‘Let there be light’ – Response by Department of Housing and Power and Water to widespread incidents of damage to electricity meters in a remote community (June 2015)

A report on an investigation into the responses of the Department of Housing and the Power and Water Corporation to widespread incidents of criminal damage to electricity meters and other electrical fixtures and fittings for houses in the remote indigenous community of Wadeye. Between June and December 2013, 43 houses in Wadeye had power disconnected because of damage to meters and/or associated property. The power to 20 households remained disconnected for more than 10 days, with 12 disconnected for over 20 days.

The report recognises that both agencies operate within a complex environment when providing public housing and essential services to remote communities. In Wadeye, the situation was exacerbated by the large number of houses with damaged meters, backboards and electrical fittings and the extent of the damage in some houses. Even so, the report concluded that there was:

  • unreasonable delay in repairing damaged meters and associated property and restoring power to a number of households;
  • considerable delay and a lack of coordination in developing an agreed policy and procedures to deal with damaged electricity meters, brought about chiefly by frequent turnover of staff involved and failure to adequately record the outcome of discussions; and
  • poor communication with interested stakeholders who raised concerns about the process for repairing damaged meters and a practice of requesting tenants pay for repairs.