A DECISION between Southland disAbility Enterprises (SdE) and WasteNet has been made, with SdE set to keep the recycling contract for one more year.
The news was bittersweet for SdE employee family member Lynda Mooij, who had not heard the news prior to a press release.
“I suppose it’s better than nothing, but at the end of the day our guys still want that work, it’s prolonging the inevitable really… I’m pleased we got the 12 months but can we look at getting the eight years back? That would be my choice.”
SdE employs 82 people with disabilities to work on the recycling contract.
The agreement between WasteNet and SdE is to be formally endorsed by the three WasteNet partner councils – Gore District Council, Invercargill City Council and Southland District Council – which will be done in the near future.
“The agreement is good news and gives us all some space while ensuring the workers at SdE can continue to come to work every day,” WasteNet spokesman Gary Tong said.
The current contract was due to expire at the end of the month and had been put out for tender since last year, but will now continue until June 30, 2020.
SdE general manager Hamish McMurdo was optimistic about the agreement. “We’d like to see this as a sign we will remain in the conversation.”
He said it was good communication between SdE and WasteNet which resulted in the agreement. “They were wanting to knuckle down and sort this all out.”
Mr McMurdo said he wanted to thank the three councils for taking the meeting to work through the problem.
Late last month SdE chose to break confidentiality and inform staff the contract was, at that time, likely to go to another tenderer.
The process has been contentious, with councillors at Invercargill City Council debating whether it had been transparent enough.
It was later found that partly in response to a meeting on the issue at the start of this month, Cr Karen Arnold voiced her intention to resign from council. She said, specifically regarding the WasteNet contract, she had lost confidence in the council’s decision-making process.
Following the meeting, Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks and Southland District Mayor Gary Tong issued a press release which provided information about SdE and why it was not the preferred tenderer, including claims of stalled financial negotiations.
In response, SdE released their own which disputed a lot of what was written by the two mayors.
SdE chairman Stephen O’Connor said the statement of the two mayors was “not an accurate account” and “misinformation” had been circulating about the negotiations.
SDC released a second statement which said both Mr Tong and Mr Hicks stood by what they had said. “However, we are not going to engage in a tit-for-tat debate as we believe it will further damage ongoing relationships, and add extra stress and confusion for everyone.
“We have asked our staff to fast-track the review of what further information can be released without jeopardising any future decision around this tender process, which remains live.”