Cambridge residents should have received their first mock water bill by now, with the first of two practice bills sent out before charging begins on July 1.
Council figures show that of around 1,000 older, cross-leased properties on a shared water meter, 81 per cent were better off in this round of billing than they would have been under fixed charging. That is of little consolation to Leamington resident Kelvin Dunn, whose water bill for the quarter is $148.30, putting him squarely in the 19 per cent camp who are worse off. Kelvin shares a meter with his neighbours, a family who he said use significantly more water than he does living on his own. He has no problem with the amount of water they use, but objects to having to pay for more than his share. Kelvin wrote to councillor Grahame Webber in early December following the council meeting where they voted to adopt a split bill regime. Cr Webber voted to split the cost of water between dwellings on a cross-lease, citing the example of his own mother who he said would be better off. Among other points raised in his letter, Kelvin said that represented a conflict of interest for the Cambridge councillor, and queried why he did not withdraw from the vote for that reason.
Kelvin said he never received a reply to his letter, Cr Webber had not returned our phone call to discuss the matter by the time we went to print. What Kelvin said has been a total lack of communication from Waipa District Council has left a sour taste in his mouth, and he is going to sell up and move to Hamilton once his meter is installed and renovations are complete. “The Waipa District Council are the worst authority I have ever dealt with in my entire life,” added a frustrated Kelvin. And to add insult to injury, when he does sell up and move on, Kelvin will have to pay a $36 fee to council for a final water meter reading.
Outspoken split bill opponent, Norma Mackie, said her mock bill was $52.64 – roughly half what she had previously been paying under the fixed charge. “That’s alright now (the split bill), all my neighbours are over 80, but I could have two couples in the units next to me and then I wouldn’t be happy.” Norma, who lives in one of three units on a cross-lease, conceded that her neighbours were probably paying for some of her water under the current arrangement. “I probably would be paying more if I was paying for my own,” she said. Norma also said the council had been “ripping them off” all these years by having a fixed rate which was higher than the new charge for actual use. “We have already paid for meters with the overcharging,” she said, however this fixed rate was to cover the cost of supplying water to the region.
Council is set to review the practice of splitting bills for cross-lease properties at the end of the year.
Are we better off, or what?
Council say 51 per cent of all households have received an initial bill for under $101 for the quarter, meaning they are better off than they were under the uniform annual charge in the rates which was $405.20 ($101.30 a quarter). The first real bill will be payable in November, after two sets of mock bills have given residents the chance to fix any leaks and change their usage to cut costs.
What about tenants?
Council advised that water charges are classified as a rate, despite the usage component, and will therefore be sent out to property owners rather than the physical address. Landlords and tenants need to have a conversation around who pays for it, the spokesperson said.
Not got a bill?
Council has identified 70 mock bills in Cambridge reading higher than $500 and have sent these out with a letter alerting residents that it is a higher bill than would be expected. A further 120 mock bills are being rechecked and will be sent out as soon as possible. Phone council on 0800 WAIPADC (0800 924 723) if you haven’t received your bill.