Newest Hutt citizens take the oath

Lower Hutt welcomed 159 new New Zealand citizens on Thursday.

Four or five times a year, Hutt City Church in Marsden St is filled with people from all corners of the earth, and their friends and supporters, as they make an oath of affirmation or oath of allegiance to the Queen.  It’s the final step in their becoming citizens of New Zealand.

Mayor Ray Wallace officiates with Mayoress Linda Goss-Wallace.  As he always tells them, he knows what it’s like to come from a different country and to make New Zealand a home.  That’s what his family did when they came from Scotland when he was young.
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New street, new houses points to Urban Plus expansion

Fairfield Waters is the most ambitious residential development that Urban Plus Ltd has taken on to date but even before finishing touches are completed, all but one of the 20 new homes have been sold.

The mix of two-storey townhouses, single storey homes and two-storey terraced housing is off Summit Rd in Fairfield, on a new private road officially unveiled as Glen Evans Crescent by the late mayor’s wife Barbara on February 27.  Two of the couple’s sons, Mike and Geoff, were also present.

It’s fitting that there is now a street named after one of our greatest mayors.

Mayor Ray Wallace said Glen, who was mayor from 1986-1995, was “one of the city’s champions”.  He had a very deep understanding of Lower Hutt, “particularly its vulnerabilities” (he was a driving force for floodway projects and the replacement Ewen Bridge) and was also at the helm at the time of the tumultuous and highly-charged government-mandated 1989 amalgamations, when Lower Hutt, Eastbourne, Petone and Wainuiomata were joined.

Ray said Fairfield Waters is a medium density development that is aligned with the city’s Urban Growth Strategy, an ambitious plan to boost the number of homes in the city by 6000 by the end of 2032.  “We’re on target for that at the moment.”

Profit from the Fairfield Waters project will be ploughed back into expanding the city’s social housing portfolio, which is focused on providing rental units for low-income people over 65.  Last year Urban Plus sold off 27 social housing units that were considered to be of the wrong design or location for modern needs.   That leaves us with 151 units, and Urban Plus is now negotiating for  suitable sites to build additional units.

Avalon Park dog ban may be ended

It’s likely dogs will be allowed in Avalon Park – but only on a leash, and nowhere near the playground area.

Councillors on the Policy & Regulatory Committee will tonight debate a recommendation that Avalon Park remain a Dog Prohibition Area, except on designated sealed walkways on the park’s perimeter, and the far northern part of the park.

A total ban on dogs in the park (except for the northern area) has been in place since 2005 and it had been proposed that continue.  But a group of local residents sought change, and the council agreed to put it out to consultation.

The results are in.  Of 962 respondents (Citizens Panel and self-selected respondents), 62% agreed dogs should be allowed on leash in the park.  Main reasons given were that dogs should be allowed on pathways; that people should be allowed to exercise their dog as long as it is on a lead; that it was important for children to have some contact with dogs.

Of the 35% opposed to relaxing the dog ban, the main reasons given were: there are plenty of other places for dogs to be walked; dog poo is not being picked up; the northern area of open space is sufficient for dogs; dogs and children should be kept apart.

A sub-committee was to hear submissions and consider the survey results but in light of the majority response in favour of change, the recommendation is to allow dogs on leash on the sealed pathway that runs right around the boundary of the entire park, and the open space to the north.

One clear message sent to dog owners and the council is that plenty of people are sick of stepping in dog poo that hasn’t been picked up.  Some 75% of those in opposition to a return of dogs to Avalon Park complained about this.  Council may well have to look an installing extra bins and bag dispensers to encourage dog owners to do what they should be doing with their dog’s ‘do’.

Parking hogs should take more care

Parking is hard to find around our train stations and shopping centres but there are some drivers who are either incompetent or totally selfish.  These parking hogs ignore the white lines that act as a guide to where the front or rear of the vehicles should be, and end up taking two spaces.

The result is to frustrate other drivers, or cause other parkers to try and squeeze their car into the space that remains. .

Not only does this leave them liable to a parking ticket if the front or rear of their vehicle overhangs the white parking space lines, it also means the resident whose driveway is adjacent can’t get a clear view as they exit their property and may have to swing out over the centreline to get around the offending vehicle.

The photos on this post were taken near Waterloo Interchange.

