We’d thought as councillors that rolling out recycling bins with wind-clip lids, and ensuring every household had affordable access to a rubbish bin to limit recyclables contamination, might be our biggest decision this triennium. But that looks like being eclipsed by looming three waters reform.Continue reading “Time is tight to debate three waters reform”
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.)Continue reading “City plan for the next decade – it’s time for your say”
As locals debate the pluses and minuses of infill houses popping up everywhere in the city, a common refrain is the pressure this puts on our creaking infrastructure. There are grumbles that current ratepayers will have to fork out big money for the upgrades to pipes and roads that all this growth will require.Continue reading “Growth pays for growth – what’s the story with rising development contributions?”
Last Sunday (Nov. 8) marked 500 days since Hutt City Council declared a ‘climate change emergency’. We’ve made progress on a number of fronts but if we want to accelerate action on projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions/boost resilience ahead of sea level rise, etc., the next few months are important.
Councillors are debating priorities for the Long-Term Annual Plan (2021-2031), which goes out for public consultation March-April next year. Any significant future spending needs to be budgeted for. We know Council will have to significantly increase our investment in 3 Waters infrastructure (stormwater, drinking water, sewerage), and there’s a risk that will squeeze out other priorities.
A report released in June this year shows that gross greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) dropped by 11% across Lower Hutt between 2001 and 2019 and there has been a 19% drop in emissions on a per capita basis. But much more effort is needed by our city – and the rest of New Zealand – if we’re to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Leaving it all to latter decades makes the task progressively more difficult.
Lower Hutt contributed 13% of the Wellington region’s total gross emissions. Transport continues to be the biggest source of emissions in our city, comprising almost 56% of total gross emissions. Electricity and gas consumption is the second largest emitter at around 31%.
Take a look below at what’s been achieved so far/is being worked on. Is it enough? What are the gaps? What other climate change initiatives would you like to see Hutt City Council tackle? Please add your suggestions in a comment below, or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Under the new waste and recycling contract just announced, from July next year half the fleet of trucks running kerbside collections will be electric (100% EV by 2024). The move to one contract will mean there will be fewer collection trucks on the road. 957 tonnes of carbon emissions will be avoided each year for the 11 EV trucks that will be on the road in July 2021 equating to the annual emissions of 473 cars or flying 7,500 people from Wellington to Auckland.
- Council’s vehicle fleet has been reduced by eight vehicles, to 72, thanks to pooling, analysis of trip trends, and electric bikes being available for shorter trips.
- Fourteen vehicles (19% of the fleet) are now fully electric and the roll-out of 15 fleet charging stations is complete, catering for future EV growth.
- To encourage more residents to make the switch from petrol and diesel vehicles, as part of Long-Term Plan considerations councillors will consider an option to invest around $300,000 in extending the network of public EV charging stations to locations outside libraries, swimming pools, hubs and at other strategic locations in suburban centres. Revenue from charging fees could be re-invested in further additions to the network, based on demand.
- Under a mandatory directive from government, developers of any new building no longer have to provide off-street parking. We are also required by the government to allow for housing intensification (buildings of six storeys or more) around railway stations.
- Air travel – Council is monitoring use of air travel by staff, with a view to reducing it. In light of the increased use of remote video conferencing such as MS Teams and ZOOM since the emergency of COVID-19, it is possible that future air travel emissions will be significantly lower than in the past.
- Around 50% of the city’s carbon emissions comes from vehicle use. We have huge health problems arising from obesity and lack of physical activity, and costs of petrol, car buying, repair and insurance add to debt spirals. That’s why the Council is investing heavily in safer cycleways to encourage our residents to leave the car behind whenever they can.
- The Wainuiomata Hill Shared Path cost $12.3m, with HCC paying $5.2m and the rest covered by Waka Kotahi/NZTA. It’s getting a lot of use.
- We have a similar cost sharing arrangement with Waka Kotahi for the $7 million ‘Beltway’ central and northern sections. The Beltway is an off-road 2.5m wide shared path now taking shape along rail corridor land between Waterloo Interchange and Wingate. A southern section from Waterloo to link with the Wainuiomata Hill Path is still at design stage.
- With 90% funding from the government, we’re also running a trial of cycle/micromobility lanes on either side of Knights Rd from the interchange to Bunny St. This is due to open in the first quarter of 2021. Other cycleways to link the Beltway with schools, the hospital and the river trails are in planning stages.
