Speech of Steve Dickenson to Council on 13 August 2001.        Back

We would like to thank the Mayor and councillors for giving PWPG the chance to express its concerns and opinions. We are going to talk about United Water.

What has happened since the sale from the council to United Water and what can be done to help the people of Papakura?

We realise that not all councillors nor the Mayor were responsible for the sale to United Water. Those members of the council that have supported PWPG, we thank them and we do appreciate their efforts.

My name is Steve Dickenson, I have lived in Papakura since 1969.

As a free and independent person I am supporting Papakura Water Pressure Group because Papakura District Council, through lack of character in leadership at the time, sold out Papakura's control of such an important necessity of life and shifted us, the ratepayers, from a position of having control, to being controlled.

I also believe we have the important responsibility of speaking for the silent majority, for all those who are unable to attend this meeting.

Who are they, you ask?

They are the people of Papakura who are too busy working, too shy, or not confident enough to speak, or because they, like me, do not know a lot on how the privatisation of our water was pushed through so quickly. I believe this was because little information was at hand at the time and that information was selective, coming only from Papakura District Council. Also we were seduced by that council with promises of lower rates for homeowners and the user pays system.

Was there an independent inquiry before the sale? If so, was it made public?

I don’t believe there was. If there was, it must have been kept quiet.

How do I know that the people of Papakura think the same as we do?

Anyone I talk to or hear talking about the water in Papakura, is never happy about the cost or the service from United Water International. Look at the rebellion and resentment against the $500 plus GST per year service charge that was being levied on businesses. Where does that help or encourage new small businesses to Papakura? United Water has now reduced the service charge to $240 plus GST because of pressure. But they are now charging 100% for their wastewater. Is this service charge even legal? I think not. What service do businesses get that the homeowner doesn’t get? A lot of small businesses use less water than the average home. If there is no service, then is it a rate charge? This could be illegal as United Water is not a statutory body. Since the time United Water has taken control, nobody I have met, and I meet a lot of people in my business around Papakura, has ever said:

"United Water, best thing since sliced bread" or "It's great, I never go back".

We believe at the last election there was a swing away from the Council members that were responsible for selling off our water. And it will be bigger this election. In the local Courier, letters to the editor are all expressing their dissatisfaction with United Water or with the council for selling. The other day I saw the first letter supporting United water, possibly written by a staff member.

Why should the service or the cost from United Water be good and cheap?

Common sense must tell you that United Water International is here to make money; the high cost of water from United Water is not to conserve our resources. No, the real reason is: the more water they sell, the higher the profit. And they don’t mind increasing the rate above the inflation levels to increase that profit. That profit doesn’t go back to parks or benefits for the people of Papakura. It goes overseas to the International Company.

Who said privatisation gives a better service?

Tell that to the families of those who have died since Tranz Rail took over, or tell those who were without power in Auckland.

Is United Water a helpful company, giving good service?

I don’t believe so. Let me tell you about one problem I have had.

I drained out my swimming pool to paint it after 15 years. I rang United Water to see if there was any way I could avoid paying the discharge sewer fee, since I had pumped the water out over my paddocks. Not likely! Help people? Joke. They wouldn’t call in to measure my pool or credit the discharge, not a thing I could say would help.

Does United Water help the people of Papakura? Public relations.

I have heard that United Water has put a water meter at McLean’s Park and is now charging the soccer sport club for water. I believe they are doing the same at other clubs. When Papakura Council looked after our water, it was free to the clubs. Is this profit before people?

What about United Water's cost?

In 1996 when Papakura District Council looked after our water, it cost me $114.20 for 141 kilolitres. Today with the sewer fee that is now included, the same service would cost $389.85. That’s nearly 3 times as much. My land rates are costly because of the size of my property, but it works out with both waste and land combined to a 25% increase. The water content of today's rates from United Water for the 141 kilolitres is $142.41. That is a 25% increase in just the water alone.

How does that help lower income families?

It doesn’t. The increase in the cost of water would be greater for those paying lower land rates. To some in their later years, those that had flowers in their garden, this was their happiness and pleasure. The garden helped keep them active and healthy, now water has become a luxury they can’t afford. Thank you Papakura Council and United Water for keeping your promise, NOT.

Is it true that a lot of the water pipes in Papakura were made by James Hardie and are made with blue asbestos?

