The City of Ballarat has announced it is putting plans for a waste-to-energy plant on ice. In a statement released this week, the council said that a heads-of-agreement with the company Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) had now lapsed.
In discussions that were held in camera - meaning in private - at this week's ordinary council meeting, councillors voted not to plan any further action for the moment.
The waste-to-energy incinerator is proposed as part of the All-Waste Interchange planned in the Ballarat West Employment Zone. The cost of the plant - designed to reduce landfill and generate energy - was estimated at $300 million.
The council said they would wait until the state government released its circular economy policy and action plan.
The statement also referred to a "policy vacuum" on the state approach to waste management, reiterating remarks aired publicly on Wednesday.
There is currently a wide-ranging state inquiry into recycling and waste management, with submissions from several councils, including Ballarat and the Municipal Authority of Victoria. The inquiry is due to deliver an interim report in August and a final report in December.
The heads of agreement between the council and MRCB was announced in August last year. This was described as a "non-binding document" setting out terms. It was originally for 120 days, but was extended twice - once at the end of last year, and again in March. As part of the agreement, MRCB conducted a feasibility study, completed last December.
Council said the time limit extensions were for further "due diligence assessments" before a decision could be reached. MRCB's feasibility study has not been made public.
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One of the key questions for building a waste-to-energy plant is whether there would be sufficient waste to make it viable. It was touted as a potential long-term solution to waste management in the region, possibly including western metropolitan councils
While MRCB has not built a waste-to-energy plant in the past, the company was shortlisted for the development of a waste-to-energy facility in Kepong, a northern suburb of Kuala Lumpur. It submitted a proposal in partnership with the South Korean manufacturer Hyundai. Plans for the plant stalled following local protests about its perceived environmental impact.
City of Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh said that council had not ended its interest in waste to energy, but was "just putting the project on hold" until the state government outlined its policies.
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