- We intend more than doubling spending on footpath upgrades, and smoothing gutter crossings at street corners to make it easier not just for those using wheelchairs, scooters, mobility scooters and prams, but also for our elderly pedestrians.
- In August this year, the government announced it would inject $15 million of ‘shovel ready’ project funding into our $28.7m Eastern Bays Shared Path. Long in the planning but delayed because of the growing cost, the 4.4 km path will run along Marine Drive in two sections: between Point Howard and the northern end of Days Bay, and the southern end of Days Bay (Windy Point) to Eastbourne (Muritai Road/Marine Parade intersection). The design will include seawall improvements designed to push back waves during storm events. Work is expected to start early in 2021 and continue through until 2026.
- Council is supporting a new ‘Free Rides’ bike scheme in Naenae. Read more, here.
- An Energy and Carbon Reduction Plan 2020-24 now in place. The aim is a a 30% reduction in carbon emissions at Council’s facilities (gas and electricity used in libraries, halls, pools, hubs, etc) by 2024.
- Officers are finalising business cases for switching Eastbourne, Huia and Stokes Valley Pools from gas to electric heat pump technology. If we can avoid needing to replace or upgrade the existing gas meter at Huia pool, and install a heat pump, operational cost savings could be in the order of $38,000 per year, with cuts to emissions of about 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.
- We installed an after-hours cover over the main outdoor pool at Petone’s McKenzie Baths at the start of the 2019/20 summer. Estimates of savings of 233,100 kWh ($16,600) and 51 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (reducing that pool’s carbon emissions by about 60%) are on track.
- Work is also under way regarding the business case for a pool cover at Wainuiomata pool, potentially saving up to 60tonnesCO2e per season.
- For the new Naenae Pool + Fitness Centre we’re investigating low carbon heating options and the use of the NZ Green Building Council’s GreenStar building rating tool.
- Council has included in the Statement of Intent for its property company, Urban Plus, that all new housing units it builds from July 1 this year have a Homestar (insulation, etc) design rating of at least six stars.
- Council owns Silverstream landfill, where some of the methane (a potent greenhouse gas) from rotting organic matter is captured for use in a gas to electricity-generation plant.
- Unfortunately, the landfill’s 2020 calendar year emissions will likely be significantly higher than previous years, possibly up to 30,000 tCO2e. This is because of disruption to plant operations in the first half of 2020, in turn caused by disruptions associated with the change of ownership of the power plant from Pioneer Energy to LMS Energy, and LMS Energy’s inability to enter NZ as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
- To better cater for any such future disruptions, and to capture a great level of the methane that escapes the collection system for the gas to electricity plant, a flare is to be installed at the landfill – hopefully before the end of 2020 – to burn off excess methane. This would help Council avoid future ETS liabilities, and a side benefit is improved odour control at the landfill, with cost savings.
- On a region wide basis, investigations continue on the optimum way to collect/compost organic waste and green waste from households. Any initiative is more likely to be cost-efficient if it’s done on a regional scale, though community composting trials are also taking place in Wellington.
- In collaboration with other councils, Hutt City has a waste minimisation portal at www.sortwaste.nz, which aims to bring together resources to enable residents to make more informed decisions, including ways of minimising organic waste going to landfill.
- A Zero Carbon Plan for Lower Hutt is being worked on, in a ‘co-design’ process with the community.
- As part of the Council website update, new pages are to be added on climate change, including actions that Hutt households can take to reduce their own environmental footprint.
- With every project and paper put in front of councillors for decisions, an assessment of climate change impacts must be provided (just the same as assessments on any financial or consultation requirements).
- Climate change issues are likely to be front and centre as we get underway with a total review of the District Plan over the next 2-3 years. One of the debates is likely to be on whether we should continue to allow development of areas prone to sea level rise, and impacts of more frequent storm/flooding events. There will be ample opportunity for public input.
- Our new Energy Advisor, co-funded by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, initially for a two year pilot period, has already identified immediate cost savings. By adjusting energy tariffs payable at various facilities, Council will avoid $50,000 in annual costs. As well, some unnecessary power connections have been shut down, avoiding a further $12,000 in annual costs.
- We’re exploring carbon forestry opportunities for our reserve land. Our application to formally register the first batch of land in native recovering forest in the East Harbour Regional Park was successful. Work is now under way to assess the formal eligibility, and register other forest land owned by Council. GWRC is pursuing a plan to re-forest parts of the Belmont Regional Park currently leased for livestock grazing.
