Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show that Hamilton City Council has been considering installing water meters, including smart water meters, since 2012.
Below you can read the reply I received when I made a request under the Local Government Official Information Act for information regarding the Hamilton City Council’s plans regarding water meters, and supporting documentation is attached below the text of the email.
If you live in Hamilton and do not want water meters in general or smart water meters in particular you may wish to make your views known to the Council. The water meters that have been trialled to date in NZ produce pulses of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) in the microwave range every 8 seconds. This radiation has been classified as a possible carcinogen. (You can read about the health and environmental concerns with smart water meters at this link:
If smart water meters were installed in Hamilton they could add considerably to the “EMR” smog in the city.
It appears likely that the WEL Network Ltd so-called “smart box” (actually a smart meter) may be able to be teamed up with “smart” water meters to collect the data from “smart” water meters. (See this link for a discussion of this issue.) It is NOT compulsory to have a smart box if you do not want one. Please see these links for information on the smart box issue:
Email received in response to request for information on water meters, including smart water meters
Sent: Friday, 19 September 2014 2:50 p.m.
To: Katherine Smith
Subject: FW: OFFICIAL INFORMATION REQUEST RESPONSE – KATHERINE SMITH – WATER METER BOXES IN FAIRFIELD
Please find below Hamilton City Council’s (HCC) response to your Official Information request, dated 6th August 2014, in respect of the water meter boxes installed in Fairfield.
Regarding the recently installed water meter boxes in Fairfield, Hamilton
- i) What are the names of the streets in which these boxes were installed
- ii) What is the total number of water meter boxes installed?
iii) Were the boxes installed by staff employed directly by the Council?
- iv) If yes, what was the cost of the actual water meter boxes?
- v) If yes, what was the estimated cost of the Council staff labour used in installing the water meter boxes?
- vi) If the Council contracted out the installation of the water meter boxes to another party what is the name of the company to which this contract was awarded?
vii) What is the total value of this contract?
viii) Please supply a copy of the contract for the installation of the water meter boxes.
Toby Boxes, which can be utilised to house water meters, have been installed in Sare Cresent, Fairfield. There were a total of 51 boxes installed. The installation was completed by HCC staff at an estimated labour cost of $11.25 per box. HCC did not contract out the installation of water meter boxes in Fairfield.
HCC is unable to disclose the cost of the Toby boxes, as these were supplied under contract and the cost is considered commercially sensitive. Consequently, the Information in respect of the cost of the Toby Boxes is withheld under Section 7(2)(b)(ii) of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 – in that release would be likely to unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of a person who supplied or is the subject of the information.
Please supply copies of all other documents including but not limited to, email correspondence, minutes of meetings, internal memos, advice received, etc. relating to the installation of the water meter boxes in Fairfield.
The only correspondence Council has on record is your Official Information Request.
Please supply copies of all correspondence between Council staff and/or councillors with WEL Networks Ltd, or their agents, regarding possible integration of WEL Networks Ltd “smart boxes” with Council infrastructure.
Please supply copies of all Council documents (including but not limited to, minutes of meetings, internal memos, advice received, etc.) regarding possible integration of WEL Networks Ltd “smart boxes” with Council infrastructure.
Please find attached copies of information, as requested, which HCC considers can be made available to you in accordance with the purposes of LGOIMA and the principle of availability.
Copies of some information has been withheld under the following sections of the of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 as follows:
Section 7(2)(b)(i) – in that release would disclose a trade secret. The information is withheld on the grounds that providing this information would disclose a trade secret belonging to WEL.
Section 7(2)(b)(ii) – in that release would be likely to unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of a person who supplied or is the subject of the information. The information is withheld on the grounds that it would unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of WEL.
Please be advised that the withheld information is in the form of a proposed MOU and confidentiality agreement that WEL has put to HCC relating to HCC being an observer and having the opportunity to learn from a technology trial with Smart Metering.
