The Ōtaki water supply story

Questions are often raised by Ōtaki residents about their water supply.

One is the suggestion ‘we shouldn’t pay for water because it’s free’. In fact, what you pay for is the ‘cost of a treated water supply’ (rather than the ‘cost of water’). The cost comes in capturing, treating and piping water to households.

Ratepayers currently pay a fixed charge of $357 a year for this service as part of their overall rates bill. If this system had continued, this charge would have gone up to $377 in the next financial year.

From now that cost will be more transparent — a lower fixed charge of $188.50 will be made, and then people will pay 95 cents for every cubic metre (1000 litres) used. This is a fairer system because people who use less water, pay less. It also encourages people to fix leaks and reduce their water use.

Another misconception is that the Ōtaki River is used for water supply. It isn’t. Ōtaki’s water supply comes from two bore sites. One in Tasman Road (which has two bores) and one in Rangiuru Road (one bore). These give a more reliable supply than the river would, as river levels rise and fall depending on the weather. Bore water still has to be treated and piped to households, just as river water is. However river water often becomes muddy after bad weather, so would need further treatment to be of good quality. Another benefit of using bores is that they provide free ‘storage’ of water in the ground. If river water was used, ratepayers would have to pay for a dam or reservoir to be built in Ōtaki.

Another question sometimes raised is why, when people are on private bores etc and don’t rely on town supply, they will still pay the $188.50 fixed charge. The answer is that Council still supplies water to the front of your property regardless of whether you use it or not. It still has to maintain, repair and upgrade that network. A property is worth more when services are ‘at the gate’ rather than one that has ‘no services’ and the water supply is always there, ready to go if you or a new owner wish to connect. All water supply systems have to be maintained for the whole community, and for businesses, sports clubs and community facilities etc.