THE popular Return and Earn reverse vending machine at Club Catalina, Rathmines, is gone.
The state government’s Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) ordered the removal of the machine in August because its operation breached the Heritage Act.
Club Catalina (formerly Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club) had been hoping for an extension on its time to respond, or for the OEH’s decision to be overturned.
But the machine was removed on Monday.
Club secretary Ross Wylde-Browne said the machine’s removal was a blow for the club and the community.
“We are disappointed with this outcome as not only does the machine give a small return to the bowling club, but it has been embraced by the community and gets a lot of use,” Mr Wylde-Brown said.
“We have had no complaints from the community, the only objections came from from the Office of Environment and Heritage.”
In a letter to the club’s board of management, the OEH’s director of operations, Tim Smith, said the machine had been installed without OEH or Lake Macquarie City Council approval.
Mr Wylde-Browne said the club board believed it had acquired the necessary approvals to install the machine.
The club is located in Rathmines Park, a place of state heritage significance, and listed on the State Heritage Register.
Mr Smith said the operation of the vending machine, therefore, required an application or exemption under the Heritage Act, yet no such authorisation had been sought.
“A breach of the Act has therefore occurred, and it is therefore requested that the board of management of the Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club remove the vending machine and associated skip bins,” Mr Smith wrote.
Mr Wylde-Browne said losing the machine would remove a source of income for the small club, as well as for local not-for-profit organisations.
Council said it had been working with the club, and the operator of the Return and Earn machines, TOMRA, to resolve the matter.
“To assist the club, council staff consulted with TOMRA and the OEH,” a council spokesperson said.
“Council staff were advised that TOMRA would be required to seek consent through a Section 60 application with the OEH. It was suggested that TOMRA consult with a heritage consultant to assist with the preparation of the Section 60 application.”
A spokesperson for the NSW Environment Protection Authority said TOMRA was also investigating alternative locations for a reverse vending machine in Rathmines.
“The Lake Macquarie community has embraced Return and Earn with more than 3.8 million containers returned to local return points at Rathmines, Bonnells Bay, Cardiff, Morisset and Wyee,” the EPA spokesperson said.
“This has contributed to more than 777 million containers returned to return points across NSW.”