Water charge for ‘excessive’ use only: Cook Islands finance minister

Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown. Picture: COOK ISLANDS NEWS

RAROTONGA – Cook Islands Finance minister Mark Brown is defending the introduction of tariffs for domestic and commercial water users, saying the measures are only intended to encourage water conservation and reduce water wastage on Rarotonga.

“Residential households will not be charged for water” Brown said in a statement.

CINews revealed that upon completion of Te Mato Vai (TMV) project, domestic water users will be given a yet-to-be-specified “free allocation” of water.

“…households can expect to be charged for any water used above their free allocation” said Brown. In 2014, government officials said there would be no introduction of water tariffs for domestic users within five years of the completion of TMV. They also claimed commercial users would be given a three-year grace period before any implementation of tariffs.

However, it appears the government has backtracked on these promises, stating tariffs are being introduced “in order to encourage conservation and reduce water wastage…or excessive use.”

Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) chief executive officer Petero Okotai says the tariffs are being introduced to cover the “extensive costs” of the supply and maintenance of water services.

An entity known as To Tatou Vai Limited is being established to manage water infrastructure and ensure water is supplied to residents and companies on Rarotonga.

“The current board of To Tatou Vai is tasked with establishing a Corporate Crown Entity (CCE) which will be the first of its kind in the Cook Islands” says Okotai.

“This classification of a statutory entity is different from a State Owned Enterprise (SOE)…unlike an SOE, there is no profit mandate. This entity will not generate profit, it will endeavour to cover operating costs through charges and revenue generated through tariffs on commercial usage and domestic water wastage.”

Okotai says “the quantum of these charges will be determined through an in-depth study that will look to develop an affordable and fair regime for all stakeholders”.

Brown says the amount of “free” water to be allocated to each household is still being investigated. The amount will be determined using data that is “continuously being collected” he says.

“The TMV team will have an idea of current water demand by households and use this as a basis for setting an appropriate allocation for all households.” he said.

More Stories