Council threatening to restrict water over $4m in unpaid bills
RESIDENTS who ignore their water bills will soon notice a weaker flow coming from their taps as the council gets tough on almost 17,000 ratepayers with overdue accounts.
Cairns Regional Council is owed more than $4.1 million in outstanding water bills, and the debt is growing every year because residents are not punished if they choose not to pay.
But the council’s water and waste committee yesterday voted to take a hard line with the region’s repeat water cheats, approving the use of a device that would be fitted to water meters to restrict the flow to the house.
The home owner may also have to pay the council to install the device and remove it when the bill is eventually paid.
Westcourt mum Lori Hunt, who pays her water bill on time, said having water flow restricted would affect daily activities for her family, including sons Jaxon, 6, and Baxta, 3.
"It’s not really something I had thought about, but I think it would affect us as a family of four," she said.
"It would affect the ease of things like showers, washing dishes and cleaning the car and the boys do like to play out in the garden with the hose."
Acting infrastructure services general manager Bruce Gardiner recognised the council risked being labelled the "big, bad water utility", but said the current policy lacked enough "sting" to deter bill dodgers.
Council records show that an average of 16,935 accounts in the Cairns region are overdue.
Most are less than $50, but 17 ratepayers have each racked up more than $10,000 in unpaid bills.
"There are some that are just blatantly ignoring us until we take take court action … and why does council have to bear that cost?" CRC’s business services manager Janine Relph said.
The council is allowed to reduce a person’s water supply as long as the pressure still meets the necessary levels for health and sanitation.
The tough new policy needs to be endorsed by the full council.
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On time: Water flow won't be a problem for the Hunt family of Westcourt, with Jaxon, 6, and Baxta, 3, free to play as mum, Lori, pays her bill on time. Picture: MARC McCORMACK