Hutt Council facing judicial review

Franks Ogilvy write:

The letter was written for a group of Hutt people dismayed by the Hutt City Council’s plans for a new kerbside collection scheme.  Some became concerned by biased and incomplete disclosure by the Council in its required consultation with residents. Others have concerns about the loss of incentives for waste minimisation, or loss of choices about collection and bags and bins.

The consultation disclosure left out important options. It should have been balanced, fair and objective. Instead it was obviously intended to steer people into supporting one option apparently preferred by some Council officers and the Mayor.

Under those insiders’ preferred option Hutt households will lose their current Pay as You Throw choices among competing suppliers. Kerbside collection costs will be buried in rates. That reduces the natural reward to people minimize their waste. Low waste producers will subsidise people who produce lots of waste.

If you want to reduce waste, then you should charge high waste producing households more than low ones.

The consultation, and the information provided to Councillors made the decision, did not properly explain costs and risks. From what we have seen in thousands of pages of Council information obtained under the Local Official Information and Meetings Act, Councillors were likely to have been misled by significant omissions and wrong statements. Among the misleading claims was that Council had to make an urgent decision, because waste contractors would not offer bag collection after the middle of next year.

Many Hutt people will be aware that Councillor Milne has been trying to warn Councillors of the risks in the kerbside collection proposals. He investigated discrepancies in the information fed to Councillors (and the public), including that an end to bag service could not be avoided. That seems to have been intended to stampede Councillors. They were pressed to allow a seriously irregular process that pre-judged the outcome of the consultation. The Council asked contractors to bid on a closely specified new system at the same time as the Council was pretending to consider ratepayers’ views on other options, with an open mind.  

Among the tender terms was a prohibition on tenderers talking to Councillors, exactly at the time that Councillors might want to hear from those know costs and unexpected risks in the proposed new system. That prohibition was imposed despite the decision on tender success being expressly reserved to Council officers, away from Councillors. So Councillors were told they could not talk to the people in the best position to know of problems in the Council officer recommendations, allegedly because it could undermine the tender integrity, even though Councillors would not see the final tender assessments and would not be involved in awarding the successful tender.

It is no surprise that a judicial review is being filed.

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