[WATCH] Fuel stations and ODZ policy revisions to be published in coming weeks

Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia says the government is determined to make a success of the environment sector but admits more could have been done in recent years

Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia
Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia

New policies regulating fuel stations and outside development zones will be published in the coming weeks, the Environment Minister said.

Revisions of the two policies have been long overdue in the wake of controversial ODZ developments and a proliferation of fuel stations over the past years.

Aaron Farrugia said the two policies and a comprehensive review of SPED, the overriding planning and development policy, were part of government’s priorities.

He said that a review of the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED) was crucial because it would project the country’s vision for the years to come.

Farrugia said the Labour government was determined to make a success of the environment sector as it had done in other areas, even while he acknowledged much more could have been done on this front in recent years.

He was speaking on TVM’s Xtra on Thursday.

Farrugia said government was also working within the context of decisions taken by previous administrations, some of which have left long-lasting negative consequences.

“If there were mistaken decisions which were taken in the past, such as in 2006 when lands in ODZ areas were placed within scheme, these have had consequences which the country must suffer through,” the minister said.

Farrugia said that he will prioritise intelligent planning and put more effort into ensuring that there is compliance and enforcement of existing laws.

Waste management

Tackling Malta’s waste management problems was another matter that required attention. Farrugia described this as “a mountain which we must overcome”, insisting it was not an insurmountable challenge.

Questioned by show host Saviour Balzan about the government’s waste management policies, Farrugia said government has listened to the people, with the result that the planned Maghtab project has now been re-dimensioned.

“We met with the farmers and the residents of Maghtab and heard their complaints…  now the new plans are in place,” the minister said.

However, he also stressed the necessity of the landfill project, noting that Malta only has enough landfill space for the next year, compared to many European countries, which have enough for 25 years.

“The projects I have in mind – the waste-to-energy plant, and other state-of-the-art facilities – are needed so that we will no longer need to take other lands for landfills,” Farrugia said.

However, he called for a change in mentality on waste not just within families but also from industries and importers.

Strengthening the environmental watchdog

He also said that he will be working on neutralising the consequences of the demerger of MEPA, which saw the responsibilities of that entity split between two institutions – the Planning Authority, and the Environment and Resources Authority.

“What happened in 2015 when the demerger took place was that the Planning Authority moved at a certain pace and rhythm; the environmental authority – the environmental watchdog – didn’t move at the same pace, and I am here to make sure that it starts moving at a faster pace as well, and moves forward,” Farrugia said.

More in Xtra