Hutt City Council’s Long-Term Plan is out. This is the blueprint – and budgets – that will guide Council spending for the next decade. While the LTP is reviewed every three years, from now until May 6 is your best chance to have a say on whether your think we have the priorities right. (Click here for the consultation document.)
There are several key – and expensive – projects included in the LTP:
- Do we go for a new Naenae pool that duplicates what we already had but with a number of improvements, including climate-friendly heating technology that will reduce annual operational costs (this pool complex would cost up to $68 million), or do we go for a more basic pool complex (at $54 million)?
- Is Hutt City’s share of the Riverlink project – at an estimated nett $97m – still affordable? NZTA Waka/Kotahi is responsible for the new Melling interchange, and Greater Wellington Regional Council (to which we all pay rates, of course) is responsible for the estimated $125 million of floodway upgrades. Hutt ratepayers are up for the costs of the promenade, pedestrian paths and cycleways (including the bike/walk bridge over Hutt River to the new Melling railway station) and the way the interchange and stopbanks integrate with the city edge.
- At an estimated $15m-$20m, is rejuvenating Petone wharf the right thing to do?
There’s plenty more information, and the chance to have your say, on these and other topics – here.
What’s the rates impact?
To cut to the chase on the Long-Term Plan – what will your rates bills look like if current proposals are unchanged?
For the average residential property valued at $629,000, this would be a rates increase in the financial year beginning 1 July 2021 of $130 per annum, or $2.50 per week.
More than half of that $130 increase – $72 – is related to 3Waters (drinking water, sewage, stormwater).
City debt is projected to triple during the decade, from today’s debt of about $200 million to a peak of just under $600 million.
Most of Lower Hutt’s water infrastructure was built in the 1930s and 1950s. Some 60 per cent of the water network needs to be renewed over the next 30 years at a cost of $2.1 billion (inflation adjusted).
The increasing rate of water leaks over the past few years is one indication of the deterioration of the network. For the six-month period July to December 2020 there were 1,457 leaks – nearly twice the 754 leaks reported for the same period in 2019. We’ve seen what happens with catastrophic failure of major infrastructure in Wellington City (raw sewage in Willis St).
Over the 10-year period of the Long-Term Plan, our proposal will see us invest a total of $582M in 3Waters improvements. That’s $325M more than the equivalent period in previous LTP.
How did we get to this state of affairs/massive backlog? Successive councils share the blame, in my opinion. For well over a decade we’ve taken pride in the fact our rates increases have been some of the lowest in the country (inflation + 1%) – as confirmed by the Productivity Commission report on council financing. In regard to 3Waters infrastructure, the approach has been ‘this is the fiscal envelope, work within it’. Wrong, in hindsight. The approach should have been what it is now: ‘What money is needed to prudently do the maintenance/replacement work required?’
Complicating things further is that the comprehensive nationwide water reform process – Taumata Arowai – is in its early stages, and there is still uncertainty around its likely impact on Council, such as the transfer of assets.
On the rates topic, there are also questions in the consultation document on differentials – essentially how to best share the rates burden between residential and commercial ratepayers. Council is proposing phasing in over the next three years a small shift back on to commercial ratepayers.
Knowing your Pipes – infiltration and sewage spills
Before we finish with pipes, there’s another topic to discuss that potentially could cost you thousands of dollars.
The city has a major issue with stormwater infiltration. This is where, in times of heavy rainfall, stormwater gets into our sewerage network, overwhelming the treatment and storage tank systems. We end up having to spill some of this overflow into the Hutt River and harbour. Not only is this environmentally unsound, with the government’s National Policy Statement Freshwater, we’re not likely to continue to get consent to do it.
Infiltration on private property happens mainly because of damaged/broken pipes, or because stormwater from roof guttering is (unwittingly or deliberately) directed down into sewerage gully traps.
Last year Hutt City Council put aside $250,000 with Wellington Water to set up a dedicated investigation crew to inspect residential properties for these incorrect/illegal pipe connections. The team is currently active in Wainuiomata, but will in time turn their attention to other parts of the city.
As these infiltration issues are on private property, the remedial cost is on the homeowner. In can amount to many thousands of dollars to rectify.
For that reason, councillors have just approved an extension to our rates postponement policy that will enable householders facing infiltration repairs to spread the cost over a number of years, paying it off by a targeted rate in their rates bill. The minimum payment per year will be $500 and council’s cost of interest will also be charged. Read the paper to councillors, here. Page 189.
