Council votes in water meters as a cost-effective conservation measure
Kāpiti Coast District Council has voted 8/3 in support of introducing water meters as a conservation measure, opening the way to their installation from July 1 this year and an operational date of July 1, 2014.
Mayor Jenny Rowan heralded the decision as a “pragmatic, cost-effective solution” to the district’s enduring water supply and water quality problems.
“After months and months of significant work, debate and consultation, we have a decision that will provide us with a cost-effective solution that is fair to this generation of residents and future generations.”
Mayor Rowan said councillors were under no illusions. “This has been a very tough debate for each one of us. It has not been an easy path to follow, and I applaud and respect each councillor for the decisions they have made, whether it is to support meters or not.”
Those who supported the introduction of water meters were Mayor Rowan, Deputy Mayor Roger Booth and Councillors Diane Ammundsen, Penny Gaylor, Hilary Wooding, Mike Cardiff, Tony Lester and Peter Ellis.
Those who were opposed were Councillors Ross Church, Gurunathan and Tony Lloyd.
Mayor Rowan said it would be a good five years or more before a dam could be built “and even then we might not get the necessary consents.” She said the construction costs would be prohibitive and add at least 3.7% to the rates annually over the long term.
Councillor Lester said the dollar numbers in support of meters were compelling. “Under water meters, we have the chance to defer up to $36 million in infrastructure costs for at least 20 years.” Spreading costs over the future generations that would benefit from the work, also made good sense.
He said the issues of privatisation and amalgamation were red herrings. “If the Government wanted to make us sell off these assets, then they could do that to us today and as to the issue of amalgamation, we know that we will have a water supply problem by 2015. Amalgamation won’t solve that.”
Councillor Ammundsen said there was not a “do-nothing” option. “We know from all the information we have seen that water meters are the cheapest way forward and that 92% to 98% of residents will benefit under meters.
Councillor Gurunathan said he fully supported meters and the charging regime recommended by the Charging Regime Advisory Group (CRAG), but said Council had no mandate to bring them in. He suggested leaving the issue till the next local body elections.
Councillors Church said he was faced with a dilemma. “Is it essential to bring meters in now? If spending (on meters) is not essential, then we should not spend it.”
Councillor Lloyd said he was saddened by the divisions and ill feeling the issue had caused and feared that those divisions may never be resolved.
After considerable debate around the table, Councillors voted 8/3 in support of introducing water meters and directed that a report be prepared on the tender costs and project timeline for consideration by Council on June 28.
They also approved the 50/50 charging split recommended by CRAG, including a six month trial where residents will receive “dummy” water bills before the formal charge by volume begins on July 1, 2014.
As a reflection of the concern around the table, Councillors agreed to increase the rates remission fund that will be available to residents suffering hardships. The fund will rise from $100,000 in the 2012/13 financial year to $200,000 in 2014/15 (up $50,000) for the first year of water meters.
They also asked staff to report back on modifying Standing Orders to ensure that any future referenda covering the contracting out, the setting up of a Council Controlled Organisation “or any other external management of water services” would be binding.