Queenstown Lakes District Council announced yesterday that Wanaka Wastebusters has lost the Wanaka recycling collections and processing contract.

The council has chosen the cheapest price, but have they considered the best value for the community???

Who got the contract?

The contract has been awarded to Smart Environmental, an Auckland company who do Queenstown’s recycling. The contract is for six years, with a three year roll-over.

What does it mean for Wanaka Wastebusters?

Up to nine people will lose their jobs on the truck and doing the sorting.  Around 50 percent of Wanaka Wastebusters’ income comes from the recycling contract, so it is a body-blow to the community organisation.

We are innovative and we do have other education/awareness contracts. Wastebusters’ strength is that we do both: we are rooted in the practicalities of running a recycling centre and we can turn that practical experience into behaviour change programmes. Without the kerbside contracts, we will be less able to do this or to protect Wanaka’s reputation through recycling at events such as Warbirds.

How much cheaper did Smart Environmental come in at?

Our price for the next six years ($575,649 per year) was substantially less than our current recycling price. We think it was a very fair and realistic price.  According to a report in the ODT, Smart Environmental came in at $301,400.

That  figure doesn’t make sense to us given that it costs $1.25 million now to do the same job in Queenstown – with a population of 9,290 households compared to about 5,788 households here. How can it be that cheap in Wanaka, compared to Queenstown – when the recycling needs to be trucked over the Crown Range?

The difference works out to $18* per household per year. Many people are telling us they would be happy to front up with $18 to keep Wanaka Wastebusters doing the local recycling.

What are the impacts on the local economy?

Up til now, the money that Wanaka ratepayers paid for recycling stayed in town, and was spent on jobs, and local services and products eg mechanics, uniforms, freight, accounting services. This decision means that most of the money will now go out of town to Queenstown and Auckland.

We’ve worked out the impact on our local economy*. Wanaka Wastebusters would have put $4.1M directly into the Wanaka economy over nine years. Using a NZ research figures, we estimate Smart Environmental would only put $597,000 into the Wanaka economy over nine years.

Is it fair?

The annual recycling services budget for Queenstown is $1.25M (from infrastructure services committee minutes). The price quoted for new recycling services in Wanaka is $301,000.

1/3 of the district’s people live in Wanaka, 2/3 live in Queenstown. Everybody pays the same for their recycling services across the district – so Wanaka pays 1/3 of the QLDC recycling budget and Queenstown pays 2/3.

Wanaka gets 1/5 of the services and Queenstown gets 4/5.

This doesn’t seem fair.

Dedicated to recycling

We pride ourselves on producing a very clean, high quality product. Wanaka Wastebuters has never gone back to QLDC to ask for more money during the contract period, or had any difficulties which have resulted in more money being spent by QLDC.

The following media reports highlight issues with Smart Environmental’s recycling in Queenstown:

  • 04th Feb ’09 “A recycling company’s request that the Queenstown Lakes District Council take on some of the risk in its recycling contract by offsetting losses was rejected by most councilors on the utilities committee.”
  • 11th Feb ’09 “Splinters of broken glass could add over $20,000 a year to the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s waste collection costs, as its state-of-the-art recycling plant struggles to sell recyclable paper.”
  • 04th March ’09 “A decision to reject any potential to change a recycling contract could create legal difficulties for the Queenstown Lakes District Council unless revoked.”
  • 04th Dec ’09 “The Queenstown Lakes District Council will have to spend an extra $15,000 to recycle its glass, but it says it’s not alone with its problem of staying green.”


Sue Coutts, General Manager: (03) 443 8606 x 9, 027 322 9675

Gina Dempster, Communications advisor: (03) 443 8606 x 8, 027 443 7116

* using QLDC Growth Projections Report, 2011 for number of households.

** Recycle Town”, by Gary Kelk in assoc with Dr Warren Hughes of Waikato University. The research calculated that a locally-based community recycler funnels 80c from every dollar they earn back into their community. A NZ owned recycler spends 22c from every dollar in the local community.

Click here to read the press release from Ross McRobie – Chair – Wanaka Wastebusters

Click here for printable pdf – Lost Contract Q&A’s