If you have any concerns with the decisions referred to in this letter, you have the right to request an investigation and review by the Ombudsman under section 27(3) of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. For your information, the Ombudsman’s contact details are:
Post: PO Box 10152, Wellington 6143
Telephone:0800 802 602
I must apologise that there was a delay in replying to your request.
If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.
On Behalf of the Privacy Officer
Other documentation supplied by the Hamilton City Council
In addition to the email above, the following document was supplied by Hamilton City Council.
Communications between HCC and WEL (3)
Traditionally, in NZ as around the world, electricity meters have been purely electromechanical devices that did not contain any sort of electronics. Until recently, most NZ homes had the type of analogue meters known as “Ferraris” meters. That began to change a few years ago when companies began to install electronic smart meters which produce radiofrequency radiation (RFR) in the microwave range to transmit information about electricity use.
Currently, when people in NZ tell their electricity company that they do not want a smart meter, or want an existing smart meter removed, the first option offered by many electricity companies is for the modem (which produces the RFR) to be removed from the smart meter, rather than for the entire smart meter to be removed and replace with a non-smart meter.
There are a variety of alternatives to smart meters in use in NZ including the Itron ACE 1000 SMO meter – which is an electronic meter with an analogue barrel display* – and analogue (purely electromechanical meters otherwise know as “Ferraris” meters).
People who want a purely electromechanical meter (a Ferraris meter) are often told that these meters are no longer available on the NZ market by their electricity retailer, however, this is not true. You can see at the appropriate page of the company Legacy Metering Group that there are still purely electromechanical (Ferraris) meters available in NZ. (Please click HERE to be directed to the appropriate page of Legacy Metering Group’s website. The Ferraris meter is the one with the spinning disc.)
Electricity companies frequently make claims to the effect that removing the modem from a smart meter makes it into a normal meter.
The purpose of this post is to discuss the differences between a traditional analogue (Ferraris) meter and a smart meter which has had its modem removed.
Basic facts about a Ferraris analogue meter
In terms of its functionality, a Ferraris meter simply measures electricity use and this use can be read from the mechanical register by a home owner or meter reader and this information supplied to the electricity company so that the household or business can be billed correctly. Ferraris meters have no electronics and therefore no ability to store data.
In terms of the health risks, it is important to keep beds and other furniture where you may spend a considerable amount of time at least one metre away from a Ferraris meter (and preferably 2-3 metres) due to the high magnetic fields in close proximity to the meter. The meter works by creating two opposing magnetic fields which then drive the disk depending on power usage. Other than the high magnetic fields from the household wiring and the metering coils, the Ferraris meter has no health risks.
A Ferraris meter cannot produce radiofrequency radiation (RFR), and as it does not have any switch mode power supply or any other electronics, it cannot produce high frequencies or transients known as “dirty electricty” (DE). (For a discussion of the health issues with the RFR and DE please see this page.)
How a smart meter which has had its modem removed differs from a Ferraris meter
Some* (but not all) smart meters on the NZ market had a removable modem (also known as a “chip” or occasionally “network interface card” or the “comms” device within a smart meter ).
The modem is responsible for sending information about electricity use back to the electricity company and/or lines company at about the 900 MHz frequency for meters connected through the cellular network. Removing the modem prevents the smart meter from being able to transmit data wirelessly, and in most cases will stop the smart meter from producing the RFR that poses health risks.
However, some smart meters in NZ also contain ZigBee chips or modems which also create radiofrequency radiation (RFR) in the 2.4 GHz frequency range. (The purpose of a ZigBee is to communicate with any smart appliances that are in a home.) In some smart meters, such as the Landis+Gyr E350 series in which a “silver springs” network interface card has been fitted, the main modem and ZigBee chip are part of the same network interface card, so removing the network interface card will solve the problem of the RFR from both sources. In other smart meters, such as the EDMI Mk7A, there is apparently an option for a ZigBee chip; however, it is my understanding that most smart meters in NZ currently do not have a ZigBee chip included.