We all know that some cancers are related to asbestos. That’s why they stopped making products out of asbestos.

Did Papakura sell to United water knowing this? Is there a pipe cover up that’s more than dirt alone? Will United Water ensure that the water is safe to drink?

I have heard of an asbestos pipe that was cut in Papakura during work to the pipeline and the asbestos dust was not cleaned out of the pipe, it was washed into our system.

United Water doesn’t own the pipes. Why look after them?

That’s more cost, less profit. It is my understanding that United Water inspects the pipes. If this is true, it is ridiculous. Common sense must tell you that Papakura District Council should do the inspection to see that United Water is looking after the people’s pipes to a high standard. You wouldn’t rent out your home and then let the tenants do the inspection, not unless you’re crazy.

That’s another problem with the changes, Rental property.

The law states that tenants must pay for water that is metered. This doesn’t include wastewater. This is causing conflict. Claims are being made against the landlord during or at the end of a tenancy agreement. The landlord has no control over the cost of wastewater, and after a long tenancy agreement he could be left with an unexpected expense, running into thousands of dollars. This situation doesn’t help Papakura. It is causing economic damage. Look at the empty homes and buildings in Papakura. We now have low-income families moving to Manurewa, only for one reason: United Water. Since United Water came to town, Papakura's population has only increased by 1.7%. That’s 672 persons, which is the lowest increase in the Auckland region.

We are all only here on this world for a short time. Most people just want to be treated and treat others fair and reasonable. There are some that like to try to suck as much money from others for as little as possible in that time.

I have not seen or heard anything about United Water as being fair and reasonable. With Council, you can vote the councillors out if they don’t look after the towns assets correctly. If our parks and roads are not being maintained, we change the contractor. With United Water you can’t go to another store if you don’t like the service or cost. We are now all at their mercy. Papakura Water Pressure Group now registers its protest of United Water and the previous Council for selling, in the form of this verbal submission.

We ask this council to consider what we have said carefully and what I’m about to say.

The people of Papakura now feel deserted by Council. Our parks are named after someone getting rich at our expense. Contractors are now fixing our roads and parks. Council doesn’t help us build our homes anymore and one of life’s most important means of survival is sold for a bit of concrete and clay and you think that is OK. If the money from United Water was spent on the infrastructure, why have we got an operating loss of over 2 million? Where do we ever see Council or councillors? Only their names in the local paper, always struggling amongst themselves, or on the rate demand notice. Now with a 14.7% rate increase, Papakura Council looks more like a branch of the IRD. Some people should be ashamed of what’s has happened to Papakura. Ask yourselves, has this all been a good public relations exercise from what now seems the invisible council?

We have all seen over time how the tide turned against the Springboks tour, the Vietnam War and many other issues that at first, we believed, was the right decision, based on the information and our experiences at that time.

If only we had a crystal ball or Council had done a survey.

Did no one on the Council have the vision to consider only leasing the management rights to our water for 5 years? Why sell?

So many residents must have been disappointed on the 12th July, hearing the Mayor of Papakura telling his supporters on Counties Radio that United Water is a fait accompli and that the people of Papakura should learn to get used to it and move on. Also the termination of the monitoring committee, which included the powerful water franchised watchdog, is yet another example that has disillusioned the Papakura residents. How many other supporters of councillors will be making their decision on how to vote based on the article in the Papakura Courier 1st August. It’s still not too late for all of council to move with the tide and support the ratepayers in their fight against United Water. Let's put aside our differences and unite, Council and residents together as one.

Papakura Water Pressure Group is a community organisation that supports, helps, and advises any resident or business of Papakura on water issues. How those issues affect them and our district. We are a gathering point for information. We liaise with those people, the Papakura District Council and United Water for the purpose of improving services and supplies.

Therefore we ask this Council to support us with a grant of $500 towards our administration costs.

Also we ask Council's support in opposing United Water in removing meters, pipes, or digging up our roads or footpaths of residents that are in dispute over United Water's accounts.

And for the reinstatement of the monitoring committee forthwith tonight and for that committee to meet each two weeks to consider the business originally identified.

In addition, we request that an electronic copy of the Water Franchise Agreement be made available from Papakura District Council at no cost to Papakura Water Pressure Group and that the Mayor instructs the Chief Executive Officer to organise the administrative procedure as soon as possible to assist us in providing assistance and information to those concerned.

Thank you for your time.                 Back