Watercare acts against dog attacks on meter readers

By Lincoln Tan

Watercare customers with dogs are being asked to restrain their animals or pay to relocate their water meters for the health and safety of meter readers.

The Auckland water and wastewater service provider said it started seeking extra precautions after a series of dog attacks and close calls on water meter readers.

"In 2015/16, there were nine close calls and six dog bites on private properties," said Watercare spokeswoman Rachel Hughes.

She said Watercare then began asking customers to restrain their dogs during meter readers' visits, and some were asked to move their water meters outside.

"As a result, in 2016/17, there was only one close call and zero bites," Hughes said.

But some dog owners are refusing to move the meters or restrain their pets, calling the requests "absurd" and "ridiculous".

Hughes said most water meters are located on public property, such as footpaths, and can be easily accessed by meter readers.

"A few are located on private property, some of which have locked gates or dogs," she said.

"To ensure the safety of our water meter readers, we have rule that they cannot go into a property if a dog is roaming free or if they feel unsafe."

She said customers can also choose to receive phone calls or texts the day before to arrange safe access.

"If they have a dog, this will involve securing their dog so that it is not roaming free when the meter reader takes the reading," she said.

"They can choose to provide a photo of their water meter reading so that our water meter reader does not need to take a manual reading."

Customers who choose to relocate their meter to the street will be asked to contribute to the cost of the relocation.

"Customers are encouraged to relocate their water meters to public property as it offers a permanent solution," Hughes added.

Watercare has 450,00 meters and the number of customers affected were small, which according to Hughes was less than five per month.

Northcote resident Timothy Gan said he would not be paying $387.55 to relocate his meter as "a matter of principle".

Gan owns a 2-year-old rescue dog, Pip, which he believes to be a Labrador-Greyhound cross.

"He's gentle, very loving, likes to play and is a playmate with my 3-year-old son," Gan said.

"I pay my rates and council bills promptly, so as a matter of principle I won't pay to move my meter."

For two months, water meter readers have not done any readings at his Greenslade Cres property.

"The power meter readers have got no problems coming into my property, so I don't see why it has to be so different for Watercare," he said.

"The rule is absurd, ridiculous and unfair to dog owners."

Gan is also refusing to tie his dog up because another of his pets had choked to death before, and he finds the act "cruel".

"In Auckland, there is nowhere else to go for water so I know Watercare has the upper hand," he added.

"I don't know what they're going to do now, cut my water supply?"

- NZ Herald

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