Man’s good deed ‘punished’ by huge water bill
NEIGHBOURHOOD pride is something Ken Lidster lives and breathes.
As a young boy, he took great pride in his home suburb, Kawana, and to this day still sees to it that areas surrounding his property are cared for.
But as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished, evident after the wheelchair-bound man copped a sizeable increase in his quarterly water bill.
He estimated his usual bill to sit around $150, however said the most recent one had jumped to just more than $460.
The 63-year-old man frequently used a watering system to water both his own front garden and the council-owned traffic island out the front of his Kawana Close property.
After approaching Fitzroy River Water and Rockhampton Regional Council in a bid to rectify the matter, Mr Lidster remained unsatisfied with their response.
"They told me I've used it because the meter and machine underneath the ground tells them that I have," Mr Lidster said.
"I suggested to them that they've been basing it off averages and then this is what's happened at the end of it. I'll admit we use more water in summer than we do over winter, but nothing crazy."
The reason behind the increase was unsubstantiated, he claimed, and that he was not alone in receiving a shock bill.
"I'm not the only person that's got this problem. I've spoken to several other people in the neighbourhood," he said.
"One man who normally gets a $500 bill now has a $1000 one. A lady up the road who lives alone, who normally gets around a $100 bill, now has a $300 one."
Following his complaint, Rockhampton Regional Council dispatched a worker to Mr Lidster's home to ensure his system had no faults or leaks.
They did not find any issue with the system.
Sadly, Mr Lidster said his efforts to ensure the traffic island remained well kept would have to cease should it keep bringing extra costs, especially after he was bumped up to a category 3 water user.
"I'm in a wheelchair so I just go across and do what I can for the council-owned areas. But I'll have to put in for a reduction on my water bill, I was expecting maybe a $200 bill. But not this."
As the couple lives solely on his wife's income, Mr Lidster claimed any further bills like this one could put a strain on their finances.
However, Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow said water consumption charges had only increased by a small percentage each year to reflect increased costs of delivery, with this financial year increasing by just 2.5 per cent.
"We are required by law to charge for water in a manner that recovers the full costs and we also aim to reward those who are more measured or conservative in their water use," Cr Strelow said
Cr Strelow referred to the council's three-tiered charging structure in which customers are billed based on their consumption.
She also noted that the region had experienced its driest year on record in more than 80 years and that water demand had increased by about 26 per cent.
"It is likely some households may find that they're using water at a higher rate than normal, and being charged at a higher rate according to our charging structure for some of their water consumption," Cr Strelow said.
While Cr Strelow appreciated those residents who take it on themselves to help maintain public spaces, for many practical reasons, Rockhampton Regional Council was unable to take that into account in setting out water charges.
USAGE RATES PER/Q:
$0.80/kL up to 75kL
$1.25/kL between 76kL-150kL
$2.47/kL in excess of 151kL