Regardless, in order to prevent a smart meter from producing RFR, the modem must be removed or disconnected, and any ZigBee chip (if separate from the modem/network interface card) should also be removed as well.
A smart meter with its modem removed may still produce dirty electricity (DE). NB: Any meter with electronic components may produce DE – Please see this page for details on DE and health: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/health-issues/
One slight advantage of an electronic meter over a Ferraris meter is that there could be slightly lower magnetic fields, but this is not a good enough reason to recommend an electronic meter over a Ferraris meter.
Smart meters (with or without their modem) and electricity bills
Another issue that is also of interest is the possible increase in electricity charge that is often noticed when an electronic meter is installed. The older style Ferraris meters, due to the way it measures current flow by the two opposing magnetic fields, is reasonably slow reacting to surges of power use. A surge or inrush of current is common when an appliance is turned on, particularly if it has a motor. The electronic meter on the other hand very accurately measures these very brief surges of high power consumption that were not normally registered in the older Ferraris meter and this can lead to significantly higher billing, often 20% or more. It is debatable whether this extra billing is fair as it can be a considerable increase in billing for no increase in actual usage. Also, the so called “energy saving” appliances and lights that we are being encouraged to use may actually have higher inrush currents and increased billing over older appliances, increasing the billing even further.
Removing the modem from a smart meter will not change how it measures electricity or decrease your bill if your bill went up after the smart meter was installed.
Smart meters have the capacity to measure reactive power as well as usable electricity and if reactive power (which is useless to the consumer) is added to the bill, the bill would rise without any change in electricity consumption. I do not know whether any domestic customers are currently being billed for reactive power in NZ. Hopefully changes in billing transparency should prevent companies from charging for non-usable reactive power, if any NZ companies are presently doing this.
Having a smart meter that has had its modem removed may also leave your vulnerable to Time Of Use (TOU) pricing, should your electricity company choose to institute this, because the smart meter can store data at regular intervals and this data can be used to charge different rates for electricity used at different times of the day.
In practice TOU pricing is likely to mean you would have to pay more for electricity when you most need it, for example on winter evenings when you want to turn on the heater and have a hot meal – and perhaps also a hot shower if you arrive home wet from a walk back from the bus or train station.) Most companies in NZ do not currently use TOU pricing but more are likely to institute TOU pricing in the future. (Please see this link for details about how Time Of Use (TOU) pricing may increase your power bill: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/government-and-electricity-industry-positions/the-advantages-of-smart-meters/
Analogue (Ferraris ) meters and those brands of electronic meters which DO NOT have not capacity to store data provide protection against Time Of Use Pricing being inflicted on consumers.
Smart meters (with or without their modem) and your privacy
Smart meters which have had their modems removed may still pose privacy concerns. Please see this link for details: www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/government-and-electricity-industry-positions/network-tasman-there-are-no-privacy-concerns-with-smart-meters-yeah-right/
If you value your health, privacy and financial well-being, a Ferraris meter is the best sort of electricity meter.
However if you are having difficulty getting your electricity company to agree to remove your smart meter, accepting the offer of the removal of the modem (plus any ZigBee chip it may contain) from the smart meter will reduce the health risks from a smart meter as the meter will no longer produce pulses of microwave radiation.
If you want the modem removed from your smart meter, you may want to follow the following steps:
1) Find out if your smart meter contains a ZigBee as well as a smart meter. (It is best to do this in writing as people in the contact centres of electricity companies frequently know nothing about the technical aspects of smart meters and may inadvertently give you incorrect advice if you phone your company.)
2) Organise to be present when the technician calls at your home to ensure the job is done properly.
3) Get an agreement in writing that the modem (and any ZigBEE chip) will be removed and will not be replaced.
4) Put a lock on the meter box after the modem has been removed to prevent it from being reinstalled. 
Website editor’s note: If you would like to get updates on the smart meter issue in New Zealand please join the free email list at www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz. There is also a search option at www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz to allow you to find articles about other topics of interest on this website.
