AWSM Note: A public meeting was held in Newtown, Wellington on January 24th. The following are personal notes outlining the content of the meeting, as written by a supporter of Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) who attended.
Newtown, Wellington water meter meeting. 24 Jan.
Four city councilors including Sarah Free attended and addressed the group and answered questions. Paul Eagle, Minister. An engineering lecturer gave a presentation.
The meeting seemed to be organised by Warwick and an experienced social activist Maori wahine facilitated.
Warwick provided a historical timeline of privatisation and corporatisation of Wellington’s public council assets: housing, electricity, water, rubbish, abattoir, milk.
A Weltech engineer lecturer gave a presentation on the facts and figures he had been able to glean from public documents. He was frustrated about the figures not adding up and the lack of transparency.
Auckland has 10 months’ worth of water supplies when the lakes there are full. Wellington’s lake supply is just 21 days supply. Wellington makes use of aquifer water in addition to water from lakes.
Kapiti district council had a 20 percent reduction in water consumption as a result of water meters being installed however actual consumption did not change. The drop was due to fixing leaks identified as a result of installing water meters.
There is a 10 percent increase in water use in Wellington in summer compared with winter.
An acquaintance of Sarah Free mentioned a proposal to install 120 water meters around the city to find out where leaks are which would not of course be meters for each house.
One councilor was particularly passionate about the issue and gave a detailed description of the issue.
The central government planned to amalgamate 50 council water entities into just 6 to increase efficiency
A few people who supported the installation of water meters gave their thoughts. One was a female councilor, another was a citizen. They felt that people would use less water, based on their own personal beliefs if water meters were to be installed. One man who was for water meters was an Owhiro Bay resident who stated that he had worked on the council board which had investigated the water issues at length. He thought that the city should follow what a long list of large cities around the world have done and install water meters as a tool to detect leaks. He urged that every household would be given a generous free allocation before charges would begin for higher users.
An ex-fraud squad detective and retired Auditor was interested to know that Audit NZ had audited Wellington Water. He commented that water meter charges, regardless of how generous the free allocations are, would charge people to their usage rather than according to their income.
Some individuals urged that water should be in the hands of the community. Smashing water meters came up a couple of times and how Auckland had a lot of success in doing that.
A young man was very passionate and was concerned that renters and young people would be burdened by increased costs.
One landlord who owned three flats was concerned for her tenants paying water costs as they refused to use heaters she had installed due to the electricity costs involved.
Paul Eagle, the Minister, stated that the background of the central government changes to the water entities was the waterborne illness in Havelock North which killed a person.
The campaign plans to approach other organisations for support that are better funded including unions, churches, and various community groups.
A clipboard was circulated for attendees to write their contact details and stipulate whether they wished to be informed or participate in the campaign.
Half a dozen people put their hands up to attend fortnightly Wednesday lunchtime meetings at First Union offices on Willis St.