Feedback on this issue closed on Tuesday 31 July 2018.
In November 2017 Council considered four different ways to meter complex properties in Waipā. Elected members decided to split the bill equally between properties connected to a shared water meter but to review the decision in a year's time. They wanted more information before making a final decision.
Information now available shows that most complex property owners (86%) pay less for water services with a water meter than under the old one-size-fits-all system. But the data also shows a small number of complex residential properties (up to 140 across the district) are financially worse off from split bills, possibly through no fault of their own.
Council wants to help those who have been disadvantaged, so we are proposing putting in place a water remissions policy.
Complex' properties are different to most other properties in Waipā. Unlike most properties, they don't have a dedicated Council water supply point. Instead the water supply is shared' with neighbours and goes through a shared water meter. Complex properties are often (but not always) older, cross-lease properties. They make up about 7% of all properties connected to Waipā's town water supply.
What is being proposed?
We're proposing to put in place a residential water remissions policy for the 2018/2019 financial year. If it goes ahead, property owners who successfully apply for a remission would have their water meter bill set at $372 for the coming year. This is less than the $405.20 charged under the old system, before water meters were installed. Only residential property owners with a shared water meter would be able to apply.
Who would benefit?
If you're on a shared meter and look likely to pay more than $372 per year for water services, a water remissions policy may help you.
What is a "remission"?
A remission means the cancellation of a charge. In this instance it would mean reducing a water services bill to a set amount.
Other options considered
We looked at other options including:
- Reapplying a Targeted Rate - Water (a Universal Annual Charge) just for complex properties. This was discussed and discounted by elected councillors in November 2017 because it would mean complex properties would be the only ones in Waipā without a water meter.
- Multi-tier remissions were considered. But this would be difficult and very costly to administer and would make any potential policy change more complex.
- Different ranges of potential remissions were considered. We are proposing the remission be based on the daily average household water use, taking into account the average Waipā household size. The proposed remission means households who receive a remission would pay $372 for water services per year. (That's less than what was being charged before water meters were put in).
What about water leaks?
We've already got a policy in place to help offset the cost of water leaks. If you have had a water leak, but have taken action to fix it, you may already be able to claim some of your water bill back.
For more information, and to see if this applies to you, call Council on 0800 924 723.
Questions about this proposal
1. Who could apply for a remission?
Only residential property owners with a shared water meter would be able to apply. The only exception would be when all the residential properties on the same shared meter have the same owner.
However, most property owners with shared meters are paying less for water services now than before water meters were installed. They would not be eligible for a remission.
The proposed remission is targeted to those who are likely to be paying more than $372 per year for water services. We estimate up to 140 property owners in Waipā will be eligible for the remission.
2. If I applied for a remission, would my neighbour/s on the shared meter also get the remission?
Remissions would not be provided automatically, neighbours would need to apply.
3. If my neighbours used excessive amounts of water, could they still apply for a remission?
Yes, and their application would be assessed. However higher-than-average water users (using in excess of 320 cubic metres or more of water per year) would need to show evidence they were not using water excessively before a remission was granted.
If an excessive amount of water had been used because of a leak, the leak would need to be repaired. The property owner would be encouraged to apply for a different remission already in place that specifically relates to water leaks.
4. What would be the maximum remission available?
There would be no maximum remission. However if annual water use is unusually high (using in excess of 320 cubic metres or more of water per year), Council would need evidence there were no leaks on the property, or very high use of water, before considering a remission. That evidence could be from Council's free water-saving service or from a registered plumber.
Under the proposal, if property owners were eligible for a water remission, they would pay a set amount of $372 per year (365 days) for water services (for the 2018/2019 year).
5. How was the proposed remission amount worked out?
The proposed remission is based on average daily household water use across the district (488 litres of water per day) and also takes into account the average Waipā household size.
6. How often would I apply for a remission?
You would only need to apply once. If the remission was approved, it would be calculated for the remainder of the financial year. The sooner you apply the better. The remission would be effective from the start date on the approved request.
7. Would the remission apply to both parts of the bill or just the volumetric charge?
A remission would only apply to the volumetric charge (which varies depending on how much water is used).
8. Would tenants or landlords apply for the remission?
Water meter bills, by law, must be sent to property owners. Tenants could apply for a remission but any credit would be applied to the water meter bill sent to the property owner.
9. If a landlord got a remission, would it be passed back to tenants?
That's an issue between landlords and tenants. Council has no say over those private arrangements.
10. How would the remission be paid?
Once the remission was approved, it would appear as a credit' on the next water bill.
11. How would I apply for a remission?
People could apply online at Council's website or via a printed form available from Council offices.
12. How long would it take for a remission to be approved?
Usually within 10 working days. However if water use was unusually high, it might take longer while the reason for high water use was investigated.
13. if I got a remission, would I still be liable for the penalty on late payments?
Any late penalty relating to the remission portion would be reversed and appear as a credit on the next water bill. But the property owner would still be liable for the penalty relating to anything left over.
14. Why is this remission policy being considered now, before Council reviews its decision to split the bills?
Because Council recognises a small number of households may be financially worse off, possibly through no fault of their own, and wants to act sooner rather than later.
