by Jacob Miley
MACKAY ratepayers are wasting about $1.3million a year in unused dump vouchers while others are being forced to pay.
The council hands out three dump vouchers with every six-month rates notice for residents to use to throw away their green waste and general rubbish.
Since the system was introduced in 2014 only one-quarter of the 60,000 vouchers handed out each year are used.
And while they go to waste, others like Mackay resident Rex Martin are driving around town with half a load of rubbish on his truck, after refusing on principle to pay the $7 fee for half a load on his small flat-top truck. He says it's barely enough to fill a domestic rubbish bin.
Mr Martin had been to the Paget Transfer Station before, where he used two of the three vouchers he had been given with his rates notice and asked a worker what he was supposed to do with the one left over.
He said he was told he "could dump half a load of rubbish with one voucher or a whole load of green (waste)". But on a return trip that turned out not to be the case.
"They said they would settle for one voucher and $7," he said.
To be sure, he left, and returned the next day, only to be told the same thing.
But Mr Martin wasn't going to pay the fee, even that small amount; he is out of work with a heart condition.
Mr Martin simply believes common sense should prevail.
"You look at that (the size of the load) and go, 'just give us one voucher mate, that's all I've got'," he said.
Infrastructure and services committee chair Cr Karen May said there was a set cost system relating to the use of dump vouchers.
"In relation to domestic waste, one voucher is equal to a sedan or station wagon. Two vouchers are needed for a utility, flat-top, van or trailer," she said.
However, she said, with just 25% of vouchers being used it did raise questions about whether an alternate system would be better.
"People like the dump vouchers, they're happy to get the dump vouchers with their rates (but) whether that equates into usage...," she said.
The last time the council investigated what ratepayers wanted in terms of waste collection, dump vouchers were the obvious winner, with 44% support.
The 2009 survey gave ratepayers five options - user pays and remove the three free waste weekends; continue the three free waste weekends; two free waste weekends; dump vouchers; and the expensive kerbside pick-up.
While other councils such as Darwin, offer "free" kerbside pick-up before each storm season, Cr May said that would not be an option for Mackay ratepayers.
"Kerbside pick-up really presents some challenges for us," she said.
"We have a vast area, 7600sqkm in our area, we have a vast area of rural, rural residential and residential areas.
"And the workplace health a safety problems associated with that - because people tend to put things out that they shouldn't put out - causes problems for our workers during the pick-up."