Road Landfill cells containing Prescribed Industrial Waste.

If concerns over the risk to resident's health or for some other reason the Taylors Road landfill gas could not be burnt at Narre Warren North would the Council be exposed to any significant costs to install and operate an alternative method of disposal for the landfill gas generated by the old Narre Warren North landfill, or have to contribute towards the costs imposed by that change on Energy Developments Ltd ( power station and pipeline operator) or SITA (Taylor's Road Landfill operator)?

The question was answered by the Acting Director Infrastructure Services.

If gas quality depletes to levels below the limit of running the power station, EDL will provide Council adequate notice to investigate and implement alternate options for treating landfill gas. Except for costs associated with design, installation and management of additional infrastructure and equipment, there will be no other costs associated with the change.

EDL is paid to maintain the gas extraction equipment at Taylors Road landfill and is paid to burn the landfill gas to generate electricity that is fed into the power grid. It is a requirement of the licence of the Taylors Road landfill that landfill gas be managed and that requires the gas to be pumped to Narre Warren North. The 7 installed generators in 2004 were cut to 4 and now it is down to just 2 which have to be maintained in operation to service the Taylors Road landfill. The Narre Warren Power Station was licensed before houses encroached within 500 metres and a new/replacement installation would face more regulatory hurdles.

To the companies it will make good commercial sense to minimize their costs and continue operation of the Narre Warren power station s as long as possible. Casey Council carries the risk for failing to follow EPA guidelines that require environmental audits and the maintenance of buffers. This gives the impression that Casey has put the commercial considerations of the companies ahead of the community.

The pipeline easement agreements were signed in 1996 for a 25 year term that will expire around 2021. As shown above, Casey is responsible for the costs to design, install and manage replacement infrastructure. The loss of the easement rights for the pipeline is likely to occur before gas quality becomes the limitation but Casey doesn't appear to recognize the terms of the contracts it signed. Capital Works Program does not include current funding for the design of the replacement for the power station installation. It appears the Councillors are so focussed on soccer fields and vanity monuments like the $125m Bunjil Place project that community safety and infrastructure is neglected.

After a callback from an EPA planner in response to my enquiry 20015678 I submitted the following email:

Further to my EPA customer contact reference 20015678 it does appear the City of Casey may not be adhering to EPA guidelines and may as the relevant authority failing to refer relevant Planning Permits to the EPA. Details as follows.

There is a pipeline from the currently operating Taylors Road Landfill to the closed Berwick Municipal Landfill at Quarry Road, Narre Warren North. The landfill gas extraction installation at Taylors Road Landfill is currently extracting landfill gas from co-mixed Prescribed Industrial Waste (PIW) and Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). This landfill gas that is drawn from co-mixed PIW & MSW is then pumped through the pipeline to the power station which has been variously named the Narre Warren, Narre Warren North or Berwick power station.

The Taylors Road Landfill operated by SITA/Suez is conforming to their relevant licences for the Taylors Road Landfill site.

As the power station is currently supplied with landfill gas from the co-mixed PIW there should be overlapping buffers associated with the closed municipal landfill on which it is sited. I believe for the power station the following EPA guidelines apply:

  1. 788 Siting, Design, Operation, And Rehabilitation Of Landfills due to the co-mixed PIW component of the landfill gas from Taylors Road i.e. it inherits the Type 2 Landfill Buffer of Table 5.2 and 5.1.5 Buffer distances and encroachment rules apply.
  2. 1559 Energy From Waste due to the power station combustion of the landfill gas derived from PIW at Taylors Road Landfill with the MSW landfill gas from Taylors Road Landfill plus the residual landfill gas extracted from the closed Berwick Municipal Landfill. Refer to 'What's not in scope of this guideline' with 'Siting, Design, and Operation of efw Facilities' sections of 1559.
  3. 1518 Recommended Separation Distances For Industrial Residual Air Emissions due to the power station being a Prescribed Industrial Waste Treatment Facility (treatment, reprocessing or disposal of the landfill gas derived from co-mixed PIW landfill gas). Also refer to the Annual Performance Statement, Financial Year 2009/10 for EDL's Licence CL67937 (file: CL67937EDLAPS200910.pdf) which stated: "Residual landfill gas in a gas pipeline was expelled during a routine pigging process. During this maintenance, a portion of that landfill gas was expelled and this gas has apparently been detected by the co-tenants at the operational Landfill Gas Project site. Victorian EPA was notified of the event in writing."

