Editorial: Water debate must be open

Last updated 05:00 21/10/2013

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Before they go much further in developing politically sensitive water-metering proposals, Hamilton city councillors should chat with their counterparts in other areas that have dealt with water-supply issues. Kapiti, for example.

Kapiti's mayor - until the recent local body elections - was Jenny Rowan. On her watch, the Kapiti District Council decided to introduce water meters. Responding to one challenge to that decision, she said she was confident the majority of Kapiti ratepayers wanted progress on this "much vexed issue". It was time to move past the debate and guarantee a sustainable water supply for present and future generations.

Ms Rowan is no longer mayor of Kapiti after finishing third in the recent mayoral election. Her deputy and two senior councillors were swept from office, too. One of the new councillors led the anti-water-meter campaign.

Hamilton's councillors can't avoid the water issue. But they can - and must - ensure they keep citizens well-informed about the policy options.

Councillors therefore should be disquieted by accusations that the city council withheld information relating to the roll-out of water meters in the city for fear of influencing the local body election result. They should hasten to check the validity of Cr Dave Macpherson's claims that emails between the council and WEL Networks show investigations into the potential role of electricity smart meter technology are more advanced than perhaps they realise.

Cr Macpherson said it was a case of when, not whether meters were coming. He and fellow councillors - not council staff - are accountable to voters and must control the policy-making agenda. Three of six new councillors have publicly declared their lack of enthusiasm for residential meters. Two others have no fixed position. They will have to firm up their positions.

Mayor Julie Hardaker has said she supports discussion on installing water meters. There is much to discuss, including the financial burden water metering will heap on large and lower-income families. If meters are rejected, other ways must be found to finance a growing city's water supply and these might not be politically potable, either. But the council must bring the public on side whatever it decides.

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- Waikato Times

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