Mystery over theft of water meters

AUTHORITIES are questioning the motive of thieves who stole eight water meters from premises in the Lismore and Murwillumbah areas.

A Lismore City Council spokeswoman said identical meters were stolen from Lismore TAFE and Lismore tip, while a smaller commercial meter was removed from the Lismore City SES headquarters.

The replacement value of the 50mm meters at the Lismore TAFE and the tip is $500 each, and the 32mm meter stolen from the SES is worth $320.

A Tweed Shire Council spokesman said five water meters were stolen overnight at Murwillumbah.

Over the past 20 years, Lismore City Council has had reports of only "a couple of thefts" of meters, the spokeswoman said.

She said the thefts made no sense because all water meters had a serial number and their counters could not be wound back.

"Tampering with water meters to reduce consumption would be flagged, as water meter readings can't be decreased," the spokeswoman said.

Lismore police Inspector Matt Kehoe, who informed The Northern Star of the thefts, said he had never heard of water meter theft.

Water meter thieves struck Victoria last year, with more than 500 meters stolen from Yarra Valley Water and South West Water customers between January and April 2013, and again this year.

At the time it was reported the meters were being used by thieves wanting to fill swimming pools, water features or top up tanks.

But they were also motivated by the high price of brass and the resale value for scrap metal.

Independent Scrap Metal Lismore owner Bill Scouller refuted this, saying the 2.5kg commercial meters would be worth about $7.50.

Mr Scouller said the current value of "dirty brass", which the meters are made of, was between $2 and $2.50 a kilogram.

"If someone came in with two or three water meters it would raise concerns and I would call police," he said.

Anyone with any information on the thefts is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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