The closed Berwick Municipal Landfill buffers should be derived from the EPA 788 Guideline.

Any relevant Planning Permit applications that are within the 500 metre buffers (encroachment) should require the City of Casey to refer the application to the EPA and a 53V audit would be appropriate. I believe a single 53V audit is appropriate and there should not be a requirement for multiple audits because of the number of blocks within the buffer i.e. a 53V audit should not performed for each block of land but a single 53V audit could be referenced for all future Planning Permit applications.

It appears that the following Planning Permits in the City of Casey may be within the buffers and could have triggered a referral to the EPA:

  1. SubA00082/12 21 lot subdivision, Peak Drive, Harkaway
  2. SubA00085/12 7 lot subdivision, Peak Drive, Harkaway
  3. PinA00605/15 current Planning Permit application for 21-23 Peak Drive. This may or may not be a relevant type of Planning Permit application but it appears to be active.

Obviously knowing the extent of the buffers is critical to determine which location are actually impacted by a buffer. Unfortunately C50/C250 amendments may be missing this detail. See discussion below. Should all relevant future or pending applications for Planning Permits to the City of Casey for the Peak Drive locality, applicable Hessell Road areas and all other areas like Brighton Retreat, Milfull Court, Montbrae Circuit, etc., trigger a referral by the City of Casey to the EPA?

Should any Sensitive Receptor developments by the City of Casey within the power station buffers be referred to the EPA? That is during the Planning stage and not at the Construction or Operation stages.

As the owner of the closed landfill, performing development works within the buffer and the relevant planning authority can the City of Casey request a Section 53V audit to be performed without requiring contributions of costs from the owners of block of land within the 500m buffers?

Anyway, single house construction does not require a referral to the EPA so a 53V audit would not normally be triggered by current house building activities.

The current City of Casey amendment C250 (Council Meeting Agenda 16 February 2016, item 6.9) which amends the municipal strategic statement and the planning scheme does not appropriately handle the EPA Publication 788 Buffer Distances and encroachment:

Where this buffer has been or is proposed to be encroached, design and management practices need to be significantly increased to provide the same level of protection to sensitive land uses. In considering any planning scheme amendment or planning permit applications, in accordance with the Planning and Environment Act 1987, the planning or responsible authority must have regard for the effects of the environment, including landfill gas, on development. Responsible planning authorities must also ensure planning scheme amendments or any review of a municipal strategic statement are consistent with the provisions of Waste Management (Siting, Design and Management of Landfills) and with the relevant regional waste management plan.

The current C250 amendment appears to be incomplete regarding the power station and C250 should be updated to ensure appropriate City of Casey Planning Permit referrals include the EPA. C250 is based upon C50 and appears to bypass the Panel Hearing process. Unfortunately, the C50 panel chair refused to accept errors/corrections/amendments found during the C50 panel hearings so that errors could be brought forward into C250. I really don't know if this issue would have been picked up during the C50 hearing as I stopped looking for errors when told they would not be accepted by the chair of the C50 panel. The maps/diagrams in the Council Meeting minutes are impossible to read and I can not find the C250 amendment online to examine the appropriate Berwick North and Narre Warren maps (power station buffers probably straddle both maps). It should be a few small changes to the maps, etc., but could have an impact/effect upon approximately 250 residential properties and their input should be considered. Reference here is Council Meeting Minutes 6/9/2011, the answer to the Public Question which included:

The question was answered by the Manager Waste Management.

Approximately 250 houses are within 500 metres of the power station. The 500 metre buffer in the EPA guidelines was introduced after the construction of the power station

The current C250 maps don't appear to include this buffer.

Regards,
Garry Page

As this is an election period and this may trigger some issue under the Act and Regulations I will add the following.

Candidate for Springfield Ward
Authorised by Garry Page, 6 Acre Rise, Hampton Park 3976

I believe the Council could have requested a Section 53V audit at any time or a Section 53V audit could have been triggered by various Planning Permit applications. Various Planning Permits may or may not be relevant and may or may not be inside a buffer with the uncertainty due to the C50 and C250 amendments failing to provide the appropriate information. Residents and landowners are being kept in the dark.

