15 June 2012

Naseby Vision Water Submission to CODC


Naseby Vision strongly urges the Council to reconsider its plan to introduce a volumetric water charging regime in Naseby on 01 July this year and to postpone its introduction until such time as it has fully reviewed all other options.  The proposed change has caused widespread concern amongst Naseby householders and businesses, most of whom are amongst Naseby Vision's nearly 300 members.

Our organisation strongly opposes the current proposal.  We believe that it discriminates against the smaller towns in the District, such as Naseby, and it is likely to have a severe financial impact on both local businesses and permanent residents, particularly those on fixed incomes.  Naseby's general rates, in comparison with other towns in the district, are already high and the proposed changes in water charges are likely to add a further impost on the businesses in the town, particularly those in the hospitality sector.

We are aware of one business that is giving serious consideration to closing if the new charging regime is introduced.  The result will be a reduction in services to both the community and to the many visitors that our organisation and other groups endeavour to attract to Naseby, as well as a further reduction in employment opportunities in the area.  While the town has benefitted from the establishment of the Central Otago Rail Trail through increased visitor numbers, visitor numbers and the base of permanent residents needs to grow further to ensure that Naseby businesses and the town itself continue to be sustainable.

Members of our committee recently canvassed information from local businesses, volunteer organisations and ratepayers on the potential impact of the proposed charges.  According to our research:

1.   All Naseby ratepayers will be faced with an average 20% increase in charges;

2.   Permanent residents will face a 33.5% increase;

3.   Businesses in the hospitality and accommodation sector will face charges of up to 55%;

4.   The Naseby Bowling Club, operational for 6 months of the year, will face a 30% increase.

At the time of preparing this submission we were unable to obtain water consumption figures for either the International Curling Centre or the Naseby Ice Rink and Luge,but it's our belief that both of these organisations, which are key to Naseby's attractiveness as a place to live and holiday, will be severely impacted.  We believe that the Council should investigate the impact of the proposed 01 July changes on both of these organisations as a matter of urgency.

Over recent years there has been considerable concern about the quality of Naseby's water supply, especially following heavy rain in the area, which is the cause of the significant water discolouration.  While we are appreciative of the Council's recent announcement that it intends to install a clarifier at the Naseby Water treatment station to improve water quality, we have been surprised to learn that a range of other options which have been suggested by Naseby Vision do not appear to have been investigated.  We have met with CODC managers on a number of occasions and have suggested the building of additional holding ponds and alternative water sources, such as drawing the Naseby supply from the Naseby Kyeburn farm scheme which has good quality, clear water all year round.  We would ask that these options continue to be investigated.

Our calculations have indicated that the revenue that would be collected from the implementation of volumetric charges would be far in excess of the annual cost of the proposed loan repayments needed to meet the purchase and installation cost of the clarifier. In effect, this would mean that under the proposed new charging regime that if permanent residents and businesses pay more and holiday home owners do not use their full allocation, then collectively, the community would be paying considerably more for the same amount of water.

Both the current and the proposed method of charging for water across the district creates a high degree of inequality between the larger centres of Cromwell, Clyde and Alexandra and the smaller centres such as Naseby, Ranfurly and Omakau.  Ratepayers in the smaller centres are already penalised by the current system and will be further disenfranchised by the proposed changes.  Local businesses which rely on the use of water already operate at a considerable disadvantage when compared with comparable traders in the larger centres in the district.  Local businesses rely heavily on seasonal custom and already operate on small margins.  While we are not suggesting that they be accorded special treatment, at the very least they deserve to be able to operate on a level playing field and not be subjected to unexpected, exorbitant and unfair cost increases, such as those proposed through the volumetric charging regime.

Because the current system and the proposed new regimes are both inherently unfair to small town water users, we would strongly urge the Council to revisit the way in which it charges for water across the district.  In our view, the only way forward is through an even-handed approach to charging which would see all ratepayers charged on a comparable basis.  Uniform charges are applied in other areas of the rating system, why can't a similar system be applied to water charging?

We would strongly urge the Council to urgently debate the merits of introducing either a uniform water rate or adopting a harmonising approach, in which no town in the district pays more than a percentage of the average rate across the district.

At a time when rural centres and their supporting services are again under pressure, and for numerous reasons it's becoming more difficult to attract new residents to small centres, we feel that the Council should be taking bold steps to ensure that small towns like Naseby continue to be sustainable communities and that no centre in the District is disadvantaged by unfair charging policies.  The first of these steps is to ensure equality through a fair water charging system that is uniform throughout the district.

In the meantime, we ask that the Council postpones the proposed 01 July introduction of the new water charging regime and retains the status quo.