The tariffs will be introduced following the completion of Te Mato Vai (TMV) project, which is expected to be finished by the end of next year.
When TMV is completed, a Cook Islands Water and Waste Water Authority will be established. The entity will be known as To Tatou Vai Limited (TTV) and will be tasked with ensuring the supply of water around Rarotonga.
Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) will be in charge of making sure TTV meets all of its legislative and regulatory requirements in relation to water supply.
Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) chief executive officer Petero Okotai says tariffs will be introduced for the sole purpose of covering the “extensive costs” of the supply and maintenance of water services. TTV is registered as a limited liability company, but is set to become an “interim” corporate Crown entity in the future.
Okotai says TTV “wants to be fair” with the enforcement of tariffs. He says investigations regarding the particular details of the tariffs are ongoing, including the question of rates.
“For example, farmers are humongous users of water, so we need to study it more.”
However, Okotai did confirm domestic users will be allocated a yet-to-be-specified “allowance” of water. Once their allowance is met, users will incur charges for further usage. It is not yet known if commercial water users will also be allocated an allowance.
“The charges will be minimal…We just want to recover our costs,” says Okotai.
In 2014, 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 the implementation of tariffs. It is unknown if this grace period will still be granted.
According to Okotai, the authority will provide water to “approximately 95 per cent of Rarotonga”. Only dwellings at higher altitudes will miss out, he says.
“The project will ensure a better supply of water and also higher pressure.”
The authority is fully funded and owned by the government. However, due to New Zealand’s contribution to TMV, Okotai admits itwill have a “vested interest” in the success of the new authority. Some commentators are assuming so will China, who were also major investors in TMV.
Okotai says TTV will appoint a chief executive before the end of July.