District coun­cil text mes­sage er­ror riles ratepay­ers


An au­to­mated text mes­sage blun­der has left thou­sands of Waikato ratepay­ers in­cor­rectly told their bill was over­due and coun­cil staff scram­bling to sort out the mess.

Last week Tues­day, Waikato District Coun­cil sent a text mes­sage to 3663 Waikato District ratepay­ers say­ing’’ ’’Over­due: For­got­ten to pay Waikato District Coun­cil rates due 25 Septem­ber? If you need help call us at 0800 492 452.’’

A data­base er­ror meant the mes­sage was sent to a mix of those who had paid and those who hadn’t with coun­cil un­sure ex­actly how many of each.

But what is cer­tain is the swift re­ac­tion from an­gry res­i­dents, with the coun­cil in­un­dated with hun­dreds of con­fused and of­ten irate re­sponses by phone, text mes­sages and so­cial me­dia.

Coun­cil act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Whit­taker said it was meant to be a proac­tive ap­proach.

‘‘The spirit in which it was sent out was to be proac­tive. It’s a shame, the first time we’ve done it we’ve had this ad­min mix-up.’’

Some peo­ple took to the coun­cil Facebook page to com­plain.

One woman said it wasn’t fair to re­ceive the text and started pan­ick­ing, go­ing through records to make sure she had paid.

‘‘[We] don’t need the ex­tra stress as we pay lots of money, so can’t un­der­stand why your sys­tems are wrong.’’

Oth­ers said mis­takes hap­pen, and it was no big deal. Coun­cil sent out a sec­ond text mes­sage an hour later and a post on their Facebook page to ex­plain the er­ror.

Whit­taker said coun­cil was re­mind­ing ratepay­ers just in­case they over­looked their rates and got a penalty letter fur­ther down the track.

He said a few peo­ple re­sponded to the texts say­ing, ‘‘thank you for the re­minder’’.

But he didn’t know out of the 3663 ratepay­ers, the num­ber of peo­ple who had and hadn’t paid their rates.

An ad­min­is­tra­tion er­ror by the coun­cil saw a text mes­sage about over­due rates sent to those who had paid them.

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