- A Councillor climate change working group has been formed to sprear-head future initiatives and keep the topic in front of the council as a whole. Terms of reference – here.
This is one of the most difficult decisions of the triennium, with many competing factors.
We should be guided by the core issues – protecting our environment, offering our residents the most cost-effective rubbish and recycling services we can, reducing waste and preserving the lifespan or our landfill, which when it eventually is filled will cost many, many millions of dollars to replace.
Using the economies of scale of a city-wide contract, a rates-funded weekly or fortnightly collection can cut rubbish collection costs for our residents by up to half of what they currently pay. The other big dividend is that it ensures all of our residents, including Kainga Ora tenants and our less well-off families, have access to an affordable rubbish service. Logic says when they have an appropriately sized wheelie bin for their rubbish, there will be far less tendency for our recycling collection to be contaminated.Continue reading “My words at 15 Sept meeting on the future of rubbish and recycling:”
The proposed changes to our recycling are surely a no-brainer. But whether Hutt City Council should expand its role in rubbish collection, or just leave it to the market, is far less clear cut.
The two kerbside collection systems are connected. A key issue for me is the risk of contamination of the new recycling wheelie bins by people putting rubbish in with their plastic, paper/cardboard and tins. If there is more than 10% of non-recyclables picked up on a collection round, the whole truck-load goes to the tip. We thus fill up expensive landfill space and defeat the environmental gains.
There’s been plenty of publicity now on Hutt City Council’s decision to cut the proposed 7.9% rate increase for the year beginning July 1 to 3.8%. There’s too much business and household hurt as we recover from COVID-19 for the higher figure, and to go to zero just puts off dealing with a growing deficit and digs a bigger financial hole.
The 3.8% compromise has been described as an emergency/holding budget while we – as a community – debate in depth the spending priorities for the Long-Term Plan review in 2021.Continue reading “What difference does a differential make?”
In a pandemic aftermath, when thousands of businesses and households are trying to get back on their feet, what the hell is Hutt City Council doing putting up rates by 3.8%?!
Well, the reasons follow. If you get to the end of this opinion piece, and you still think the rates increase should be lower, even zero, I have a request for you.
For starters, right up until the headlines started appearing that the scourge of COVID-19 was rapidly spreading beyond Wuhan, the Hutt’s proposed rates increase was 7.9%. If financial prudence was the only consideration, it probably still should be.
The 3 waters (drinking water, wastewater, stormwater) are one of the big drivers. Mid last year Wellington Waters’ messages about the need for us to invest more in pipe infrastructure, reservoirs, etc., got very pointed.
In 2020 we’re fast reaching the increased population (110,000) we weren’t forecast to hit until 2030. Consents for new homes continue to track upwards and with Riverlink we want a whole lot of inner-city apartments to bring life to the CBD. But our stormwater systems in the central city and other neighbourhoods are at capacity.
Two thirds of our piped water and wastewater infrastructure needs replacing over the next 30 years. We don’t want a situation like Wellington’s raw sewage in Willis St. Over the next 10 years we need to double capital spending on 3 waters infrastructure (an extra $240 million – for example, this year $1.2m for a seismic upgrade of Seaview sewage treatment plant). And we need to boost 3 waters operational (day to day running cost) spending by $30 million over the same period.
A 3.8% hike in HCC’s total rates take in the financial year starting July 1 translates as an extra $122 per year on the average value home ($627,000). The lion’s share of that increase is an extra $41.50 on every ratepayer’s fixed charge for wastewater, and $42 on the fixed charge for water supply.
Among the extra annual operating costs are $200,000 to boost the work by teams fixing the water leaks that seem to have popped up everywhere since the Kaikoura earthquake; $250,000 to start to get to grips with stormwater infiltrating and overwhelming our sewerage system when it rains hard; $200,000 for critical assessment of 3 Waters assets and $410,000 extra for bulk water because Hutt residents are continuing to use more water than other cities in the region.
Okay, so what about the other $38.50 extra the council has its hand in the pocket of the average ratepayer for?
Some of the extra costs coming at us include: higher insurance ($600,000), higher depreciation ($3.3m), a start on the government-mandated District Plan Review ($1.2m), $500,000 each for HV Gymsport and HV Tennis (cut back from $1.3m and $2m respectively), Homelessness Strategy $500,000, climate change engagement $200,000, a start on dealing with inefficient IT systems $2.1m, assistance for landowners with significant biodiversity $200,000….