A reply from the EPA was received but it does not address the details of the power station and landfill buffers. The reply reiterates the responsibility of the Casey Council acting as the responsible authority to address EPA guidelines and to engage the EPA when appropriate.

Dear Mr. Page,
In response to your enquiry/email to the EPA and your previous EPA customer contact reference 20015678 please find the below information to assist you in regards to EPA’s involvement in Planning matters.

EPA’s role in planning

In addition to setting environmental standards through statutory policy and publishing guidance, EPA provides advice about environmental risks to responsible and planning authorities under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (P&E Act). This advice frequently concerns the appropriate distance required between industrial and sensitive uses to prevent or mitigate future environmental impacts.

Most significantly with respect to encroachment, under the planning framework, EPA:

When EPA is asked to advise on the separation distance required between an industrial and sensitive use, EPA’s response is guided by the Separation Distance Guideline, the SEPPs, other EPA publications and previous experience.

EPA guidance on separation distances

EPA has the below relevant publications that recommend particular separation distances:

Unlike SEPPs, these publications are not statutory instruments, although the Landfill BPEM is an incorporated document under the statutory Waste Management Policy (Siting, Design and Management of Landfills), which gives legal force to a number of its objectives and recommendations.

Separation Distance Guideline

The Separation Distance Guideline is EPA’s primary publication on the separation of industrial and sensitive uses. In terms of environmental impacts, the guideline specifically addresses odour and dust emissions (and does not consider noise, vibration, ambient or hazardous air pollutants).

The Separation Distance Guideline defines ‘sensitive land use’ as:

Any land uses which require a particular focus on protecting the beneficial uses of the air environment relating to human health and wellbeing, local amenity and aesthetic enjoyment, for example residential premises, child care centres, pre-schools, primary schools, education centres or informal outdoor recreation sites.

The recommended separation distances assume good pollution control technology and practice at the industrial site, but account for the risk of unintended emissions, for instance due to equipment failure, accidents or abnormal weather events. The distances specified are intended to allow industrial residual air emissions to dissipate without adverse impacts on nearby sensitive land uses. They do not provide a guarantee that there will be no impact, but offer a tool to manage that risk. As stated in SEPP (AQM), separation distances must not be considered as an alternative to control of emissions at their source or for the management of emissions under normal and foreseen circumstances.

The distances specified are recommended minimums based on EPA’s previous experience of the impacts from different types of industrial activities. Those recommendations can be varied as appropriate to account for site-specific operations and conditions. The Separation Distance Guideline outlines site-specific variation considerations and recommends modeling to justify variation from the default distances.

Landfill BPEM

The Landfill BPEM provides guidance to planning and responsible authorities on separation distances for operating and closed landfills and specifically addresses the risks of encroachment. The separation distances recommended in the Landfill BPEM principally account for the risk of odour (of most concern during landfill operation) and landfill gas impacts.

Please see attached PDF’s of the above publications and a PDF on EPA’s role in Land Use Planning.

Further to this I have forwarded your enquiry/email to the City of Casey, the Responsible Authority for planning decisions in Narre Warren who you should receive a response from in the near future.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any queries regarding the above.

Regards,

Andrew Scott
Planning Assessment Officer
Southern Metro Region

In response I followed up the email from the EPA with the following reply:

Hi Andrew,
Thank you for your reply. What has never been public is a drawing of the boundary of the buffers the EPA considers appropriate for the power station or the closed landfill. There is no public list of properties that are wholly or partially within the buffer area. Residents and people purchasing residential land can not determine if their homes or the location of their future homes are within the buffer. Therefore people cannot assess the risk or know when to query experts to determine the risks associated with their homes or future homes.

Casey Council as the responsible authority has never requested a Section 53V audit for its own development works, or subdivisions or planning permits so the level of risk has never been determined. For all anybody knows the risk may be zero and it is appropriate to reduce the buffers, or it could be so serious that AERMOD or AUSPLUME air pollution dispersal modeling shows some residential sites should never be occupied while the power station is in operation. The reduction in the range of measures required after the Licence update for the power station means current, annual stack testing has been driven by cost reduction to industry and the EPA ignoring the risks to residents on the assumption that everything predates the guidelines.

