Water charge money down the drain

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 04/06/2014

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With three teenagers and a 12-year-old in the house, Tania Hunter does not know how she and her partner are going to make ends meet when water metering is introduced on the Kapiti Coast.

Kapiti Coast District Council is proposing a $50,000 fund to help large families on limited incomes with water costs, but the Waikanae Beach mother said it was "just a token gesture to soften the blow". "If the council wanted to help us, they would not have put water meters in."

Hunter has been a long-standing opponent of the meters, and voted in last year's local body elections for candidates who did not support them.

But the new council voted in December last year to push ahead with them, despite some strong community opposition. The charges will apply once metering begins on July 1.

According to the council's figures, the average household will end up paying about $388 a year, compared with $357 now.

Hunter said that, with children aged 12, 14, 17 and 19 and her partner's two children staying every second weekend, their power bill was enormous. "With six showers a day and two loads of washing, I do not know how we are going to pay an increase in rent . . . from the water charges.

"It is really worrying. We are only just surviving . . . We don't take the kids anywhere. I do not spend anything on myself . . . just on the kids and household expenses."

To be eligible for the council's remission scheme, households must show they receive the Working For Families tax credit; have more than three dependents living at their property; and show water usage over the first nine months of the new charging scheme has cost more than $311 in total.

Hunter could meet the criteria, and has meanwhile asked her teenagers to reduce the length of their showers, and washes clothes in cold water to save power.

Kapiti Mayor Ross Church said the new "fairer, user-pays" method of water charging would be "more equitable across the board". However, large households would generally use more water than average, so their costs would go up.

"To help with the impacts of this change, we are offering a new remission for large vulnerable households. We believe this $50,000 fund is a first in New Zealand."

The scheme is in addition to two existing funds: $125,000 for any household whose rates (including water) are more than 5 per cent of their income; and $25,000 for households that have incurred one-off costs from repairing water leaks, serious health issues or essential household maintenance.

The council will be asked to sign off the latest funding at a meeting this week.

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- The Dominion Post

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