Pay up or it'll take longer to flush loo

By Bernard Orsman

Auckland Council votes to restrict water supplies to people who don't settle bills. Photo / Thinkstock
Auckland Council votes to restrict water supplies to people who don't settle bills. Photo / Thinkstock

Aucklanders who do not pay their water bills will have to wait up to 10 minutes to flush the toilet.

The Auckland Council voted 13-6 yesterday in support of restricting water supplies to a trickle for those people who ignore a series of reminders about unpaid bills.

The restrictions will reduce the water flow from 1 litre a second to 1 litre a minute. In practical terms, that means six to 10 minutes to fill a toilet cistern.

It was the umpteenth time since the former Metrowater water retailer was established in 1997 that Auckland local body politicians have debated restricting water to bad debtors.

Veteran Water Pressure Group spokeswoman Penny Bright addressed yesterday's meeting and showed councillors how to "unrestrict" water supplies from a variety of water meters on hand.

Former Auckland City Mayor Christine Fletcher was exasperated at the latest attempt to stop water restrictions - this time from left-wing councillor Cathy Casey, with support from deputy mayor and Waitakere councillor Penny Hulse, chairing the meeting in the absence of Mayor Len Brown.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart, but you are stuck with me," Ms Hulse told Mrs Fletcher.

Dr Casey believed the Auckland Council had finally agreed to end water restrictions after councillors instructed Watercare Services in April to work with people rather than take punitive action. She said she was shocked to learn this month that Watercare had "hijacked" the process and decided on restrictions for bad debtors.

She cited the death of Folole Muliaga, who died after Mercury Energy cut off the electricity to her home in 2007, as an example of the potential danger of restricting one of life's essential services.

Councillor Sandra Coney highlighted the health risks, saying those people who could not pay their water bills were likely to be of low income and living in crowded housing where they faced a real risk of communicable diseases, such as gastro-enteritis and meningitis.

A majority of councillors, however, supported the process by Watercare to restrict water to people who would not pay their bills only after a series of reminders, and plans to set up an independent hardship trust for residents who could not pay.

The water company exempts people experiencing financial hardship, households with young children, superannuitants and people with health risks from restrictions.

Watercare spokesman Raveen Jaduram told councillors the hardship trust was for people who could not pay.

Water restrictions were there for people who would not pay.

WHAT IT MEANS

If you pay: 1 litre of water per second.

If you don't: 1 litre of water per minute.

- NZ Herald

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