Opinion: City Chatter by Nobby Clark
It is no secret that I am an active supporter of Southland disability Enterprises (SdE) retaining the WasteNet contract. I am also one of 22,000 who has signed the petition that states we want the contract to remain with SdE, on social, not just financial grounds.
The tender has been a shambles from day one.
The three Council WasteNet could not get an agreement with SdE after 8 years of delivering the recycling contract, for a further 8 years.
Some ICC Councillors advise me that they were not consulted before that contract what put up for tender. WasteNet should have consulted so ICC Councillors could have considered early in the process, the social impact alongside the financial implication.
I hold Councillor Thomas primarily responsible for that lack of consultation. He is a long-serving Councillor with multiple Council Directorships and is one of the ICC representatives on the WasteNet Advisory Group. With his experience, he should have learned from a similar situation with the CBD upgrade in 2017, where as an ICC HoldCo Director, he was party to setting up the joint venture company with the HW Richardson Group, six months before a majority of his colleague Councillors became aware of the venture.
The WasteNet tender deadline was extended by a month in 2019. Why was that allowed ? Who was assisting another tenderer against the incumbent SdE tenderer ?
The process is that the tenders are evaluated by WasteNet and it’s advisors and a ‘preferred’ tenderer report is sent to each council for them to consider and ratify (vote support for) independently.
As the WasteNet lawyer stated at our ICC meeting, Council be sued if they do not adhere to due process and individual Councillors can also be sued if they breach that process (and that Council indemnity insurance may not safe guard Councillors if they breached that process).
So, if each Council had to consider independently, why was Mayors Tong and Hicks present at our meeting and stayed involved when that discussion was public excluded. It may be suggested that Mayor Tong is the spokesperson for Wastenet but that does sit well with me, because why was Mayor Hicks there as well ?
And given Cr Thomas’ support of the WasteNet preference, as one of our ICC representatives, he should have spoken to his colleagues at that meeting on behalf of WasteNet, without the other Mayors support.
So, the public spat in the media by the other two Mayors declaring tender details, while the tender is still alive, solely because they didn’t like our ICC vote, leaves those Mayors, according to my read on their lawyers statement, open to being sued by SdE without any Council indemnity cover. I suspect that those Mayors probably are thinking that SdE it unlikely as a charitable trust trying to secure a new tender, to do that. So, that gives them a licence to do exactly the opposite of advice they gave our Councillors.
My view from what I saw at that meeting and I’ve heard since, is that those Mayors were there primarily because they wanted to influence our Councillors, given the huge public campaign in support of SdE.
There was also another poor outcome.
The other (recently appointed) ICC Councillor on the WasteNet Advisory Group is Cr Karen Arnold. Unfortunately for those supporting the WasteNet ‘preferred tenderer’ recommendation, she walked out of the closed ICC meeting claiming she was resigning from Council and did not vote as one of our elected officials when the meeting came back into the public session for that crucial vote.
In my view, we owe a huge gratitude on this issue to Councillors Biddle, Allan Arnold, Abbott, Lewis (and the absent Cr Pottinger) and more importantly to Sir Tim Shadbolt, who all stood firm, showed compassion and care for those 82 workers who needed them.
I was equally a little aghast at a couple of Councillors who I would have thought of as also having had a social conscience, but I believe they were swayed into the ‘preferred’ vote.
It was interesting that Cr Crackett, looked rally upset before the vote, initially voted against the ‘preferred’ recommendation, until Cr Thomas asked her “have you voted the right way”. She then sought some clarification from the Mayor and Chief Executive on what ‘in favour or opposed’ actually meant on this vote. She then sought and got a recount and changed her position.
The next elections cannot come around quick enough in my view and we ratepayers can have a clean out.
Taking off my ratepayer hat, I am going to stand for Council at the next election as I’ve come to the conclusion that while our group can raise many issues on behalf of ratepayers, little or nothing changes so long as our current councillors believe that once they are elected, the public has given them a mandate to do it their way, even when faced with a 22,000 petition.
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