Every six weeks Hutt City Council’s Traffic Sub-Committee has in front of it reports recommending that parking spaces have to be deleted or altered because drivers are impinging on the one metre clearance required on either side of a driveway entry/exit.

A bit more consideration for others by a few errant parkers would go a long way to easing parking pressure and frustration.

Eastern Hutt now a ‘Green Gold’ school

Today’s generation of adults have done lots of good things, but not a very good job of looking after the environment.  Climate change is now the biggest threat to life on this planet.

So it’s great to see a generation of today’s school kids getting stuck into recycling, composting, and planting as part of the EnviroSchool programme.

Late last year, a decade after first embarking on the EnviroSchool programme and progressing through bronze and silver stages, Eastern Hutt School achieved ‘Green Gold’ status.  Schools in Lower Hutt were early adopters of the EnviroSchool ethos and a number have reach the Gold standard, but Eastern Hutt is the school with the largest role to achieve this milestone.

Each class has its own garden and there are lots of other plantings around the school to commemorate various events, to provide nectar for bees and butterflies, and so that pupils can explore the cultural uses of plants.

Plenty of youngsters also use walking buses to get to and from school, and there are solar panels on classroom roofs that generate some of the electricity the schools uses.

Congratulations to all involved – and especially the school’s EnviroSchool pupil leadership team.

Too fast on housing intensification

There’s a balance to be found in providing opportunities for extra homes in Lower Hutt while protecting the rights of those who already live here.  With Plan Change 43, I’m concerned that Hutt City Council may be going out too hard and fast on the former.

An extended 4-month consultation period on the topic finishes on March 9 and it’s important people have their say.

We all know that our population is ageing, and we want to create opportunities for young people and families to find a job and secure place to live here. With a higher population, there are more people to help pay for the facilities we all enjoy, and to start/run local enterprises. We’re short of flat land on the Valley floor and an argument could be made that it’s unfair for those who are already on the property ladder to pull it up for those coming behind them.

The counter is that couples and families who have invested heavily in a house they have worked hard to make a home, and with knowledge of existing zoning and planning rules, now face a situation where a 10-metre (three-storey) new residential building, with 2.5m side and rear boundaries, could be build alongside them, robbing them of sunlight, light and privacy.  Currently, the maximum height is 8 metres (two-storeys).

This style of Medium Density Development will be allowed in nine areas of the city, focused around shopping and transport hubs.

Many of the ideas in Plan Change 43 are useful, and indeed were largely supported in panel and public surveys held last year.  New rules for infill housing, granny flats and tiny houses “ subject to standards for outdoor living space and site separation” will give us the flexibility to provide for the smaller size of households and an ageing population now upon us.  Stormwater impacts have to be carefully considered.

The Suburban Mixed Use Zones are also sound. The ability for suburban shopping centre renewal, with apartments above neighbourhood stores, has environmental, efficient land use and transport reduction advantages. Such apartments above shops may well appeal to the elderly, and couples.  Importantly, the additional height allowed in these zones will by and large not trample on any neighbour’s light, sunlight or privacy rights.

Where I think we’ve gone wrong and where we’re getting all the opposition is in Medium Density Residential.

By my count the opportunity to build three-story apartment blocks or townhouses will apply to more than 200 properties on the CBD fringe (that provisionis currently on hold, pending preparation of a spatial plan for the CBD).

But in the Central Ward alone, the new provisions will apply to 282 properties on the west side

of Park Ave shops and another close to 300 properties on the eastern side of those shops.

There are some streets, within the proposed zones, where renewal of this sort would have much less impact. Why can’t we zero in on those and trial these changes.

The Design Guide only kicks in for buildings above 10m. Some of the drawings of potential apartment blocks published by council look really attractive, but there is no guarantee at all that the three-storey blocks that might be built will look anything like tht.

I ask ‘why we are we going out with such extensive zones, without first seeing how developers respond?’  We could start off with much smaller zones to see what developers actually build, and what the impact on neighbours and neighbourhoods are. We can extend the zones later by another Plan Change if we see we’re getting the kinds of developments this city and its residents want.

I understand that the Plan Change is taking a long-term development view, and today’s homeowners are not the only concern. But I also see the argument it is grossly unfair to hack away at the rights of existing homeowners to sunlight, light, privacy and the character streetscapes they bought into.

Read more about what is proposed, and how to make a submission, at

I would also like to hear your views. Email or call me on 027 484 8892.

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