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Water bill investigation

Elders Real Estate principal Lester Wheatley has demanded council investigate Deniliquin's exceedingly high water bills.

CASS SAVELLIS May 20, 2014 4:00am

An investigation must be conducted on exceedingly high water bills delivered to Deniliquin ratepayers earlier this month.

That is the demand from Deniliquin Elders Real Estate principal Lester Wheatley, who says the increases cannot be blamed on high summer usage.

Mr Wheatley said with so many residents complaining about their high bills, it is a ‘‘matter that needs to be investigated’’.

Water bills were delivered on May 9 with some Deniliquin ratepayers reporting increases of more than 400 per cent on previous charges to the Pastoral Times.

Mr Wheatley said his office had also fielded a surge in the number of complaints regarding the seemingly high water charges.

‘‘We look after a lot of properties and have been inundated with requests,’’ he said.

‘‘A significant number of those are irregular, based on previous consumption records. Some bills have increased three or four-fold.

‘‘The substantial nature of increasing water bills have started to become a significant cost issue.’’

Mr Wheatley said Deniliquin Council has an obligation to ensure Deniliquin residents get an explanation.

‘‘A person from council said that people don’t understand the system, well I say that council has then failed to communicate the method used to detect costs.’’

A local ratepayer, who asked to be referred to only as Jan, said Deniliquin Council’s summer usage explanation was just ‘‘lip service’’.

Jan, who has lived in Deniliquin for 50 years, said the significant rise in bills was ‘‘very, very frustrating’’.

‘‘Reading Tuesday’s paper, council said charges could have been from a hot summer ... council had better go away and think of another excuse,’’ Jan said.

‘‘Our gardens have computerised watering and it doesn’t change except when we turn it off in wet weather.

‘‘Our bill went from $70 to $320 – we said it must be wrong. When it does fluctuate we can pay roughly about $180.

‘‘One of my biggest concerns is how older people will go with this price rise. If they only have $100 dollars spare to play with and get a bill like this then what can they do?’’

With a proposed water charges increase yet to be adopted, Mr Wheatley has encouraged council to use common sense.

Mr Wheatley said having the fourth lowest charges in the state, according to a government report, does not justify an increase.

‘‘We live in a semi-arid area completely different to the coast or high rainfall areas,’’ he said.

‘‘We have different usage requirements at different times of the year. We need to make our own decision on what’s fair, reasonable and responsible in regards to water costs. It should not be dictated by Sydney.

‘‘Water needs to be affordable and priced in a manner that causes responsibility, not being restrictive or detrimental.’’

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