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Rats, cows, dogs all in a water meter reader's day

 
Water meter reader Alan Buchanan has been on and off almost every property on the Council water supply over the past 30 years. 
Updated: 23/06/2014 3:45 p.m.
Image of Alan Buchanan inspecting a water meter.

​Alan Buchanan is still going strong - reading water meters
for the past 30 years.  

​A few early encounters with rose thorns and gorse bushes made him wonder if he'd last six years on the job, but 30 years and only two 'not very bad' dog bites later,  he is still going strong.

Mr Buchanan landed a meter reading job with Whangarei City Council in 1984. In 1995 after the city was amalgamated into Whangarei District Council he became a self-employed meter reader contracting to Council.

"Originally there were about 9000 meters in the City and they were read four times a year. Following amalgamation and with growth in the District there are now over 26,000 meters being read twice a year,  and others being read monthly and bi-monthly,” Mr Buchanan says.

He and his employee Gary Stewart read the meters from Hikurangi in the North, to Langs Beach in the south of the District, as far west as Poroti and throughout the Parua Bay, Whangarei Heads area, "anywhere water is metered.”

He has an annual schedule of reading routes across the District, and also checks anomalies, such as when meters are extra high or extra low which can be due to leaks and meters not working.

The schedule covers about 1000 meters a week. He is able to set his own programme within the weekly confines of the schedule.

He has found a few interesting things in water meter boxes over the years.

"Rats who make their nests in a box, usually run away when you open the box but one wouldn't move one day and I discovered she had babies in the nest. I just worked around them. Wasps and bees also make their nests in the boxes, I then go back after dark to get rid of them.

"Sometimes I have to walk through paddocks. One time,

half-wild stock, came running towards me, then they suddenly stopped, turned around, took off again and I heard them crashing though the fence at the other end of the paddock."

Mr  Buchanan finds the general public good to work with.

"People have become more security conscious now. Once I would just wander onto a commercial site, take a reading and leave, but these days I usually have to sign in and out."

One of the upsides of the job is getting out and about and seeing changes that are being made in the District, such as where new subdivisions are appearing.

Mr Buchanan has enjoyed his 30 years working with Council, first as a member of staff and then as a self-employed contractor, but he isn't looking at another 30 years.

"I'm 65 now and there is plenty to do if I decide to retire.  I'm on the executive of the Northland branch of the New Zealand School Trustees Association and a board of trustees member for the Christian Renewal School. I also belong to the inventors club in Whangarei. We meet monthly to share ideas and experiments - so there will be plenty to do. As far as meter reading goes I'm just taking it one year at a time,” he says.

 

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