Yes, yes but these are unprecedented times. People say ‘Cut your cloth to fit ratepayers’ circumstances’.
We have made cuts/targeted savings. As well as accepting our CE’s target of finding $1m in operational savings, we will:
- Remove our contribution to Regional Amenities Fund – $200,000
- Reduce Council accommodation costs by consolidating into Laings Rd building – $263,000
- Reduce operating budgets by $100,000 each out of pools, libraries and parks – $300,000
- Cancel staff pay increases – $1.2 million
- Reduce the International Co-operating Cities funding – $45,000
- Cut the suburban shopping centres fund by – $50,000
- Savings in unallocated community funding – $100,000
- Reduce minor road works budget – $200,000
- Reduce museums funding – $50,000
- Reduce biodiversity funding assistance for landowners – $65,000
Our revenue has also taken a $900,000+ hit during the COVID-19 lockdown. Every month we suspend parking fees we lose around $350,000. We’ve lost swimming pool entry charges. Ratepayers have asked for extended terms to pay bills. We put $100,000 into a Community Resilience Fund and more than $20,000 from the 10% pay cut volunteered by our chief executive has gone to Foodbanks.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there.
For many years now Hutt City Council has taken pride in the fact that while other councils in the region have levied rates hikes often double or more than ours, we’ve held increases to the local government cost index (LGCI, or if you like the local government inflation rate). The Productivity Commission highlighted this in its report on local authority financing (see the table below).
All well and good. But simple logic says you can’t keep increasing services (Fraser Park Sportsville, upgraded Walter Nash stadium, new community hub in Stokes Valley, homelessness initiatives, Living Wage, etc) with no increases in budget beyond inflation.
The upshot is that the council is now running operational deficits. Halving that deficit was the main reason for the originally proposed 7.9% rates increase. With that, and an extra 2% on rates for the following two years, we’d eliminate the deficit and achieve a balanced budget. But recognising these are extraordinary times for many households and businesses, we’ve proposed the 3.8% increase in an emergency budget until we can do line by line scrutiny of every item of council expenditure to see if we’re still getting bang for buck, and whether indeed the way we’re delivering that service is best way, or is even still worthwhile given new priorities.
The city has a very long and expensive list of projects we’ll need to borrow for – a new Naenae Pool, Riverlink, the Eastern Bays shared pathway, restoring Petone Wharf, the Cross Valley Link and all the 3 Waters renewals to name a few. By borrowing we spread the costs of these long-life assets across several generations, as is proper, but we can’t prudently borrow without adequate and balanced operating revenue to service the debt and budget for depreciation.
A majority of councillors think a 3.8% rates increase is the responsible course when anything less means we just dig ourselves a bigger financial hole in years to come.
A big thank-you for sticking with all of that to get to here in the blog.
And so to the request I mentioned right at the start. If you think a 3.8% rates jump this year is too much, even with the policy we’ve expanded to allow residents and businesses facing an income shock to defer their rates bills (click here for information), you can help us out by giving us feedback on where else you think we should look for savings.
Check out the table below, and have a look at the Annual Plan consultation documents (here) and when you email or phone in your comments, tell us what else we could trim.
To get to a zero rates increase, we’d need to find another $4 million or so in savings in addition to the cuts/reductions already detailed above.
If you have any questions, brickbats or other feedback – my email is email@example.com, phone 027 484 8892.
Hutt City Council
The Hutt, my home
I was proud to be editor of The Hutt News for nearly 27 years, and to help give voice to scores of community groups and thousands of residents. I know what makes this city tick.
In my first term on council, representing the Central Ward, I’ve worked hard to thoroughly understand the issues and keep residents informed and involved. I’ve been the only councillor to serve on all four main standing committees and I’m one of only a handful with Resource Management Act qualifications. I helped formulate the city’s Local Alcohol Plan to limit health harm and social issues from too many liquor outlets and I’ve stood up for heritage, the environment, expanding housing options and the Living Wage.
I put out a regular E-Newsletter to interested local residents to let them know what’s being debated during each current round of meetings, so that they can have their say and indicate to me their preferences and priorities as I vote.
I’m 56, and Lee-Anne and I have been married for 35 years. We’ve raised three kids and our favourite weekend activity is to get out in the Hutt ’s parks and trails to walk our dogs Lily and Albus.
We love the Hutt and want the very best for its families.
Asking the hard questions
I’ll continue to ask the hard questions around the city council table…
I covered local authority meetings as a journalist for more than 30 years and now I’ve served my apprenticeship as a first-termer on council.
