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Watercare users should get overpayments returned

Watercare's end users should get their overpayments returned, says Bruce Hucker

Auckland City Council is taking $7.1 million which rightfully belongs to its residents and businesses by insisting that Metrowater pass a Watercare rebate on to the council, says mayoral candidate and City Vision leader, Bruce Hucker.

The rebate from Watercare should be passed back to consumers who helped generate it, said Dr Hucker, who is chairman of Watercare's Shareholders Representative Group which represents the interests of Watercare's direct customers, the local councils in the region.

The Metrowater board wanted to return the money to consumers, said Dr Hucker. The board felt that, with Auckland City insisting the money be given to the council instead, the board might be forced into breaching its duty to act in good faith and in the best interests of Metrowater.

That was of such concern to Metrowater that the board had demanded that the Auckland City Council indemnify it against any proceedings that might arise from not returning the money to consumers.

"These consumers deserve a break, particularly those in lower valued properties who have been hit hardest proportionately by rates increases in recent years," said Dr Hucker.

Watercare supplies water and wastewater services to the region's local councils. Metrowater is the Auckland City-owned, council-controlled organisation which buys Watercare's services on behalf of Auckland City and is responsible for reticulation to individual consumers.

"The move by the Auckland Citizens and Ratepayers Now group on Auckland City Council to collar the money and put it into stormwater is commendable from one perspective. But the money is not theirs to use," said Dr Hucker. "There are better ways to go about finding the money to improve stormwater disposal and protect our beaches and waterways."

Dr Hucker explained that Watercare included an extra amount in its charges each year as a prudent way of managing risk. The surplus had in part been built up through consumers paying for problems that had not arisen; another amount would be paid in next year's charges to cover possible unforeseen events then.

"Meanwhile the effective overpayment should be returned to where it came from, the individual consumers," he said.

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