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Are Metrowater's Charges Fair? - Auckland Mayor.

Statement - by Auckland Mayor, Christine Fletcher

How should Aucklanders pay for wastewater? What is the fairest way?

This is the debate that Aucklanders must have, based on the facts, before the Council finally determines the issue on July 29.

This matter should have been resolved before Metrowater was established in 1997. Because it wasn't we now must find an enduring solution - one that allows Aucklanders to move forward with certainty that the decision is soundly based and is in the best interests of their city and all its residents.

It must also put an end to the misery and unfairness of the current wastewater charging regime. At recent Council meetings, Councillor Gray Bartlett and I used our votes strategically to ensure critical information is received before decisions are made on the future of wastewater charging.

As a result, a planned review of Metrowater's tariff structure has been fast tracked into this month whilst maintaining the opportunity for Council to bring wastewater charges back into rates and removing the profit motive for Metrowater through its Statement of Corporate Intent.

On July 29 Councillors will have an opportunity to consider the full cost, rates, conservation and social equity implications of both the options.

Aucklanders now pay Metrowater for wastewater through a very high fixed systems charge, plus a user-pays charge based on the amount of fresh water they use. If the Council decides to leave wastewater charging with Metrowater, under the new tariff structure being developed:

The fixed systems charge that each customer pays for connection to water and wastewater could reduce from $63 for water and $184.85 for wastewater, to between $30 and $50 a year (awaiting final tariff review).

If the wastewater charges are returned to rates:

Residential rates will increase by about 28 per cent. This will be on top of any increase required for other Council functions - about 10 per cent this year.

A key consideration in the Council's decision will be the impacts of the two options on the elderly and large families with low or fixed incomes.

Under the reintegration option, ratepayers with lower value properties and higher water consumption - generally larger, low income families - would pay less. Ratepayers with higher value properties and lower water consumption - including elderly people on low fixed incomes, whose family homes have increased in value over time - would pay more.

Under the proposed tariff review for wastewater, everyone would pay a lower systems charge, but would pay slightly more for the water they use.

The new proposed structure would encourage Aucklanders to conserve water resources and also to save money, while removing the previous burden of the high fixed charge on people who use little water.

But irrespective of how wastewater is charged, there are costs that Aucklanders must meet to ensure a clean environment.

These include the $200 million bill for deferred maintenance, the $300 million-plus bill for sewer separation, the ongoing planned maintenance of the city's 3500 km pipe network, the city's share of the $450 million upgrade of the Mangere Treatment Plant and - most important - the need to provide a reliable and secure water and wastewater supply to 115,000 households which total 350,000 people.

The decision later this month must remove uncertainty from wastewater charges once and for all. It is time for clear facts, clear thinking, and fair and enduring decisions."

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