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C&R Refuse to Hold Metrowater to Account

Media Release
City Vision-Labour Councillors - Auckland City Council
For Immediate Release
Wednesday 15 October 2008

C&R Refuse to Hold Metrowater to Account

At today's Finance and Strategy Committee meeting Citizens and Ratepayers (C&R) councillors rejected two key proposals aimed at holding Metrowater to account.

The first proposal was to ensure Metrowater's charging is affordable by requiring Metrowater to measure and report on whether its water prices are affordable for low income families.

Councillor Richard Northey said, "I moved an amendment to request that Metrowater measure and report on whether water bills were affordable for households whose income is a half or a fifth of the average household income. The American standard is that water bills should be no more than two percent of household income and I fear that water bills for the lowest income families are probably higher than this international standard."

Councillor Northey said, "I am really disappointed that the C&R majority at the Auckland City Council committee responsible for the oversight of Metrowater chose to turn a blind eye to whether Metrowater's prices are too high to be readily afforded by Auckland's low income households."

The second proposal was to make Metrowater's debt collection processes fairer by outlawing their practice of restricting debtors' water.

Councillor Casey said, "Metrowater's practice of restricting water places people at risk. Currently, under Metrowater's debt collections process, water can be restricted after 56 days if the debt is unpaid. Metrowater says it will not restrict water if there is an 'elevated health risk at site (e.g. pregnant mothers, young children, individual on dialysis)' but we only have to think of the tragic death of Mangere woman Folole Muliaga to realise that mistakes can happen. How on earth can a water company like Metrowater make medical risk assessments?"

"If people are in debt to Metrowater, let due process be followed, but that process should not include water restriction as a means of debt enforcement. Having access to water is a basic human right."

"Metrowater is wholly owned by Auckland City Council. It is right and proper that Council should take the lead and ensure that water restriction is not used to punish tardy customers. I was disappointed that the C&R majority voted to continue this morally repugnant practice," Councillor Casey concluded.

ENDS


Additional Information:

Both proposals were lost by two votes to five:

FOR: Councillors Casey and Northey

AGAINST: Councillors Armstrong, Bhatnagar, Donnelly, Hay and Goldsmith

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