Council debates home water tanksOct 12th, 2009 | By Philippa Stevenson | Category: Latest News
Waikato District Council’s policy committee is still poring over a contentious bylaw which will require all new premises joining the water supply to have a tank to collect rainwater. (click for earlier story)
But the committee has gone wishy-washy on another controversial requirement of its draft water supply bylaw, and now seems poised to water down a clause which would have required new premises to also provide a separate plumbing system for non-potable use such as toilet flushing, reports the Waikato Times.
At a sometimes fractious meeting this week, the committee resolved to defer final approval of re-worded bylaw clauses until a further meeting on November 9 – and, in a brief bout of navel-gazing, also agonised over the merits of its bylaw-making processes.
But overwhelming committee sentiment suggested Waikato district premises could soon be in the curious position of being required to store stormwater – but be under no similar compulsion to use that water in the interests of the efficiency gains the new policy is seeking to achieve.
Most members indicated their support for water meters to be compulsory on all new connections to the council’s water supply – and for compulsory installation of water tanks.
But they drew the line at a proposal for a compulsory dual plumbing system to further promote water demand management.
The incongruity annoyed Deputy Mayor Clint Baddeley, who said that unless there was compulsion, residents would not pick up that option.
“You have no problem with compulsion to put a water tank in, but a problem with compulsion to be able to use the water,” he said.
Mr Baddeley said the whole point of the bylaw was to promote water efficiency.
“The fact is water falls on our roofs and can be used in a most effective way.”
Councillor Rodney Dixon was among those opposed to a dual plumbing system, citing the extra cost involved as well as the lack of a clear distinction between rural and urban water supply arrangements.
Councillor Noel Smith said if the purpose of the bylaw was to address stormwater issues, that should be clearly stated in the bylaw’s purpose.
Councillor Graeme Tait agreed, saying the council had “put the cart before the horse”.
“Let’s fix the stormwater first.”
Councillor Rod Wise said the discussion indicated the council’s law-making processes badly needed reviewing.
“We have come here to make a decision and are still discussing basics,” he said.
“We wouldn’t be having these discussions if we had done things properly in the first place.
“It is unfortunate. Even the purpose of the bylaw is not particularly clear. I wonder how you will get a sensible decision.”
Mayor Peter Harris called a point of order, saying the sole purpose of the meeting was to consider public submissions.
“We cannot discuss anything else.”
Committee chairman Dynes Fukton agreed, and ruled members could not discuss stormwater issues – even though the debate inevitably returned to that subject.
Community assets manager Richard Bax said stormwater control was not the primary purpose of the bylaw.
Mr Bax noted that towns such as Meremere and Taupiri were already metered, but he knew of nobody who had installed a tank for non-potable use. “The economies are not there at this stage.”
Mr Wise said this was simply further evidence that far too many issues were not covered by the bylaw.
He also asked if it was equitable to meter new connections, but not existing ones.
“Is it practical? Is it fair?”
Mr Bax said there was clear agreement that demand management was a good idea. “The debate is around the detail and the focus on compulsion.”
Councillor Wally Hayes said encouraging water storage was a move towards a full user-pays system, which would help address the waste of one fifth of the council’s treated water.
Mr Tait challenged that figure, but Mr Fulton ruled it had nothing to do with the bylaw.
Mr Harris said the new bylaw would make people store water.
“What they do with it is their prerogative. But as we get our charges right, the answer will be obvious.”
Mr Bax responded to criticisms of the bylaw drafting processes, saying his staff had faithfully followed standard council consultation methods.
Mr Wise said it highlighted the fact that those methods needed to be modified, and Councillor Rod McGuire agreed.