Following public consultation, Waipa District councillors voted unanimously last Tuesday to give some shared water meter property owners a reprieve, allowing them to pay a capped rate for water.
Those eligible for a capped rate will come from residences where, for example, a single person is sharing a water meter with a high-using family.
Although 84 per cent of cross-leased properties are better off under the water meter system – paying less than the $405.60 a year that was previously charged in the rates – council accepts that some are disadvantaged by sharing a meter with others.
Council took the draft Water Remission policy for Complex Properties out to the community for feedback on a possible remission, at the same time seeking public opinion on the possibility of council lending funds to property owners to help them pay for private plumbing to separate their meter. As part of this process, every complex property owner – around 1,100 – was sent information and invited to comment, with feedback closing at the end of July. There were 68 responses – just over six per cent of those approached – with 47 people in favour of a remission, ten not in support of one and 11 with no indicated response (nine of which being off-topic).
At last week’s council meeting, councillor Susan O’Regan suggested that due to the low response rate from the affected property owners, it could be assumed that the majority of those on shared water meters are quite comfortable with the proposition. Mayor Jim Mylchreest agreed, saying that tidying up the issues around the shared water meters seemed to be a “relatively easy” process.
Comments to the council in support of the remission policy included one respondent, who wrote: “It seems like a very reasonable solution to what is a challenging problem.”
Others were less than impressed, with one resident writing: “We could still end up paying more than our fair share. For Pete’s sake, just do the right thing – you want to make money off residents for a resource they use, you pay for the means to do so fairly.”
The report recommended an additional clause in the Remission policy, to address any situation where there is “serious inequality” of charging for ratepayers on a property with a complex meter. It suggested an addition that: “at council’s absolute discretion, and on a case-by-case basis, council staff can work with owners of properties with a complex water meter to get an equitable distribution of costs. This could include making reasonable inquiries about water usage as a basis for adjusting the allocations that would otherwise result from the application of this policy.”
Having encouraged complex property owners to install their own separate water connections, the report also asked whether council should lend funds to property owners to allow them to pay for any changes required to private plumbing up to $5,000. The loan would incur interest at lower-than-normal lending rates, with the amount of interest and duration of any loans to be worked through as part of next year’s draft annual plan.