SMART MOVE: Bundaberg Regional Council will start a $1 million smart water meter pilot project.
SMART MOVE: Bundaberg Regional Council will start a $1 million smart water meter pilot project. Alistair Brightman 11h587b

$1m for water meter plan

BUNDABERG Regional Council will spend $1 million on a smart water meter pilot project that one councillor has described as a "ridiculous waste of money”.

But Mayor Jack Dempsey says the trial has the potential to save ratepayers money and could lead to further innovation and savings in the future.

In yesterday's ordinary council meeting, all councillors except Jason Bartels voted in favour of the two-year pilot and for expressions of interest to be sought for the supply and installation of the meters.

Councillor David Batt, running in the state election, and Deputy Mayor Bill Trevor were absent from the meeting.

A business plan considering the feasibility of the smart meter project says that the council uses an ageing fleet of mechanical water meters and about 14,000 of them need urgent replacing.

Cr Bartels, who is the council's water and wastewater spokesman, said spending $1 million for the installation of 1250 smart meters was not a smart move.

"To spend $1 million on a trial is, in my opinion, an absolute waste of ratepayers' funds,” Cr Bartels told the NewsMail.

"It amounts to an expensive customer experience, especially when it is a proven fact from other areas that have already installed smart meters that only 20% of the population will access and use the information that they provide.”

Cr Bartels said if the council proceeded with a full roll-out of all 32,500 water meters across Bundaberg it would cost more than $25 million within a 12-year period as well as ongoing maintenance costs.

The council's own strategic business plan identified the plan as not cost favourable when compared to current practices.

Cr Dempsey argued the difference between replacing the old meters and the new meters was about $300,000 per year.

"There are overall things we have to do analysis for and you'll hear a lot of larger sums mentioned but we are not committing to that,” he said.

Down the track, the smart meter project could lead to the same technology being used for monitoring electricity and other initiatives.

Cr Dempsey said under the trial, ratepayers would be able to check their water usage on a 24-hour basis, detect waters leaks and unusual activity via phone apps.

This could provide relief for pensioners, who form about 22 per cent of the council's rate base, and people with a disability who were unable to physically check their water meters, Cr Dempsey said.

But Cr Bartels said in other regions where smart meters had been rolled out, only about 20 per cent of the population had taken it up and he expected that to be much less within Bundaberg's ageing community.



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