'It never occurred to me': Landowners urged to fence off vacant lots

Fencing off your property could help prevent illegal dumping of materials, like at this block in Austral.
Fencing off your property could help prevent illegal dumping of materials, like at this block in Austral.

Michael Porteous got an unwanted Christmas present last year.

He ended up with a $8000 clean-up bill when unscrupulous operators spread 12 tonnes of asbestos waste over his vacant block at Austral.

"It never occurred to me that dumping was a possibility," Mr Porteous said.

"It was just random; someone came in and backed their truck on to the block and dumped out all this asbestos. Maybe they were working on another site and didn't want to pay the disposal costs so they just dumped it.

"We asked everyone but the houses are empty and being built, so no one saw anything.

"If you are going to buy a block of land then I recommend you immediately put up some sort of fencing so no one can drive a truck on to it. In new areas where no one is living nearby, they know there is a small chance of someone seeing them. It is much less expensive to put up a fence than to have to clean up asbestos."

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) are urging owners of vacant land in south-west Sydney and other new land release areas to fence their blocks to stop asbestos and other waste being dumped on their properties by illegal dumpers.

They said illegal dumpers are targeting unfenced land in new subdivisions where dumping can be carried out unnoticed.

EPA Director Major Compliance and Investigations Greg Sheehy said dodgy operators favour isolated blocks with few neighbours such as new land releases. A lack of neighbours in new housing release areas can also mean there are no witnesses, making it difficult to trace and punish the culprit.

"Illegal dumping is a serious environmental crime and if the dumper can't be identified, the landowner is stuck with the clean-up, which can be very expensive," Mr Sheehy said.

"The community can help the EPA crack down on illegal dumpers by reporting any suspicious activity to our 24/7 Environment Line on 131 555.

"We will actively pursue offenders and will not hesitate to prosecute."

The EPA has been working with the construction industry to ensure waste is disposed of properly, while the state government's new waste strategy aims to reduce illegal asbestos dumping by making it easier and cheaper to dispose of.

  • If dumpers can be identified, EPA-issued fines and penalties range from $7500 for individuals to $15,000 for corporations. Vehicles used for repeated dumping offences can be seized and repeat offenders can be jailed for up to two years. Court-imposed maximum penalties for illegal dumping are $250,000 for an individual and up to $1 million for corporations.