​People in small communities more likely to struggle to pay water costs

7 Mar 2019

People in small communities more likely to struggle to pay water costs

7 March 2019

People who live in smaller communities are paying significantly more for water and wastewater services compared to residents in larger urban areas.

These are the findings of the latest performance comparison report published by Water New Zealand.

The National Performance Review (NPR) found that residents in small and medium communities paid on average $1026 for water and wastewater services while those in larger urban areas paid on average $665 per year.

The report, an annual survey into the state of our drinking, storm and wastewater assets, this year covered services for just over 94 percent of the population – 4.5 million people.

NPR author, Water New Zealand Principal Data Scientist, Lesley Smith says that as well as higher water service charges, households in smaller communities tend to have lower incomes than those in larger urban areas.

“This raises issues of equity and affordability for access to essential resources such as water.”

She says that while New Zealand has no official definition of water affordability, some international indicators suggest that paying for water becomes a challenge if households are forced to pay more than two percent of income for water services.

“In New Zealand, more than one third of small and medium sized communities had combined water and wastewater charges in excess of two percent of average household incomes.

“This suggests that there are relatively more people in those smaller communities who are struggling to pay their water and wastewater bills, whether charged through rates or volumetric charges.”

While these are average figures, she says the results indicate that affordability is less likely to be an issue for people living in larger communities where water and wastewater charges are on average a third lower ($361 less on average) and incomes tend to be higher.