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Council’s buy-local ‘nuanced’ question

Supporting the local economy is meant to be a key consideration for Gisborne District Council when it makes purchases.

The council's procurement policy in the past gave preference to local suppliers and businesses, as long as their prices were within 1 percent of the cheapest quote.

The current policy is less black and white but includes objectives “intended to promote regional value”.

“This means (the) council seeks to partner with contractors and suppliers who can show that they will be and are proactively contributing to the Tairawhiti region,” the policy states.

Campaigns to “buy local” have been in the spotlight following the Covid-19 lockdown and pleas from small businesses for support to stay afloat.

Dave Wilson, the council's community lifelines director, said the updated procurement policy allowed the council to take into account whether potential suppliers were local or regional businesses, whether they intended to work with local organisations and whether they would use locally produced materials.

“While value for money is not necessarily the overriding principle, it is still important,” Mr Wilson said.

“One of our main aims is to build capability in the local workforce and support local suppliers.”

However, up to 25 percent of the council's purchases are made through BOPLASS, a company owned by nine North Island councils, including Gisborne, that have joint contracts for some goods and services, including stationery, IT and insurance.

Mr Wilson said it was open to interpretation whether BOPLASS was a barrier to prioritising local suppliers.

“For example, we use a national insurance broker with a local office, so ‘what is local?' becomes a nuanced question.”