*Meters on the NZ market which can have a removable modem include EDMI series meters, Landis+Gyr E350 series smart meters and General Electric (GE) SM110. To the best of my knowledge, the Elster gREX meter CANNOT have its modem removed.
 I have not heard of cases where this has not been done properly but I have received reports of contractors installing smart meters against home owners/occupiers express permission so I think it prudent for people who want the modem to be disconnected and/or removed to be present to witness that this has actually been done.
 I have not heard of any confirmed cases in which modems have been replaced without customers’ permission but the standard Terms and Conditions on some NZ companies’ websites include statements to the effect that companies can install smart meters or remote meter reading equipment. Possibly these may allow a company to re-install the modem without consulting you unless you have an agreement that the company will not do this. (Please note that I am not a lawyer; you may want to ask your lawyer about the standard Terms and Conditions for your company if you want a qualified opinion on this matter.)
Locking your meter box also protects you have from having the modem re-installed by another party (such as the smart meter owner, which is often a different company from the electricity retailer) if the meter owner or its agents is unaware of the agreement you have with your electricity company.
If you lock your meter box and there is no window to allow a meter reader to read your meter, you may need to make an agreement with your company that you will phone in or email meter readings to your company on a regular basis. You could offer to include a photo of the meter (as proof that you are providing an accurate reading) if you have a digital camera and can email or otherwise send this image to your electricity company.
An earlier post on this website (since corrected) erroneously stated that having a smart meter could mean that householders could have their heat pump turned off remotely by their electricity company. (In actual fact, some smart meters may be able to turn down heat pumps down to their lowest setting, but they should not be able to turn them off altogether… please read on for more details and to learn whether you may be affected if you have a heat pump that may be able to be controlled via a smart meter.)
My initial error (in stating that a smart meter with a ZigBee chip* could potentially be used to remotely turn off a heat pump) was kindly pointed out to me by Graeme Purches from Trustpower. In an email he wrote:
“There are probably less than 20 meters in NZ that are equipped for this [turning off heat pumps and other devices remotely], and they are installed as part of field trials to test their capabilities.”
“At the end of the day, the direction the industry is headed is that people will in the future be able to determine at which price point they want their appliances to start and stop. The control will be in the hands of the consumer, unlike controlled hot water, which is a network load issue and can legitimately be controlled in return for lower price because those using the option have hot water storage. You can’t ‘store’ the heat from a heat pump so the industry would never want to control those.”
I decided to investigate the issue of how smart meters may be used to remotely control heat pumps (without the householder’s consent) in more detail.
My initial (and as it turned out, incorrect) information about heat pumps having mandatory “demand response functionality” came from the website of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
In following up on this issue, I first tried to access the current standard for heat pumps and found that while there was one in existence, I could not access it unless I either went to the central library in Auckland (not very practical) or paid a couple of hundred dollars (not feasible either).
I therefore sought the advice of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency (EECA).
A helpful staff member wrote an email that explained the following:
1) That having “demand response functionality” is not currently mandatory in NZ.
2) That some of the heat pumps on the NZ market do have “demand response functionality”. This “demand response functionality” cannot be used to turn the heat pump off altogether but it can be used to turn the heat pump down to its lowest setting.
3) That manufacturers can choose to show that their heat pump has demand response functionality on the label on their heat pump. You can click on the image to make it larger. The tick mark which is circled in red indicates that the appliance has “demand response functionality”.
Presumably heat pumps that have “demand response functionality” will contain a ZigBee and/or some other radiofrequency radiation (RFR) producing device to allow the appliance to communicate with a smart meter. I have no idea whether appliances which have “demand response functionality” will be producing RFR all the time or intermittently or whether the default setting for the appliance will have the “demand response functionality” switched off.
However, if you do not want extra RFR in your environment and/or you do not want to risk your electricity company being able to control your heat pump via a smart meter in your home, it would seem prudent to avoid buying items with “demand response functionality” indicated by the label.
