Wednesday, 25 November 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Whitianga first in line for water meters

Whitianga residents and business will be first in line to have water meters installed at their properties if proposals by Thames-Coromandel District Council go ahead as planned.

While TCDC has undertaken to ask the public for their views on water meters as part of their Long Term Plan consultations, the roll-out appears to be a done deal for Whitianga and also Whangamata with a funding agreement already submitted to central government.

In his latest report to elected council members, Chief Executive Rob Williams confirmed the plan to use the first tranche of funding from the government’s Three Waters Reform Programme, worth $2.4 million in total, to pay for meters in the two towns. Thames already has water meters.

“Central government’s Three Waters Reform is progressing as previously indicated,” Mr Williams informed elected members. “The Memorandum of Agreement between council and the Department of Internal Affairs was signed and submitted in August. The associated draft funding agreement was submitted in September identifying the projects proposed to be funded. The proposed projects include the installation of water meters in Whitianga and Whangamata, along with a small allowance for continuing to investigate any wider regional opportunities.”

TCDC will receive a further two funding instalments from the Three Waters Reform Programme over the next two years. Both population and land area were used to determine how much each council receives. The funding is notional and specific projects need to go back to the Department of Internal Affairs for final approval.

If TCDC can partner with any other districts in developing regional solutions with regards to the delivery of water services, it may also be able access further funds from a $33 million regional pool allocated to the Waikato.

While TCDC will initially utilise the water meters to monitor usage and supply and identify leaks, a user pays service where consumers receive a monthly water bill is the ultimate goal, according to Mr Williams.

“The creation of a utility bill is actually the way forward for filling the infrastructure funding gap that we have in New Zealand,” Mr Williams told the 27 October meeting of the full council. “In the way that power companies send bills… we need the ability to send a water invoice on a monthly basis because it’s not a tax and it’s not a rate, it’s actually a utility bill.”

Mr Williams said legislation associated with the Three Waters Reform Programme was likely to be introduced to Parliament before Christmas. While details were still unclear, this is likely to involve the establishment of a number of regional publicly owned entities to oversee and manage both water and wastewater services, with discussions still underway around the inclusion of stormwater. How this will impact on costs for ratepayers has yet to be fully determined.

According to the Department of Internal Affairs, the aim of the programme is to address what it describes as “underinvestment in three waters infrastructure in parts of the country and persistent affordability issues,” while ensuring there is “additional investment to meet improvements in freshwater outcomes, increase resilience to climate change and natural hazards, and enhance community wellbeing.”

Responding to queries from council members, Mr Williams said there were still many questions as to how the new system would operate, but a clearer picture should emerge by December.

Pictured: Whitianga will be one of the first town on the Coromandel Peninsula to have water meters installed.

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