A decision to award a Far North waste and recycling contract to a Whangarei company - ending a long partnership with iwi and a Kaitaia-based social enterprise - is a "sad day" for community-based contractors, the outgoing provider says.
Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira is blunter, calling it a "kick in the guts", but the Far North District Council says with a $2 million price difference it had to put ratepayers' interests first.
Last month the council awarded a five-year, $4.6 million contract for waste and recycling services for the northern half of the district to Whangarei's Northland Waste.
The contract had been held for 24 years by Kaitaia social enterprise CBEC (Community, Business and Environment Centre) and later by Cleanstream, a partnership between CBEC and Te Rarawa.
CBEC boss Cliff Colquhoun said the partnership between council, iwi and community was the envy of many councils around New Zealand.
"We were the last locally owned enterprise in the Far North to hold a major contract with the Far North District Council, and this appears to be the end of an era for local contractors."
Kaitaia's pioneering recycling programme had been a model for other schemes around the country. Cleanstream had more doubled recycling in the Far North, saving ratepayers $600,000 a year by extending the life of the Ahipara landfill.
Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira said the council's decision should not have been based on cost alone in an area with high deprivation and high unemployment.
The decision also ignored CBEC's long-standing efforts to educate the public, making the Far North a national leader in recycling, and its help and advice to councils around the country.
The Greens have also expressed their disappointment at the "dumping" of Cleanstream.
Waste spokesperson Denise Roche said Cleanstream pioneered kerbside recycling in New Zealand and ran successful waste minimisation projects, including education in schools.
Far North-based Green MP David Clendon hoped the decision did not affect CBEC's other enterprises such as Busabout Kaitaia, which used locally made biofuel and was the only daily public transport in the Far North. CBEC uses profits from its commercial contracts to help fund its community services.
Council acting chief executive Colin Dale acknowledged that losing the contract could place stress on CBEC's involvement in recycling and its leadership role in waste minimisation, but the price difference of $450,000 a year over five years could not be ignored.
Emotive arguments for retaining a long-standing, Far North-based contractor had to be balanced against the council's fiscal responsibilities to the ratepayer.
The council was required under the Local Government Act to provide services at the most cost effective level possible, Mr Dale said.
The council was working with Cleanstream and Northland Waste to ensure a seamless transition. Northland Waste had also indicated it would take on Cleanstream staff to minimise job losses, Mr Dale said.
The contract for the southern half of the district, worth $4.7 million, will stay with Waste Management, owned by the multinational TPI.