Learning to share the footpath
Recently in Auckland, a Lime e-scooter rider was been ordered to pay reparation of $4000 after hitting a woman as she got off a bus. This is how Stuff reported the incident.
From time to time Hutt City Council is asked – ‘why don’t you just ban e-scooters from our footpaths’. The answer is, even if there was agreement that was the right thing to do, we don’t have the power to do it.
The rules around footpath (and road) use are determined by central Government, not by Council. These rules are documented in the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004.
The rules include that motor vehicles and cycles are not allowed to ride along the footpath (although the rules for cycle use are being looked at).
It also allows users of wheeled recreational devices and mobility devices to use the footpath so long as they operate in a ‘careful and considerate manner’ and ‘must not operate at a speed that constitutes a hazard to other footpath users’.
The same rule requires that a pedestrian must not ‘unduly impede the passage of a mobility device or wheeled recreational device permitted to use the footpath’.
The rule therefore suggests that footpaths are in fact shared spaces and that all legitimate users need to be aware of other users and behave appropriately. The Lime scooter rider in Auckland was found against, and costs ordered, because the man should have anticipated people getting off the bus as he passed, and should have reduced his speed.
Proposal to re-zone golf club land
Boulcott’s Farm Heritage Golf Club is to pursue a private plan change that could see 1.6 hectares of land currently zoned ‘general recreation’ near Kingston and Allen Streets re-zoned for housing.
The club has told council it has no immediate intentions of developing the area, and in the short term would continue to operate the golf course on its current footprint. However, the increase in value of the land from the zoning would allow the Club to borrow more to cover its operations.
You can read the full report to councillors here. Page 262.
This is separate to last year’s decision by the Environment Court to allow Summerset to build a $150 million retirement village, including one four-level and one-five level buildings – on land bordering Boulcott’s Farm Heritage Golf Club. Read more here.
Last chance for say on heritage policy
Council is currently out for a final round of consultation on its draft Heritage Policy – Taonga Tuku Iho. Submissions close Friday April 9.
The major point of contention is likely to be whether private dwellings with heritage attributes can be added to the list of buildings protected under our District Plan without the permission of the building’s owner/s. A previous council policy (2012) – that private dwellings could only be added to the District Plan heritage schedule with the written permission of the owner/s – has not been carried forward into the new proposed policy.
Apartments proposed in heritage Waterloo Rd fire station
Hutt City Council is once again on track to exceed 1,600 building consents in the financial year. Up to the end of the 2nd quarter it had granted 946 building consents with the value of work of $251m, compared to 890 consents to value of $205m for the same period in the last year.
One of the more interesting consent applications received relates to 155-157 Waterloo Rd. The distinctive 1955-built fire station, which has a Heritage New Zealand category one listing, has been empty since 2007.
Flats have recently been completed behind it, and the consent application (stage 1) includes partial demolition of the interior and seismic strengthening. The internal fit-out for apartments will be lodged in a separate building consent application.
Notable resource consents lodged:
· 124 Richmond Road, Petone – Redevelopment of the site previously occupied by Imperial Tobacco to create 95 townhouses
· 221 High Street, Hutt Central – Conversion of commercial building in the CBD to apartments at rear and above
· 4 Collingwood Street, Waterloo – 11 townhouses; comprising a mixture of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units
· 123 Cambridge Terrace, Fairfield – 11 townhouses; comprising a mixture of 1 and 2 bedroom units
· 65 Victoria Street, Alicetown – Demolition of an earthquake prone block of flats and redevelopment of the site for 6 dwellings.
· 1 Stokes Valley Road, Stokes Valley – Corner site at the entrance to Stokes Valley to be developed for 5 dwellings
· 26 Fitzherbert Road, Wainuiomata – subdivision to create 10 townhouses.
Recently granted resource consents:
· 489 Riverside Drive, Fairfield – 14 townhouses
· 18 Rata Street, Naenae – Subdivision of site for 12 dwellings
· 2a Gawler Grove, Wainuiomata – 8 dwellings
· 318 Oxford Terrace, Epuni – 28 townhouses
· 29-31 Waiwhetu Road – 14 townhouses
· 1-5 Moores Valley Road, Wainuiomata – Mixed use redevelopment at Moore’s Valley Road shops to include apartments
· 94 Cambridge Terrace, Waterloo – Apartment building comprising of 14 units
· 5 Taine Street, Taita – 12 townhouses.