Mrs ARMITAGE (Question) - My question is to the honourable Leader and it is with regards to the water meter replacement program. Firstly, who is financing the water meter replacement program - the Government or the water corporations? Secondly, is the replacement program targeting all water meters or just older meters? Thirdly, are water meters in newer subdivisions being replaced and if so, why?
Mr PARKINSON - I thank the honourable member for what I am advised is her inaugural question without notice.
The water and sewerage corporations are financing the water meter rollout. To reduce the costs of the rollout to Tasmanian water and sewerage customers, the State Government successfully obtained $10 million in funding under the Australian Government's National Water Security Plan for Cities and Towns program. This funding is being paid directly to the water and sewerage corporations. Every water meter installation is reviewed and approved by a qualified plumber to ensure that it meets required plumbing standards. The cost of any remedial work due to any substandard meter installation or faulty meters is paid for by the contractor, not the corporations or the water and sewerage customers. The cost-benefit analysis released by Southern Water found that meters will save money for customers in the long term. Hobart City Council commissioned an independent peer review of Southern Water's findings which supported the findings of long-term savings from water meters.
The answers to parts two and three are: the corporations are replacing all existing meters including water meters in newer subdivisions. All decisions relating to the types of meters to be installed and the extent to which existing meters are to be replaced have been made by the water and sewerage corporations. The only requirement imposed by the State Government was for statewide water metering to allow two-part tariffs for water services to commence on 1 July 2012.
The water and sewerage corporations determined their water meter rollout policies based on detailed business cases that examined the cost effectiveness of a range of options. They chose to adopt automated meter reading - AMR - meters across the State as this provides the greatest overall cost savings. Automated meter reading meters provide much simpler and cheaper meter readings as the water consumption data are obtained remotely without the need to inspect and manually read each meter. It has been estimated that this reduces meter-reading costs by around 90 per cent.
The AMR meters also provide the potential for the corporations to compare real-time consumption within suburbs to total flow into that suburb, thereby identifying system leaks, which will significantly improve the ability of the corporations to reduce water losses. They also provide the potential for real-time data from individual customers' meters to assist in the identification of in-home leakage. Reducing system leakage and in-home leakage leads to savings for customers in the short and long term. If only older meters were replaced, there would be a patchwork of AMR and non-AMR meters and corporations assessed that not all these benefits would be achieved. The corporations also found that it is not cost-effective to retrofit AMR technology to existing meters. This is partly because the meters that are replaced are to be sold.