Please note that I do not know whether it is mandatory for manufactures that make appliances that have “demand response functionality” to declare this capability on the label. For this reason it would be prudent to ask the retailer whether any appliance you would like to buy has any “demand response functionality”, regardless of the label. If you already have a heat pump and it not longer has its label, please see the info at the bottom of this post.
So there you have it. It does appear that some smart meters in NZ (those than contain ZigBee chips*) may have the capacity to remotely control some heat pumps, although this feature may not yet be active. It also appears that there are heat pumps on the NZ market which have “demand response functionality” which could allow them to be controlled via a smart meter.
*In NZ, smart meters that contain ZigBee chips include:
WEL Networks Ltd “smart box” (actually a Landis+Gyr smart meter) and the Landis+Gyr smart meters being installed by Network Tasman Ltd and Counties Power in South Auckland/Franklin. These contain a “silver spring” brand “network interface card” which includes a modem and a ZigBee. The default mode for the ZigBee on the “silver spring” brand “network interface card” has been stated to be inactive, so these ZigBee chips, may not yet be functional. (Presumably they could be activated remotely by a power or lines company should the company with an active link to the smart meter modem decide to do this.)
It is possible other smart meters contain ZigBee chips; some EDMI smart meters which are very common in NZ have the potential to include a ZigBee chip.
If you are in any doubt about whether the smart meter at your home has a ZigBee chip, your electricity retailer should be able to tell y0u.
If your heat pump no longer has its label you can find out about its “demand response functionality” through the following procedure:
1) Go to this link:
2) Scroll down the link above until you come to this text:
Next steps for households and businesses
3) Click on the word “Compare energy ratings”…as above and you will get to this link:
4) At the link above you will see a list…pick “Air Conditioners” by clicking on this link Air Conditioners – AS/NZS 3823.2 and you will get through to this link:
At the link above you will see a row of black buttons…one is Download CSV.
Click on this and you will get an Excel file. Open the file.
The field that indicates whether a heat pump has “demand response functionality” is labelled “BE” at the top of the column. The word “TRUE” in the “BE” column indicates the heat pump has “demand response functionality”. The word “FALSE” in the “BE” column indicates that a heat pump does not have “demand response functionality” .
Anyone who was affected by the recent blackout in parts of Auckland will have a new awareness of just how dependent we are as a society on electricity. Black0uts are not only inconvenient but potentially dangerous to health and costly to businesses. (Fortunately in the latest black-out, caused by a fire destroying cables at a substation in the suburb of Penrose, there were no fatalities from the fire, nor, as far as I know, from interruption of power supply to people who are dependent on medical technologies that require electricity.)
Smart meters and the purportedly “smart grid” may potentially increase the risk of further black outs, as “black hat” hackers are set to reveal soon, according to an article on www.smartgridawareness.org. A hostile government or other organisation (or even an individual) with a destructive agenda could potentially cause massive disruption to a city or perhaps even an entire country by hacking smart meters or “smart grid” infrastructure.
Full details are at this link:
A statement on WEL Networks Ltd’s website gives the impression that it is compulsory to accept a WEL “smart box”.
In actual fact, a WEL Networks “smart box” is actually a Landis+Gyr smart meter and there is NO government requirement for WEL Networks to install these so-called “smart boxes” and there is NO government requirement for anyone to accept the installation of a “smart box’.
These “smart boxes” can expose people in a home or business to a considerable amount of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) in the microwave range. (See this link for details of how much microwave radiation a WEL “smart box” can produce: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/government-and-electricity-industry-positions/is-the-wel-smart-box-a-health-hazard/
WEL smart boxes may eventually produce microwave radiation more frequently than they do at present, since if Councils in the Waikato area adopt wireless so-called “smart” water meters (see this link and this link for details) the WEL smart boxes could be used to collect and send on the information from the “smart” water meters.
