Volumetric charges proposed

The Central Otago District Council may change the way excess water use will be charged, to make water metering fairer and clear up confusion.

The council will consider a report from council water services manager Russell Bond tomorrow in which he suggests changing to a model where residents would be charged on the volume of water they used rather than be given an allocation, which was the previously preferred option.

With the allocation model, the four community boards in the district were responsible for setting allocations of "free" water and the prices that residents in each ward would be charged for exceeding that allocation.

These varied significantly over the four wards.

Mr Bond said that after community consultation last year, it became clear there was confusion and a general perception of inequality due to different prices in different wards.

Therefore, "a clear and equitable pricing methodology needs to be developed to replace the current mechanism".

He said the new proposed model, the volumetric model, is like what power companies use to charge for electricity.

A base charge would be included in a property's rates, as is historically the case, plus a volumetric charge for all water used, to cover the cost of producing the extra water.

For the Cromwell and Vincent wards, this could be 50 cents per cubic metre and for the Roxburgh and Maniototo wards, 75 cents.

The Roxburgh and Maniototo community boards decided they would rather have a higher per-cubic-metre charge in order to reduce the base charge and therefore reduce potential rates rises in those wards.

Mr Bond said reducing the charge included in the rates would reduce the council's revenue, which would need to be made up elsewhere to cover the cost of running the water scheme.

He said the main driver for introducing water metering was to encourage people to consider their use and reduce demand, as it was expensive to produce treated water but necessary to meet the government's drinking-water standards.

In 2007, the council adopted its drinking-water strategy and water metering was subsequently rolled out across the district.

Only Roxburgh is yet to finish installing water meters.

The Roxburgh Community Board last week decided to defer finishing the installations for at least a year in order to keep a rates rise down.

Water metering has been a controversial issue and many residents have spoken out with concerns, citing lack of consideration for water use in the likes of schools, sports clubs, churches and community organisations, and an inadequate allocation to support gardening.

In 2010 the council decided to defer billing of owners of small sections until revised charges were decided and adopted.

In some towns, owners of sections larger than 1100sq m were already being charged for extra water.

Metering and billing is proposed to come into effect on July 1 this year for all wards except Roxburgh.

- sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz


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