Councillors fight for elderly on waste water rates
Councillors fight to protect elderly from waste water rate increase
After over six months of complaints from residents two Manurewa Councillors lost the battle to protect elderly residents from fixed waste water charges last night at an extraordinary Manukau City Council meeting.
‘Neither of us are your typical user pays advocates, but in this case these rates are so unfair on older residents and low water users in our city that we were forced to take a stand,’ said Councillor Colleen Brown.
Councillor Anne Candy said, ‘Our older citizens are facing an increase in waste water charges from an increased fixed rate of $418 to $448 over a period of four years. We just know that so many of these residents and small families are going to really struggle, especially those on a fixed budget.’
‘We have tried to convince residents on a fixed income to apply for a rates rebate but many of our people are reluctant to talk about their personal income details over the phone to strangers. On top of that many residents in retirement homes don’t qualify under the present central government rules, ‘said the two Councillors.
‘I have given out hundreds and hundreds of the rate rebate forms, ‘said Councillor Brown, ‘but I can go into a room full of older people and I’ll find only a handful have applied. It presents too many challenges for a number of older people. The stories people have told me make me want to weep. They don’t have the disposable income people think they have.’
Councillor Brown asked for a paper on a capped waste water rate, but that was not adopted by Council.
‘We thought that higher users could be targetted by Manukau Water and conservation measures be explained and adopted. We do very little in this city to conserve water, ‘ the Councillors said.
Both Councillors feel that the city council as guardians of such a precious commodity as water needed to show leadership on conservation matters.
‘We have to get clear conservation messages out there, especially in the use of showers and flushing toilets where 60% of the water use goes. Of course the greatest power cost is associated with the heating of water. If you can save on one area – the use of water in showers, you save on power at the same time, ‘said Colleen Brown
‘This whole debate was a struggle for the entire Council,’ said Councillor Anne Candy. ‘Overall there was a lot of respect from other Councillors as we debated the issues to try and find the most equitable solution. Having had many people talk to us we know the reality is that low water users are subsidising those who are high users and those who waste water. These people are already conserving water.’
‘ Now after the consultation round when 170 people asked for a mixed rate of fixed and volumetric, Councillors will have to face the accusation yet again of their appearing not to heed the wishes of the residents, ’ said Colleen Brown. ‘I read those submissions and people were clearly asking us to have a mixed rate so they could have some control over their expenditure in this part of their budget. People wanted to pay waste water charges according to what they had used, not a fixed amount.’