On 1 July 2012 Watercare moved to a monthly billing system. They claimed this was in response to consumer demand but out of hundreds of Watercare consumers I have spoken to, not one was in favour of this system. An added irony is that actual readings are only done every second month. The estimates have turned out to be a shambles. For many landlords the whole process has turned into an accounting nightmare.
At the risk of boring you I will quickly summarise my own experience on my rental property in Henderson:
1 Nov 2011 Actual Reading 7323
4 Jul 2012 Actual Reading 7392
Actual consumption for the 247 days (8 months) from 1/11/11 to 4/7/12
= 69 kl
= 279 litres per day
2 Aug 2012 Estimated reading 7421
Estimated consumption for the 29 days from 4/7/12 to 2/8/12
= 1000 litres per day
Clearly the estimate was way out of kilter. I have since spoken to a number of other people who received assessments with this magic figure of 1000 litres per day. Now, don’t call me a cynic yet but what a marvellous way of receiving interest free loans from ratepayers – by overbilling them on estimates!
8 Aug 2012 I had no luck trying to discuss the matter with the call centre.
9 Aug 2012 I sent 8 specific questions to Michael Graham, Revenue Manager.
I received a reply from Daniel Wrigley, Communications Advisor,
that avoided giving specific answers and said “we will endeavour to
ensure this issue is not repeated in the future.”
10 Aug 2012 The Herald reported “A Watercare spokesman said the billing team’s
estimate relied on a previous month’s reading by a meter reader, who
could not see all the figures properly because of condensation in the
But, hang on, the previous month was July. An accurate reading was made on 4 July as recorded in the previous bill. What did condensation on the meter have to do with an estimated reading?
13 Aug 2012 I pressed for specific answers but was informed by Daniel Wrigley
they had taken legal advice on the matter.
23 Aug 2012 Russell McVeagh had a threatening letter delivered to me by courier.
It made a number of allegations and included the statement “Any
further intimidation of Watercare staff by either telephone or writing
will require the matter to be referred to the Police.”
So this is how a monopoly like Watercare handles customer complaints. I wonder
what that cost in legal fees? Russell McVeagh then sent two more couriers attempting to get the letter back.
24 Aug 2012 Russell McVeagh sent me another letter claiming “Mr Ford is satisfied
that his staff have acted in an appropriate manner.”
28 Aug 2012 Sally Fitzgerald, Partner Russell McVeagh withdrew her allegations
against me and said “I am happy to offer you my apology in respect of
6 Sep 2012 I sent a letter of complaint to Mark Ford, CEO of Watercare.
18 Sep 2012 Debbie Hickson, Mark Ford’s PA advised me the matter had been
delegated to David Hawkins.
19 Sep 2012 Having previously been asked to produce communications that
substantiated her allegations, Sally Fitzgerald wrote “Watercare takes
seriously its obligations to act as a good employer and operates in an
environment, where staff are encouraged to speak openly with their
colleagues without necessarily having to resort to more formal
Hmmmm! Didn’t I read recently about some senior finance company executives operating in such a manner?How convenient!
8 Nov 2012 Once again I had occasion to ring Watercare because of inaccurate
billing. Details are provided on my previous post, entitled “Water
Bills Up or Balls Up?” I sent two questions to Mathew Telfer.
9 Nov 2012 Mathew Telfer advised he would respond within 5 working days.
16 Nov 2012 Having received no response from Mathew Telfer I complained to
19 Nov 2012 Mathew Telfer advised “The cause of the inaccurate (low) invoice on
7 November was due to a high manually estimated reading in
October. This reading was manually estimated because of a lack (of)
suitable actual readings for our automated estimation tool. There was a
delay in identifying the auto estimation had been unsuccessful on the
account. This resulted in the period between invoices increasing to 41
days instead of the standard 29 or 30 days. The daily usage for the
property was incorrectly calculated resulting in high reading of 16
kilolitres (390L) per day) instead of a more accurate estimation of 12
kilolitres (300L per day) for the 41 day period.
A very small percentage of errors do still occur. I am confident that
we have now resolved the issues on this account. I will be working
with the Revenue Manager, Michael Graham and personally
reviewing your future invoices to ensure that they have been correctly
Well, I guess that’s a step up from the “endeavour to ensure” on 9 August!
I’ll keep you posted if there are errors when my next bill arrives.
Meanwhile if any of you wish to make a comment on your billing experiences from Watercare I would love to hear from you. Please make a comment under Comments below this post.