Praise over council call on recycling

Changes to the handling of Central Otago recyclables that could have saved between $100,000 and $150,000 a year have been rejected in favour of the status quo - a community run, not-for-profit organisation.

Central Otago district councillors chose to retain the services of Central Otago WasteBusters, citing the money staying in the district, social benefits and because it provided services other than just a commercial operation, such as education.

Councillors had visited the Smart Environmental Ltd recycling facility in Frankton, the organisation which won the Queenstown Lakes District Council contract over Wanaka WasteBusters in October 2011, and said they were impressed, but still considered the local branch of WasteBusters a better option.

''Even though we got terribly excited about what we saw over in Queenstown, we have recognised the social aspect Central Otago WasteBusters adds,'' Cr Martin McPherson said.

Council chief executive Phil Melhopt said he thought it was a ''very smart move'' because it gave ''manoeuvrability'' if faced with an increase in recycling when the district moves to fortnightly rather than weekly rubbish collection.

The CODC decision was the opposite of the Queenstown Lakes District Council's.

It awarded the $301,400 annual Wanaka contract to Smart Environmental. It was almost $275,000 cheaper than Wanaka WasteBusters' bid, outraging WasteBusters supporters, who said the council was overlooking the benefits of keeping Wanaka people in jobs, and retaining money in the Wanaka economy.

It prompted a protest march of about 300 people.

Wanaka WasteBusters project manager Sophie Ward yesterday applauded the CODC decision to ''really take into account the social and environmental benefits rather than just looking at it on a pure cost basis.''

But, the CODC decision to retain the services and financially support WasteBusters came with conditions. They included a provision for a councillor, John Lane, and council staff member, infrastructure services manager Jon Kingsford, to sit on the WasteBusters board, plus a review of recycling in two years.

They also agreed to extend the refuse collection contract, held by Alexandra-based Ecowaste Ltd, until July 1 2014, which meant fortnightly rubbish collection would come into effect a year later to give council time to prepare for more recycling.

The move to fortnightly collections was expected to generate a 20% increase in kerbside recycling which would increase WasteBusters' operating costs and end up costing council.

Central Otago WasteBusters has provided weekly kerbside collection and recycling services to Alexandra, Clyde and Cromwell since 2000. It also services nine drop-off points in rural areas.

Over the past two years the Central Otago District Council has given almost $820,000 to the organisation and has budgeted to give $440,000 in this financial year.

Its annual operating budget is around $650,000 to $700,000. The balance is made up with grants from the likes of Central Lakes Trust.

It employs 21 people, has a pool of about 70 volunteers and takes about 25 people per year for court-ordered community work.