Tauranga City Council is to re-examine volumetric charging for wastewater and fresh water and look at monthly billing for both.
In a change of mind, the council has also decided it will re-evaluate its earlier decision not to increase summer water prices.
The Joyce Road wastewater plant.
The council decided not to increase the price during a workshop in on water supply issues in September 2011 with consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers, who have since requested council review the decision arguing it is an option that deals directly with summer peak demand.
Peak demand management heads the council’s water wish list, right above fairness and economic equity, management of average demand, and pricing stability.
When Tauranga ratepayers began paying for water in 2002, peak demand in summer dropped by 30 per cent, and average demand by 25 per cent.
In 1997 before water meters, peak demand was 700 litres per person per day but council group manager city services Ian McDonald says it’s now well below the target of 450L per person per day, but two years of recession could be skewing that figure.
The Western Bay is a popular summer holiday destination experiencing huge population increases every year and a matching peak in water demand.
Council staff state that prior to water meters water restrictions were in place every summer, a practice that has not been required since, even with a 27 per cent population increase.
The savings in water use is resulting in savings for ratepayers. It means the council has been able to put off starting the $80million Waiari Water Treatment Plant and infrastructure by at least 10 years, and the $130 million waste water treatment plant overhaul by five years.
On Thursday councillors voted to pay consultants to evaluate five options; a wastewater charge, a volumetric waste water charge, stepped or block tariffs for both, seasonal charges and monthly water and wastewater billing,
They ruled out cheaper charges for specified sets of customers, including specified government benefits.
In debate it emerged that councillors are seeking to help ratepayers make water savings rather than increase their costs.
Mention was made that since the formation of the ‘super city’ Aucklanders are now paying monthly water and wastewater bills.
Councillor Murray Guy opposed the review, but was told by Mayor Stuart Crosby the correct time to debate the ramifications for ratepayers will be when the council has the detailed information from PWC.
He said afterwards the issue is the fact staff brought the seasonal charging issue back after council rejected it.
“The objection was for me personally is it represents what we see too often in council chambers, when elected members and the community have made a clear decision on a preferred direction, and a subject matter is repeatedly brought back to the chambers.
“While I accept that elected members do that from time to time on specific issues, I have some disquiet insofar as staff are concerned.
“The whole water meter and waste water metering regime I find personally objectionable because there are alternatives.”
Murray and councillors Catherine Stuart and Rick Curach voted against it.