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Waste Assessments and Section 17A

The what and the how of waste services

June 2016

Lately, councils have been asking us here at Morrison Low whether a Section 17A Review is needed for waste services given there is already a need to assess options for their Waste Assessments. Our view is that both processes need to be completed and are complementary. The key difference is that Waste Assessments are about what waste services are provided whereas Section 17A Reviews are about how waste services are provided.

As an example, a Waste Assessment would assess options for recycling services such as weekly or fortnightly collections, in crates or in wheelie bins, fully co-mingled or with glass or paper separated. A Section 17A Review would consider whether the recycling service would be provided in-house, contracted out, through a shared service or by council opting out and leaving the private sector to provide the service.

Both the Waste Assessment and Section 17A Review require the cost and funding of the service to be assessed, which means there is overlap in the two processes and in the past many councils have assessed service delivery in their Waste Assessments to enable them to assess costs and funding. However, they may not have systematically assessed the full suite of service delivery options that Section 17A requires councils to consider, namely:

  • By own council and in-house
  • By own council and out-sourced
  • By shared service with another council(s)
  • By CCO/CCTO owned by council by itself or with other councils
  • By a party other than council, eg private sector, community group or another council

Another key difference between Waste Assessments and Section 17A Reviews is the drivers behind the assessment. For Section 17A Reviews the driver is cost-effectiveness. Section 17A of the Local Government Act 2002 states:

“A local authority must review the cost-effectiveness of current arrangements for meeting the needs of communities within its district or region for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions”.

For the Waste Assessment the driver is waste minimisation. Section 42 of the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 states:

“a council must promote effective and efficient waste management and minimization within its district”

In doing so, the Waste Minimisation Act requires councils to consider the waste hierarchy and reduce, reuse or recycle ahead of recovery, treatment or disposal of their waste. In the Waste Assessment councils are required to consider options available for services and assess their suitability for promoting waste minimisation, not necessarily effective service delivery.

Given the crossover in the Waste Assessment and Section 17A Review processes, the more they can be integrated the better. Waste Management and Minimisation Plan (WMMP) reviews are due 2016-2018 for most councils and Section 17A Reviews are required by August 2017, which makes this an ideal time to integrate the two processes.

Morrison Low has developed a standardised process and templates for completing Section 17A Reviews to streamline the processes, provide consistency between reviews and to ensure the reviews are compliant with the legislation. Service delivery reviews are a legal requirement, however we see them as more than a tick-box compliance exercise. Our approach is to focus on the potential efficiency and effectiveness gains that a systematic review can deliver.Morrison Low are specialists in waste management and continue to be involved in the development and review of Waste Assessments and WMMPs.

For information please email Alice Grace or Ewen Skinner.