Weighbridge deferred; no fees change

Dunedin city councillors have backed off from a plan to install a second weighbridge - costing more than $100,000 - at the Green Island landfill, but have also balked at a proposal to raise fees by more than originally suggested.

The decisions came after council staff presented updated information about the financial implications of four options for the landfill to yesterday's 2014-15 annual plan deliberations.

The figures showed the council faced a shortfall in its solid waste budget of between $55,000 and $353,000 in the coming financial year.

The exact amount would depend upon whether the weighbridge was installed or not, and whether the fees proposed for 2014-15 earlier this year were increased again or not.

Councillors eventually voted narrowly in favour of sticking with the fees consulted on earlier this year, deferring the weighbridge and using the capital saved to offset the expected shortfall.

That still left council staff with a $113,000 hole to plug in the solid waste budget, but councillors asked them to examine ways of reducing costs at the landfill and report later in the year.

The decisions came after councillors voted earlier this year to consult the public on adding a second weighbridge at the landfill, after an outcry over the end of discretionary charges for landfill users.

The proposal, together with landfill charges for the coming financial year, were released for public consultation.

However, council staff later revealed a $467,000 shortfall, confirmed after a three-day trial weighing all rubbish loads entering the landfill provided more accurate data.

The data confirmed 63% of all landfill customers would be better off if a second weighbridge was added, but also the expected shortfall, a report by council solid waste manager Ian Featherston said. As a result, he suggested the

charges per tonne should rise by more than that advertised earlier this year.

That would see the general waste charge rise from the $130 a tonne proposed, to $145 a tonne; for green waste, from $80 a tonne to $100 a tonne; and for mixed loads, from $110 a tonne to $115 a tonne, his report said.

Some councillors expressed nervousness at the idea on Thursday, and more concerns were raised about the new approach yesterday.

An updated report presented by Mr Featherston yesterday said the shortfall was caused in part by declining commercial revenue and waste streams, in part because of the loss of one commercial customer.

Options to rectify the situation included retaining fees as proposed, and absorbing the loss, or increasing fees to reduce the loss.

Alternatively, the council could hold fees at proposed levels, and increase rates by 0.25% to cover the shortfall, or seek to attract general and mixed waste from elsewhere to the landfill, he said.

The latter was of interest to Cr Andrew Noone, who wondered whether more customers could be pursued, but prompted a warning about environmental consequences from Cr Jinty MacTavish.

Most other councillors favoured the ''middle ground'' suggested by deputy mayor Chris Staynes, who said he would happily consider a second weighbridge once the landfill's shortfall was under control.

Using the money set aside for the weighbridge to offset the shortfall would help bridge the gap, and he remained confident additional savings within landfill operating costs could also be found.

''We can't afford to have the size of negative cashflow that has been indicated,'' he said.

However, Cr Andrew Noone said the resolutions did nothing for those worried the end of discretionary charges was unfair, which was what had prompted the initial debate.

''I think we need to convey the message to our customers it will be considered as soon as we can can afford to implement that. I think we mustn't lose sight of that.

''A lot of people out there are dissatisfied and will continue to be dissatisfied until we have a weighbridge installed.''

Cr Mike Lord was among other councillors to voice concern, saying a second weighbridge would be a fairer approach and would encourage waste minimisation.

However, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said problems at the landfill in part stemmed from ''almost a sense of entitlement'' that rubbish should not cost much to dump.

That overlooked the fact landfills were ''very, very expensive'' and a weighbridge would not address that, he said.

''It costs a lot of money to get rid of waste. The ultimate solution for everyone is to reduce it to as little as possible.''

 

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