Newcastle council wants to build a second access road into the Summerhill Waste Management Centre which it says could save it and other Lower Hunter councils hundreds of millions of dollars over coming decades.
The council has lodged a concept development application to build a 150-metre long internal road in order to facilitate a future link between the tip's southern boundary, which is also the council area's boundary, and Newcastle Link Road.
The access road would utilise an unformed road reserve in the Lake Macquarie local government area and enable direct access to the tip from Newcastle Link Road, diverting thousands of vehicles per year from the existing route along Minmi Road.
In addition to Newcastle's red and green-bin waste, Summerhill accepts commercial waste from around the Lower Hunter and most of Maitland's red-bin waste.
By using the proposed access road, heavy vehicles coming from the west would likely save between 30 and 40 minutes per load, resulting in what the council says would be a $174 million reduction in transport costs over a 50-year period based on current traffic alone.
IN THE NEWS:
Constructing the road would also allow the council to pursue its vision for Summerhill, which - following China's 2018 move to limit recycling imports - is for the facility to play a regional role in increasing waste diversion and recycling.
An organics plant will soon be built at the site and the council has plans for a materials recovery facility, which if built would see the city's red, yellow and green-bin waste processed at the one location.
Newcastle council currently sends it recycling waste to the Central Coast for processing, while Lake Macquarie and Maitland council's is sent to Sydney.
If Newcastle kept its arrangement, the cost of transport to the coast would be between $50-$60 million over 30 years, while a materials recovery facility could be built at Summerhill for $30-35 million.
The council envisions other councils sending their recycling to Summerhill for processing, reducing their existing costs of transporting materials out of the region.
The new road would also allow B-double trucks to move waste and recycled products to and from the facility, enabling further transport cost reductions.
However, the road reserve in the Lake Macquarie LGA the council wants to use runs through a proposed 1064-lot residential subdivision.
Sydney-based developer Winten Property Group appealed the deemed refusal of the plans in 2019 and its case against Lake Macquarie council in the Land and Environment Court is ongoing.
Newcastle council has joined the case as a respondent to protect the "significant community benefit afforded by connecting Summerhill to Newcastle Link Road".
It also wants to halt certain stages of the residential development that would be built within only a few hundreds metres of the tip.
Any new landfill site is required to have a one-kilometre buffer zone under the NSW Environment Protection Authority's 2016 landfill guidelines, but there is currently no arbitrary control preventing development from occurring within a certain distance of existing sites.
Newcastle council waste manager Troy Uren said urban encroachment could become a major barrier to the southern access plans and potential cost savings.
"Residential developments proposed to the south east, west and south west of Summerhill threaten the viability of the second access ... road, unless adequate buffer zones are put in place around the waste management centre," he said.
"The second road access represents a billion-dollar benefit for the Newcastle economy over the lifetime of the site, with more efficient transport options such as B-double trucks, time saved with traffic coming off local roads and reductions in queuing, all of which deliver better customer outcomes."
While the matter is ultimately still before the courts, one option for the second access road to be brought to reality would be for Newcastle council to purchase some of Winten's land in order to create an adequate buffer zone and a dedicated road that residents of the future subdivision would not use.
The Herald approached Winten Property Group but it declined to comment.
Opened in the mid-1990s, Summerhill could accommodate the waste needs of surrounding councils, including Maitland, Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens and Cessnock, which either do not have their own landfill sites or have far less capacity left at their existing facilities.
"Summerhill is the second largest and most regionally significant waste management facility in NSW with 100 years of landfill capacity," Mr Uren said.
"It is strategically positioned to support the waste processing needs of the Hunter's growing population and capitalise on the renewed state and federal focus on waste and recycling."
There are, on average, 362 vehicle movements per day at Summerhill, about three every five minutes. This will grow to 436, almost one every minute. Mr Uren said without new access vehicle queuing would worsen, ultimately costing the economy.
"Each three minutes of additional time in a queue comes at a cost to the local economy of over $500,000 per annum during average queuing times and $1.1 million for peak periods based on the current customer arrivals," he said.
The new road would "cut vehicle movements at the existing entry by around 70 vehicles per day on current usage levels, and by up to 120 vehicles each day under future modelling", he said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: