Garbage overcharging: residents want full refund

Residents who have unwittingly been overcharged for more than one garbage service want all their money back, not just the last five years’ worth.

Councillors at their last meeting voted to reimburse ratepayers for a maximum of five years. 

But Don Thomas of Lapstone – who has been charged for two services for at least 23 years – is not satisfied.

“I’m dead against that. They’ve used my money for years, including the interest. I want it all in my hand so I can get interest on my money for a change,” he said.

And he was furious at comments by the mayor that if full repayments were made, rates might have to rise, calling them “frightening tactics”.

Leura’s John Mann, who has also been overcharged since 1994 (when the waste service was listed separately on rate notices), is similarly unhappy.

He pointed out that the five-year repayments might be fine for those overcharged for shorter periods but not people like himself.

“If you’ve been overcharged for 23 years … five years doesn’t represent that much of what they owe us.”

He suggested perhaps reimbursing people a percentage of what they had overpaid rather than a fixed number of years.

​Cr Brendan Christie, who tried to have the repayment period extended to 10 years only to be voted down, said there was plenty of money in council’s waste reserve contingency fund. 

“Council should have used the full $350,000 that was in the waste reserve as it's there to accommodate unexpected shocks. Overcharging residents is an unexpected shock and we should have depleted the reserve to give them their money back,” he said.

“The excuse that if we paid back 10 years then we'd have to charge every ratepayer more per year is a cop out and frankly not good enough.”

Cr Kerry Brown, one of a minority of four councillors who voted for the 10 years, agreed council had enough in its waste reserve account to repay the known “bucks for no bins” residents.

But as council has already rejected 10 years repayment, she will propose that, on top of the five year repayment, council consider paying the rest of the money as a credit on rate notices.

“The money is not ours, no service was provided for it and it was caused by council error and confusing billing practices,” she said.

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