People who live in smaller communities are paying significantly more for water and wastewater services compared to residents in larger urban areas, according to the latest performance comparison report published by Water New Zealand.
The 2017/18 National Performance Review found that residents in small and medium communities paid on average $1026 for water and wastewater services while those in larger urban areas paid on average $665 per year.
The report, an annual survey into the state of our drinking, storm and wastewater assets, this year covered services for just over 94 per cent of the population – 4.5 million people.
Review author, Water New Zealand Principal Data Scientist, Lesley Smith said that as well as higher water service charges, households in smaller communities tended to have lower incomes than those in larger urban areas.
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"This raises issues of equity and affordability for access to essential resources such as water."
She said that while New Zealand had no official definition of water affordability, some international indicators suggested that paying for water becomes a challenge if households are forced to pay more than 2 per cent of income for water services.
"In New Zealand, more than one third of small and medium-sized communities had combined water and wastewater charges in excess of two per cent of average household incomes.
"This suggests that there are relatively more people in those smaller communities who are struggling to pay their water and wastewater bills, whether charged through rates or volumetric charges."
While these are average figures, Smith said the results indicated that affordability was less likely to be an issue for people living in larger communities where water and wastewater charges were on average a third lower ($361 less on average) and incomes tended to be higher.