It has been two years since Tauranga City decided to take over the city's kerbside rubbish and recycling service but ratepayers still don't know what it will cost them.
And there is no guarantee they will be consulted once the figure is known.
A ratepayers' group has accused the council of operating "stealthily" and urged it to drop or delay the change, but the council has pointed to community feedback showing strong support.
Meanwhile, the rollout of the service has been delayed by at least a year - a knock-on effect of Covid-19 - with a new timeline for its introduction yet to be confirmed.
The Papamoa Residents and Ratepayers Association last year began lobbying against the council's plan to take over the service, and accusing it of not "revealing the true cost to ratepayers".
Association chairman Philip Brown raised the issue again in a recent Annual Plan submission.
"There does not appear to be a valid reason for the [council] to control kerbside pick-ups and add an extra charge to the rate bill," he said.
He argued there was no harm in delaying the rollout for five years and said if the council did take the service over, the cost should be absorbed into the budget rather than lumped on top of rates bills without consultation.
"Do not stealthily impose the changes as proposed."
Based on its own research and "industry sources", the association has claimed the cost of the services per household would be more than $400 + GST ($460).
That's 60 per cent higher than the $250 + GST ($287.50) for a three-bin system the council estimated when it sought public feedback in 2018. At that time, the council said that would be a saving of about $80 a year compared to private collections for most households.
In a media release in March, it said a good indication of cost was that "similar rates-funded services in other parts of New Zealand cost between $200 and $350 (including GST) per household, per year".
Council staff have said the decision about further consultation would depend on whether the actual cost was significantly different to that previously put to the public.
When the council made its 2018 decision to bring in a full rates-funded kerbside service, it planned to do that by 2021.
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It had budgeted $8.1 million for buying bins and caddies this financial year but that has since been deferred until 2022 "to reflect more realistic timing of the procurement cycle".
The council did a few rounds of consultation leading up to the 2018 decision but the only one since was the Talking Trash Survey earlier this year. It attracted more than 9000 responses.
The survey mainly focused on aspects of the proposed council service and what would make it better, asking questions such as "would the fortnightly wheelie bin rubbish collection work for you?".
The questions did not compare the council proposals to the status quo service led by private industry, or ask people their preference between the two.
In a press release about the survey results the council said they suggested "even more appetite" in the community for a change to a rates-funded kerbside service than the 68 per cent who favoured it in 2018.
In August elected officials are due to review the results of the survey, which show majority support for fortnightly recycling and rubbish collections, and weekly food scraps pick-ups.
They will also look at proposals from companies that want the city's contract.
Mount Maunganui-Pāpāmoa ward councillor Steve Morris, who led the charge for a council-run service in 2018, rejected the idea the council was operating with stealth and said there had been a lot of engagement with the public.
It would be up to the mayor and councillors whether more consultation was needed once more details of the proposal were decided, including the cost, he said.
He said the time difference would be a factor, especially given the delay - which was in part to ensure people had a year's notice to wind up their private contracts.
"When you consult on a proposal that is years away in the future it doesn't necessarily trigger the same volume of feedback as something that is happening in the current year."
How the operational cost of the service was divvied up was a sticking point, in his view.
"The whole thing will live or die on the ability to have a user-pays model for rubbish. I can't see the city accepting a fixed charge."
In the Talking Trash survey, 61 per cent of respondents favoured being charged through their property rates over a "pay as you throw" system for rubbish.
Tauranga's lack of a council-run kerbside rubbish collection, as is found in most New Zealand cities, has been a source of confusion for many newcomers to the area over the years left wondering where their bins are.
One such person was artist Sue MacDougall. She moved to Maungatapu about 18 months ago.
"I didn't know what to do with my rubbish when I first arrived. I got nothing from the council," she told a council meeting last week.
On rubbish collection day, six to eight trucks from different private companies would drive through her cul-de-sac, she said.
She used the council rubbish bags and put everything in them - recycling and all.
She was keen to see a city-run service introduced with bins.
The council was approached for further comment.