If you agreed to the installation of a WEL “smart box” because you believed it was compulsory but do not want to be exposed to the microwave radiation that it produces, you may want to contact WEL Networks Ltd to arrange the removal of the smart box.
If you do ask for WEL Networks to remove a smart box, please email through this link to let me know how the company responds. Thank you.
If you value your privacy, please take a few minutes to read the information at the link below about how smart meters could affect your privacy.
For a specifically NZ perspective, please see these links:
The privacy implications of “smart” or “advanced” meters are quite significant given that information transmitted from the “smart meters” to your electricity company will allow the company to infer patterns of activity in your home – such as when you are using the stove or a heater, or are watching TV etc and when you are home and when you are not at home.
Is this the sort of information that you think your electricity company (whether government owned, or privately owned) has a right to know? And what if the information about your patterns of energy use falls into the wrong hands (such as criminals who may choose to plan a burglary at a time when you are not likely to be home?)
Privacy issues relating to “smart meters” are the focus of the site
If you are concerned about your privacy and home security, this is the site to visit for information that is relevant to the situation in New Zealand.
“Power is Information” is the corporate motto of Metrix, which describes itself on its website as “the leading electricity meter owner and operator in the Greater Auckland region”.
Metrix itself is owned by Mighty River Power, the State Owned Enterprise that the NZ government is planning to sell, despite strong public opposition. (One community group, Switch Off Mercury Energy has started a website (http://www.switchoffmercuryenergy.org/) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SwitchOffMercuryEnergy) to encourage customers of Mercury Energy, which is another subsidiary of Mighty River Power, to change to another electricity company and thereby make Mighty River Power a less attractive proposition for investors and thereby stop the sale of this state asset. )
Leaving aside the question of who owns Metrix now, and who may own it in the future, Metrix’s site states that “Metrix also manages non-half hour meter reading services”. By implication this suggests that the “smart meter” network that is owned and operated by Metrix is sending information about customers’ electricity use back to the company every thirty minutes. Which brings us back to the company motto “Power is Information”.
Overseas, part of the impetus for utility companies making the investment in “smart meters” and the “smart grid” has been the potential to gather additional data about their customers’ electricity use, identify periods of peak demand more accurately – and develop differentiated tariffs for those times when there is highest demand for electricity. In practice, this has the potential to mean that electricity companies put a premium on the price of electricity at the times of the day when it is most needed – such as when people arrive home from work and start cooking dinner, and turning on heaters etc in the winter. This is great for electricity companies, but not so great for families that are already struggling with high power bills. (In NZ over the past few years, median electricity prices have been rising at almost twice the rate of the average hourly wage (See: http://switchoffmercuryenergy.org/category/campaign/ ).
There are also privacy concerns about the use of “smart meters” to gather information about customers’ electricity use. Data about electricity use could be used to infer patterns of activity in a household, including when people are at home or not at home, what appliances they use at certain times of the day etc.
If this data is intercepted in transit (or if there is a problem with security within any company that handles data related to electricity use) the potential for misuse of this data – such as by criminals who might plan burglaries at times when customers are not at home – could have serious consequences for the householder.
Even if there are no data security breaches we might also ask, should a company like Metrix, which is owned by a State Owned Enterprise, be allowed to gather this sort of detailed information about what their customers are doing in the privacy of their own homes? (Overtones of “Big Brother”, anyone?)
If Metrix’s owner Mighty River Power is privatised, as the government would like to do, its new owner(s) might be a multinational corporation, or perhaps a company owned by a foreign government. (One of China’s SOE’s China Huadian’s Corp recently invested $232 million to build a new power station near Moscow.
See: http://www.cnbc.com/id/47512207/Top_10_Countries_for_Chinese_Investments?slide=3 )
Remember Metrix’s slogan: “Power is Information”? They are quite “in your face” about it, really.
Should any company, regardless of its ownership, be allowed to install technology into people’s homes that can be used to gather information about their daily activities?