15. If a remission policy goes ahead, when would it start?
If the policy is approved, remissions could be in place for the 2018/2019 financial year.
16. Would the remission policy be reviewed, and if so, when?
Yes, it would be reviewed as part of the whole review around complex properties, split bills and water meters. This review will be done during the 2018/2019 financial year.
17. Why doesn't Council just pay to separate the meters?
This is one of four options Councillors considered in November 2017. This would cost all Waipā ratepayers around $5.7 million and would have meant Council was paying for private water pipes for some people, but not others.
18. Why doesn't Council install child meters (one at the gate and individual meters on flats/units)?
This option was also considered by Councillors in November 2017. It was also costly ($3.2 million) and would have required approval from all property owners of joint (cross-lease) properties. It would also have required all property owners to agree to fix leaks in shared, private pipes. In some instances, extensive changes to private plumbing would have been required.
19. Given that some people are disadvantaged by split bills, why can't they go back to how it was before?
Because the vast majority of people (86%) in complex properties are financially better off with water meters.
20. Why are complex properties being treated differently?
Because they are fundamentally different. Complex properties share a single council water supply. The vast majority of Waipā properties have their own, dedicated water supply. Properties with shared water supplies can no longer be built in Waipā but there are around 1,100 properties (mainly older cross-lease properties) where this is still the case.
Water Remissions Policy for Complex Residential Properties
The objective of this policy is to provide a mechanism for adjusting the impact of metered water rates on complex water metered properties for the 2018/19 financial year where water usage meets the criteria and conditions set out below.
Complex water meters measure water usage for more than one property. As actual volumetric usage cannot be invoiced to individual properties in this situation, the consumption of water will be split evenly amongst the properties for billing purposes.
This remission policy is available to any residential property which has a complex water meter. This policy provides a method to adjust for perceived unfairness arising from equal apportionments for billing purposes.
Conditions and criteria
Definition: Threshold Daily Usage means the use of 0.488 cubic metres per day.
- Any resident or ratepayer of a residential rating unit connected to a complex water meter may apply for a remission, except where the ratepayer owns all the rating units connected to a complex meter.
- When a resident or ratepayer applies for a remission, the average daily usage for their rating unit (as recorded on their water invoice) is compared to the Threshold Daily Usage.
- If the daily usage invoiced is greater than 0.877 cubic metres, the resident or ratepayer must provide evidence that there are no leaks or extraodinary use, such as where there is a swimming pool, fixed garden irrigation or any type of commercial undertaking within the rating unit prior to the remission being processed.
- A ratepayer will be eligible for a remission where the invoiced daily usage for the rating unit is higher than the Threshold Daily Usage and the ratepayer is eligible to have their remission processed under 3 above.
- A remission will be granted for the difference between invoiced daily usage and the Threshold Daily Usage.
If a remission is given to one of the rating units on the complex meter, Council is unable to increase the amount invoiced to the other ratepayers on the same meter to recover the reduced revenue received.
Applicants may apply for this remission from 1 July 2018 and the remission will be effective from that date or the first day of the billing quarter in which application is made, whichever is the later. The remission will be calculated as part of the normal water billing cycle.
All remissions will be processed via the metered water account.
Help to separate your meter
Since November 2017 Council has encouraged complex property owners to install their own, separate water connection. Council will install and pay for a new meter at the road boundary and property owners pay for any changes to private plumbing needed. A number of property owners have already done this.
We want to encourage those people with shared meters to take steps to separate them. So we're considering a scheme where Council would lend funds to property owners to help them pay for any changes required to private plumbing so they could separate their meter.
Council would lend up to a maximum value of $5,000. The loan would incur interest (at lower-than-normal lending rates) and would be paid back via a fixed, targeted rate.
Any proposal on a possible loan scheme would be subject to formal consultation. But we'd like some early feedback from you on whether or not you think this is a good idea.
Would Council reimburse property owners for all costs incurred in separating meters?
Council would only loan money for the actual costs to separate out the pipes for a separate water meter. At this stage, the maximum amount being considered is $5,000.
Could freehold property owners loan money from Council for private plumbing?
No, this proposal aims to encourage complex property owners to separate their meters. The vast majority of freehold properties already have separate meters.
If a property was sold still owing money, would Council recover the money?
Yes. Just like any outstanding rates, there will be a record of the money owed to Council and this will be paid as part of the property settlement.
Despite the possible remission, would I be better off lending the money from Council and paying to separate my meter?
That would depend on your own, personal circumstances.
I have already separated my meter and took out a personal loan to cover the costs. Under this proposal, would Council now lend me the money instead?
Yes, Council would consider financing the work retrospectively as long as there were receipts of the work undertaken.
When will Council decide whether or not to go ahead with this proposal?
Council is likely to consult on this proposal as part of next year's Annual Plan. If Council agreed the scheme could potentially start in the 2019/2020 year.
Read the brochure
This webpage is a digital version of the printed brochure Council has produced.
Download: Water Remissions consultation brochure [PDF, 9MB, 8 pages]