The council intends to add 26,000 water metres over a 10-year period at a total cost of $50 million. It claims that charging for water would minimise demand and save $121 million in maintenance costs over time.
Ratepayers are not persuaded, and according to a breakdown of public submissions published yesterday, 40% prefer the status quo and do not want metres installed.
That, according to Moeahu, mirrored what he was hearing in the neighbourhood.
“I’m hearing concerns about this being a revenue-based project as opposed to fixing the issue, which my concerns were that we have a water storage problem not a water shortage problem.”
Moeahu said ratepayers feared water meters would hit them in the pocket.
“Their concern is that you’ve now got not only the lower socio-economic families that may struggle, larger families that may struggle, but even middle-class families.”
He said the debate had not been helped by a council bungle that saw it advertise for a project manager for the installation of water meters before a decision had even been made.
“I felt it fell short in terms of transparency. I felt it only heightened people’s concerns … what’s the point of them doing submissions when council has already made its mind up.
“It didn’t help one little bit. It was uncalled for, unprofessional and I’ll definitely be asking some questions about it when the time comes.”
New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom said water meters were a divisive issue and a diversity of opinions had been received on them.
“People understand water is precious and got to be preserved and meters are a way that we’ve seen in other major centres that they’ve, one, been able to reduce household consumption and; two, reduce the amount of money required to invest in growth around water supply.”
The council’s preferred water meters option received 35 percent support.
Overall, Holdom was pleased with the number of submissions which – at close to 5000 – he said was a record for a provincial city.
The council is proposing to hike rates in the first year of the plan by 12 percent and more that 6 percent in each of the subsequent nine years.
A breakdown of submission on the overall rate rise was not provided by council, but the mayor said ratepayers were weary of it.
“We understand that nobody likes taxes going up however people have come to realise you get what you pay for and in terms of this long term plan we’re looking to catch up on historic underspending on infrastructure and this is unfortunately the generation of people that has to step up and fund this infrastructure so it’s there for the next generations.”
Residents did not seem reticent to spend on infrastructure generally however: there was broad support for the council position on the big ticket item in the $3 billion budget – a $140m investment in water infrastructure – which had 57 percent backing.
Ratepayers were also more bullish than the council on a proposal to contribute $40m to the development of a multisports hub at New Plymouth Raceway, with 48 percent wanting construction to begin in year four of the plan.
The council’s preference was for work to being in year six, which had only 21 percent support.
Long term plan next steps:
- Public hearings scheduled for 4, 5, 6 and 7 May
- Councillor deliberations, public meetings 18 and 19 May
- Council to adopt final 10-year plan 16 June
- Sign off by Audit New Zealand