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Consultation to start on water charging

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Public consultation will begin shortly on a charging regime for water meters based on a 50% fixed charge (similar to electricity line charges) and a 50% variable charge (a charge based on the amount of water you use).

The move follows unanimous support today by Council for a report from the Charging Regime Advisory Group (CRAG).

CRAG was set up last June to develop and recommend a water meter tariff structure that was affordable, fair, easy to understand, be future proofed to adjust as circumstances changed over time, but provide stable revenue to cover the cost of running the water supply system.

CRAG was chaired by the former State Services Commissioner Don Hunn and involved representatives of a wide variety of groups including low income households, Chamber of Commerce, landlords and tenants, Grey Power, the Older Person's Council, local iwi and Council.

Their report, which contained 12 recommendations, was presented to Council today.

Mayor Jenny Rowan welcomed the report, saying the charging regime was fundamental to the debate about water meters. "Last year Council adopted water meters in principle but made it clear that a final decision would not be made until a charging regime and its effects had been put before residents for comment. That moment has come."

The councillors directed staff to immediately prepare information on the charging formula showing the relative impacts for households and business for use in the consultation process.

They also directed staff to report back on how the additional CRAG recommendations would be implemented in time for Council to include the results in their final deliberations once the consultation process was completed.

There was unanimous support for the sending of clear, easy-to-understand factual information on the issue to all households in the district, and for holding of a random survey of at least 1,000 representative households.

However, when Councillors moved to reject calls for a referendum on water meters, Councillor K Gurunathan cast a dissenting vote.

During the debate, Councillors raised a number of ideas, including the use of the May 1 rates mail out to highlight the consultation process; a possible increase in the number of residents to be surveyed; and being clear about the terms 'fixed' and 'variable charge'.

The question of whether a super city arrangement would impact on planned water developments on the Coast was also raised.

Mayor Rowan said the district required a stand alone water supply, irrespective of any possible governance changes in the future.

Council Chief Executive Pat Dougherty said a connection to the Regional Council bulk water supply system was one of the 41 options Council originally investigated but the idea never made the short list because of costs and timing.

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