I’m not aligned to any political group, and I believe strongly in independent thinking based on the merits of an argument, not bloc voting.
I’d be honoured if you made me one of your picks for the six councillors to be elected ‘at large’ across the city.
If elected I’ll continue the approach I’ve taken as Hutt News editor and first term councillor:
- I will listen to and encourage people from all walks to life to have their say. I’ll continue to use social media and regular emailed newsletters to anyone who wants them so that locals know what council is up to, and can get real input on key decisions.
- I will ask questions to get to the heart of issues. Hutt City Council spends other people’s hard-earned money. Every item of expenditure has to be closely scrutinised for delivering value.
- I will strive for fairness for all parts of our city and for practical solutions.
These are my priorities –
- A new Naenae pool. Building a new pool is better long term value than trying to refurbish the old one, and construction periods are similar for either option. We need to get on with it. On the Naenae hub, I want to hear from people whether we co-locate it with the pool or find a better way to integrate it with Hillary Court and the original/heritage Plischke outdoor mall.
- We have a rates rise and debt limit strategy that should be adhered to. The Naenae pool shock may require temporary breaches (the costs of a building that will serve us 75-plus years should be spread across more than just the current generation), but we need to get back on track with financial and spending discipline as soon as possible.
- I believe climate change is a real threat, and that we should be doing our bit with the global community to limit greenhouse gases. Council can show leadership by switching council building heating from gas to electricity; creating safe cycleways and bike parking to encourage school children and commuters to reduce car trips; composting green waste and working with the regional council to have a much better central city bus hub than exists in Bunny St.
- We need lidded wheelie bins for recycling, to stop wind-blown littering. Re-negotiation of council’s rubbish & recycling contract will allow this. There are also options for future refuse collection that could be lower cost than currently.
- The Riverlink floodway, promenade and Melling rail improvements project will transform the central city. We must maintain relentless pressure on the government to commit to a new Melling bridge/interchange and save tax/ratepayers money by doing joint resource consents. By creating the right environment, developers will build the inner city apartments that will bring new life to central Lower Hutt, with more cafes, restaurants and boutique shops – just as we’ve seen in Wellington and Petone.
- We need more investment in smoother, even and pothole-free footpaths. They’re an over-looked piece of infrastructure but they’re vital, especially for the young, the old, those with disabilities, mobility scooters and other micro-transport options. Falls from tripping on cracked pavements can have a devastating impact on an older person’s health and mobility
A bit more about me:
- Trustee Hutt Hospital Foundation Trust
- Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to journalism
- Rotary Club of Hutt Valley member
- Enthusiastic (but pretty slow) Saturday morning Park Run participant
- Cycling and rail commuter
- Belmont resident since 1988
What others say about Simon Edwards
During my time as chair of the Eastbourne Community Board I have seen Simon in action. As a councillor he has been a strong advocate for the city to face up to the challenging environmental and social issues ahead of us. He cares about individuals, their neighbourhoods and the city. At Council meetings Simon has read and considered the vast reams of council papers and his vote is based on understanding and principle. Hutt City would be lucky to have Simon on our Council.
- Virginia Horrocks, Eastbourne Community Board
I have enjoyed working alongside Simon for the betterment of Lower Hutt. He brings a wealth of knowledge, integrity, an eye for detail and has the city’s best interests at heart. He is always listening to the community and trying to find the best solutions. Simon will continue to serve us all well as a City Wide Councillor, he has my full support.
- Josh Briggs, City Councillor
In his role as editor of the widely read and very community focused (Hutt News), Simon has been a significant and very vital part of this city. He had led us in times of despair and lifted us in celebration. He has been a great supporter of the rejuvenation of the city.
- Mayor Ray Wallace
If you have feedback, or need help with a Council issue, I’d love to hear from you:
Phone 027 484 8892
Facebook: search Cr Simon Edwards
Naenae pool – build new or refurbish?
What to do about Naenae pool and the proposed community hub, and how fast we can get it done, will be a key talking point in the upcoming elections, and no doubt for most of the next triennium. There are tough calls ahead for the incoming council, which is expected to make a decision in November.
Meantime, widespread consultation will happen from July-September on the options, and costs (high level estimates only, at this stage):
- New integrated pool and community hub ($66M)
- Refurbish existing pool and separate new community hub ($39M)
- New pool and separate new community hub ($61M)
- New Pool only ($52M)
- Refurbished Pool only ($30M)
- Do nothing.