LETTER | Burst water pipe leaves residents with hefty bill


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We are writing to express our outrage at the Council’s policy in relation to burst water mains.

Just before Christmas when we were away our water mains burst. Luckily some friends who came to check on our house heard a rushing noise and investigated.

When they saw the water bubbling around the metre they called Zammataro Plumbing.

When Zammataros came, the day after, they said that the water mains had burst either side of the Meter and that the Council needed to come first and fix their side.

The Council came and fixed their side and Zammataros came back and fixed our side and we had a bill of around $189 from Zammataros.

Approximately a month later, we had a notice emailed from the Council that we would be receiving an excess water bill of around $710.

We went to Council offices to explain about the burst water main on both sides of the Meter, expecting that we would be allowed to pay what would be our usual bill, but were informed that as the water had in fact passed through the Meter, which in their view established that the leak was on our side, we would be liable for the excess water.  

We stated our intention to appeal this decision and although encouraged to do so were informed that we had little chance of success.

The person at the Council informing us that we were lucky it was so little as in another instance a local had incurred an excess water bill in the thousands, which they were still liable for.

We had a further conversation with Zammataros to determine their view of the situation and informing Mr Zammataro of the excess water bill and he expressed the view that in order to have used so much water, the equivalent of whole of the Close where we live would have been flooded.

We have subsequently received a water bill for $819, more or less over $600 more than we would have anticipated and budgeted for.

We did write an appeal to the Council, stating the unfairness of being penalised for a situation not of our making and which had occurred while we were away.

We told them that we were particularly careful about our water usage and had gone to the expense of putting in a bore to water our garden.

We have received a response from the Council stating that prior to the amalgamation with Cairns Regional, Douglas Shire Council did not penalise ratepayers in situations where there was a burst water main, but that after amalgamation Cairns Council had a different policy and Douglas Shire fell in line with this.  

They further said that when we deamalgamated, the matter was brought before Council and the decision was made to keep the Cairns Council policy of penalising ratepayers. Following further emails the Council have offered a repayment plan, but have also made it clear that any unpaid amount after the due date of 9/4 will incur interest of 11 per cent.

We are of the view that this is a very unfair policy. How is it the ratepayers fault if a pipe bursts? Mostly these pipes are underground and impossible to see, so how can a burst pipe be prevented?

The water does not cost the Council anything other than the costs of pumping to the premises. Our house is not old by local standards, so the pipes should have still been strong, although we had no control over the quality of the pipes originally laid.

Longer-term residents could be at greater risk in situations where their pipes have been in the ground longer.

This places pensioners at greater risk. We are ourselves, pensioners, and so these unforeseen expenses hit hard.

We don’t know who the people were who incurred the excess water rates in the thousands, but feel for their situation.

We are wondering how many other households have been penalised under this Council policy and would like to see some response so we can consider petitioning Council to change this unfair punitive policy.

Two anonymous, Newell Beach 


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