Petition reaches 8500

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    Southland disAbility Enterprises workers (from left) Andrew Doak, Nathan Scorringe, Anne Readhead, Greg Duncan, and Michael Quayle sort through recycling as part of the contract with WasteNet.

    SOUTHLAND disAbility Enterprises (SDE) general manager Hamish McMurdo says he is humbled by the large wave of public support following news WasteNet would put its contract out for tender.

    While Mr McMurdo thanked the public for its support he did not want to jeopardise the tender process with WasteNet and has resisted lumping more pressure on WasteNet by joining in on what has become a hot debate.

    SDE has a contract with WasteNet to sort the recyclables at its Invercargill plant.

    WasteNet is a joint venture between the Invercargill City Council, Gore District Council, and Southland District Council.

    Of the 120 people SDE employed about 90 have disabilities.

    With an eight-year contract set to expire on June 30 next year, WasteNet announced last month that it would not renew the contract and instead put it out for tender.

    WasteNet spokesman Gary Tong said the two parties had not been able to reach an agreement which prompted the tender process.

    He said they had a responsibility to ratepayers to search for the most cost-effective way.

    It had sparked backlash from many in Southland who felt the contract should have been rolled over for another eight years.

    Rochelle Stewart set up a petition which would be presented to the councillors, and as of yesterday close to 8500 people had signed it.

    Ms Stewart’s brother works at SDE and she said it would be devastating if the contract was not retained and he lost his job.

    “It is so hard for them to find another job. It is his life, he loves going to work.”

    She hoped to reach 10,000 signatures before presenting the petition to councils.

    Supporters of SDE believed the councils had a social responsibility to stick with the status quo and not look to potential savings.

    Invercargill Ratepayer Advocacy Group spokesman Nobby Clark voiced his support of SDE retaining the contract at a full Invercargill City Council meeting last week.

    “Our ratepayers group has been getting significant feedback regarding WasteNet putting the Invercargill-based recycling station contract out for tender.

    “It is a fair reflection that there is a level of anger similar to the museum closure,” Mr Clark said.

    “We feel that it is totally inappropriate to change the status of this contract from a community-based recycling contract, which embraces and includes an element of social impact by providing employment and community inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities, to one of just financial costings.”

    The decision to put the contract out for tender was announced in November with the tender process set to run through to mid-February.

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