Opportunities for local firms to do business with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council

Policy approach: Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is set to consider a draft Local Preference Policy in April.
Policy approach: Port Macquarie-Hastings Council is set to consider a draft Local Preference Policy in April.

PORT Macquarie-Hastings Council is a step closer to consideration of a policy designed to give local businesses an advantage in the tender evaluation process.

A draft Local Preference Policy will be developed and is scheduled to go before the council meeting on April 19.

Cr Rob Turner said in an ideal world, the council would not need to give advantage to local firms.

“Our local firms are finding they are trying to compete in other local government areas with local preference policies,” he said.

“Whatever this council can do to encourage local businesses to work with council, I think should be supported.”

Cr Geoff Hawkins said it was important to point out the proposed local preference policy was only part of the activities that council had undertaken and needed to continue to undertake.

“It is not a substitute for local business owners to take responsibility for their own business and the success of their own business,” he said.

The council has an integrated strategy to support local business through council’s purchasing of goods and services.

Cr Peter Alley raised the legal and market risks with a local preference policy.

Cr Alley said he really wanted local businesses to succeed but he didn’t think a local preference policy was the way to do it.

Councillors initially debated a proposal to introduce a 12-month trial subject to the draft local preference policy being presented at the April council meeting.

Cr Justin Levido said his preference was to first see the draft policy before making a decision about a trial.

That was what the councillors agreed to.

Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peter Besseling said that way, everyone had the opportunity to have a look at the draft policy without prejudging what may be included in the policy.

The council requested the general manager, Craig Swift-McNair, to develop a draft Local Preference Policy for consideration at the April council meeting.

The draft policy will incorporate a five per cent notional price offset.

A notional price offset is a pricing discount.

A price or notional offset provides a set percentage discount to the pricing submitted by local suppliers to be used in the tender evaluation process. 

It does not impact the final price paid by the council but offers a price advantage to local firms during the tender evaluation. 

The vote was carried 7:1 with Cr Mike Cusato casting the dissenting vote.

Cr Cusato said a local preference policy would, in his view, complicate the tender process even more.

He said such a policy may discourage businesses from lodging tenders.

Meanwhile, Cr Alley said he feared that the whole concept was fatally flawed and he suspected he would oppose it in April.

The council has reviewed legal advice and further researched other councils’ strategies and policies.

Half of the 20 councils sampled had local preference policies.

That included Coffs Harbour, Shoalhaven, Tweed and Wollongong councils.