Regards,
Garry Page
Candidate for Springfield Ward, City of Casey

Authorised by Garry Page, 6 Acre Rise Hampton Park 3976

As detailed above, there are significant issues not adequately addressed by Casey Council and the EPA. Impacted residents are not adequately informed by Casey Council.

I dropped into the Dandenong office of the EPA to ask about maps of the power station's buffers and/or landfill buffers and the EPA does not have any at this time. In fact there may be no EPA buffers for the power station and only a buffer for the closed landfill. A 500m landfill buffer may extend further in most directions than a 500m buffer from the power station but may not be in every direction as the power station is located to the south east side. About the only way to access more information is to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the original power station AUSPLUME model (if any existed) and the original assessments for the power station's EPA Works Approval/Licence.

The  Greater Dandenong Planning Scheme Amendment C125 Permit Application 2010/013898, Panel Report, dated 1 August 2011, 3 Background, 3.1 The subject site and surrounds provides a history of the Taylors Road Landfill. To established the landfill in a sand quarry that had been operating since 1990 the Shire of Cranbourne issued Planning Permits 890471 (24/1/1990) and 920213 (22/7/1992).

In 1996 contracts were signed to establish a pipeline from the Taylors Road landfill to the Quarry Road Landfill. This pipeline enabled the Narre Warren power station to burn the Taylors Road landfill gas. The Panel report stated:

The EPA issued a Waste Discharge Licence ES 511 on 17 October 1990 and this was amended on 21 July 2009 to permit "municipal and prescribed industrial waste and solid inert wastes to be deposited" on the site.

Initially the Taylors Road Landfill only accepted Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and the Prescribed Industrial Waste (PIW) was added later. The assessment by the EPA for licencing of the Narre Warren Power Station had been on the basis of landfill gas extracted only from MSW. The PIW component of the landfill gas at the Narre Warren power station site has never been included in any risk assessment or audit of the power station. It appears the EPA has never produced or required a buffer for the power station, maybe on the assumption that the landfill buffer would suffice.

The EPA sets the conditions or requirements of the Licence, monitoring and Annual Performance Statements. The EPA Guideline 1559, Energy From Waste details the current monitoring requirements as:

Siting, design, construction and operation of EfW facilities

Health protection must be an inherent feature during the design, approval process and operation of EfW facilities. In the case of air emissions, EPA currently considers thermal treatment technology as best practice if:

EPA Licence 74296 EDL LFG (VIC) Pty Ltd includes Premises Reference Number 68956, 188 Quarry Road, Narre Warren VIC 3805. This is described as the Narre Warren Site having an electricity generating capacity of 4.6 MW and is permitted to discharge 355 tonnes per year of Carbon Monoxide. Per 1 MW the site produces 77.2 tonnes per year. There are multiple sites on the 74296 licence and for each 1 MW they are licenced to produce:

Site t/year
Springvale South 32.4
Campbellfield 37.6
Clayton South 70.9
Narre Warren 77.2
Brooklyn 73.2
Corio 68

The utilization (hours of operation) of generators at each site will vary therefore the tonnes of Carbon Monoxide produced by each site will vary. This variation does not explain why Springvale South and Campbellfield are so much more efficient with only half the tonnes per MW per year. If there are now only 2x 1MW engines at the Narre Warren power station then the EPA is allowing each engine to produce up to 177 tones/year which would allow the engines to run 'dirtier' with less maintenance than any other site.

Licence CL67937, issued 30 June 2010 required monitoring of Carbon Monoxide, Oxides of nitrogen plus Oxides of Sulphur. The current EPA licence 74296 only requires monitoring of Carbon Monoxide. Therefore the EPA has downgraded the power station monitoring to lower the cost to industry. This decrease in the level of monitoring increases the risk to the community.

I have received no replies from Casey Council other than automatic mail system replies. There has been no replies from the Department. Unfortunately the media has been silent so far on this topic which allows the Casey Council, EPA and the Planning Minister to do nothing to address the current situation or advise residents.