I do not support the installation of water meters in Hamilton. There is no business case that justifies them being installed. I also do not support delegating the decision about water metering in Hamilton to a third party business board. That decision should be made by the Hamilton City Council’s elected members.
On Thursday 14th July 2016, I moved an amendment in Council to keep the decision making for water metering in Hamilton with the Mayor and Hamilton City Councillors. I was supported in that amendment by Councillors Martin Gallagher, Dave Macpherson and Ewan Wilson.
Those who voted to potentially let a proposed business board decide on the installation of Hamilton water meters were Mayor Julie Hardaker and Councillors Gordon Chesterman, Rob Pascoe, Philip Yeung, Leo Tooman and Garry Mallett. Councillors Margaret Forsyth, Angela O’Leary and Karina Green were absent from the meeting and therefore not involved in the vote.
This was a very important decision for Hamilton. A majority of our Councillors washed their hands of what should be their rate payer elected responsibility. That will allow them to blame the consequence on someone else—in this case a business board running our water—and say it’s not their fault.
If this proposal goes all the way through the process, Hamilton will not have the chance to democratically make the decision of if and when we get water meters. In my view, making such an important decision should remain the responsibility of Hamilton City Council elected members. Instead of delegating such an important decision, and distancing ourselves from the potentially unpleasant consequences, we need to step up and make the right call about a matter that affects every rate payer and involves about 20% of Hamilton’s rate income.
The third party Council–controlled business board that is proposed to make the decision about water metering in Hamilton would not only look after Hamilton’s water and sewage disposal but also those services in Waipa and Waikato districts. Its supply area would stretch from the Bombay Hills in the north to beyond Te Awamutu and Cambridge in the south, and from the Tasman Sea beaches in the west to almost Morrinsville in the east.
Waipa and Waikato districts already have water meters or have approved their installation. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that this proposed business board would be consistent and impose water meters on Hamilton rate payers as well.
Overall, Hamilton’s residential water users are responsible people, even though we don’t have water meters. Our water usage is reasonably in line with other areas which have water meters. Our water isn’t expensive to produce, when you take into account the electricity needed as our water is pumped out of the Waikato River to water towers on elevated areas around Hamilton, before being gravity fed to water users. In many other areas outside Hamilton, water is dammed in the hills and gravity fed to users, resulting in lower supply costs. Regardless of this, our cost to produce water is still competitive.
Central Government legislation prohibits Councils from making a profit in the supply of water. But water meters can hugely increase the costs of distribution. Water meters have to be purchased and installed. They also have to be maintained and replaced, as they have a limited life span and are manually read. We all understand line charges on our electricity accounts. We get charged a minimum amount whether we use electricity or not. Hamilton’s minimum charge if you have a water meter now is $430 per year.
As a result of water meter installation, the price that a small household pays for minimum usage could double their cost of water. This is based on the charge structure that Hamilton city already has in place for houses that have a water meter.
That is why I am against the installation of water meters in Hamilton and the business case just doesn’t stack up. More importantly, I question our loyalty and whether we have betrayed the trust of our voters who elected us by giving this decision to a third party to decide.
I am not necessarily against a business running our water pipes and sewers in partnership with our neighbours. But I am saying the democratically elected Hamilton City Council should make the decision on when and if water meters are installed for Hamilton residential water users. I will not support the proposed business model unless Hamilton city has the say on the installation of water meters.
Those who voted to give away their voting rights on Hamilton water meters may say that I am scare-mongering. They may say the financial benefits outweigh the negative risks associated with a business board running our city’s water supply. My response to any such comments is, why have some of your elected members weakened our position by giving our decision making away?
Hamilton voters, it’s time to take action. You are voting in a new Council on the 8th October 2016. That new Council will have the final vote, and that vote could hand over our decision on whether we have water meters or not. Vote wisely!