Rolling out water meters across the city could lump Hamilton ratepayers with a $20 million debt, according to figures crunched by mayoral hopeful Dave Macpherson.
Residential water metering is shaping as a key issue in this year's local body elections after dominating a Waikato Times mayoral debate this week.
Mr Macpherson, who is opposed to residential water metering, said installation of water meters could cost ratepayers at least $20m and add $2.5m a year to the rates bill - figures challenged by Mayor Julie Hardaker.
Mr Macpherson's figures were based on a verbal estimate by council city infrastructure general manager Chris Allen, who put the cost of a single water meter at between $450 and $500.
"[Water metering] will add $2.5m a year to the rates bill," Mr Macpherson said.
"That will be at least an extra 2 per cent rates increase for residential ratepayers, on top of current increases. "That will increase costs on ratepayers, and a city, already struggling to meet the cost of basic services."
Ms Hardaker has come under scrutiny for her support of residential water metering, but said the council was yet to have any detailed discussion on installation of meters.
In December, councillors resolved that universal water metering be considered as a demand management measure for Hamilton "in the future".
"I've gone one step further and said I support water metering as an appropriate water demand management measure at some point in the future and that's as far as it goes," Ms Hardaker said.
"There are no time frames but sometime in the future that discussion will have to be had. It's an absolute misrepresentation to say the council is putting water meters in because we have not had that discussion at all."
Mr Macpherson said the council's priority should be fixing leaks in the city's water reticulation system. Doing so would mean Hamilton would not need any extra water supply for the next 15 to 20 years, he said.
Hamilton has 1057 kilometres of water pipes. A council report estimates 20 per cent of the city's water is lost to leaks.
Mayoral candidate Ewan Wilson also said the council's priority should be locating and fixing leaky water pipes.
Mr Wilson agreed with Ms Hardaker's assessment that if the council did not do anything about the city's water, it would trigger the need for significant capital costs, but disagreed with her solution.
"Julie's picking low-hanging fruit by saying water meters are the salvation but they're not. The first question is how do you find $16m-20m to put these water meters in. Ultimately, if Julie gets her way, the individual ratepayer will be hit twice: they'll be burdened by the cost of putting the $20m water metering infrastructure in and then they'll have to pay for their water consumption."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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