Questions Minister of Environment on Arc21 PDF Print E-mail

David Hilditch asked the Minister of the Environment for his assessment of Arc21. (AQO David Hilditch2532/11-15)

 Alex Attwood (Social Democratic and Labour Party)

I thank the Member for his question.  As Members know, there is an ongoing waste procurement strategy for Northern Ireland .  The outworking of that sees three groups of councils, through procurement groups — the Southern Waste Management Partnership (SWaMP),  the North West Region Waste Management Group (NWRWMG) and Arc21 — taking forward the procurement of waste need in future.  I have to be careful about what I say in this regard because we are at a critical phase of the management of those procurement strategies.  I have made it clear, in the Department, to the three groups of councils and to the procurement managers, that I want to create certainty and to do so quickly over how the procurement strategy will be deployed over the next period.  Consequently, I said clearly to all three that now is the time and soon is the time for certainty around the deliverability and affordability of each of or all the schemes, given the scale of commitments that councils may be asked to enter into and the financial consequences that flow from that.  That is as true for Arc21 as it is for the others.

David Hilditch (DUP) I thank the Minister for his answer.  Given the number of organisations now involved in waste management, does he consider that the time is now approaching for the challenges to be faced collectively through the delivery of a new waste infrastructure facility by one group?

Alex Attwood (Social Democratic and Labour Party)

I confirm that I said to the waste management board, the Department and the three procurement groups that we should, as the Member said, move towards having a single waste authority.  However, historically, we came to the situation in which we had three waste authorities.  It is my view that, on the far side of this procurement exercise, we should have a single waste authority.  I cannot derail the ongoing exercise, because people would say that I had changed the rules of the game, created uncertainty and that they may make a legal challenge.  Therefore, I have to exhaust the current process.  However, on the far side of that process and once the matter is settled, whatever way it is settled, a single waste procurement authority is the right way to go.

We will see over the next short while whether all three, two or one of the groups get over the deliverability and affordability line.  However, I am determined that that should happen, whatever the outcome might be, so that the picture of waste procurement over the next 20 or 25 years is clear for all to see.