This follows consultation on the proposed Annual Plan, on which 1236 written submissions were received, and 87 submissions presented to Council in person.
Almost 71 per cent of respondents agreed with Council continuing to invest in rejuvenation and infrastructure projects, as outlined in the Long Term Plan.
Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace says this support for continuing the programme of rejuvenation is confirmation that Council is on the right track. “It is vital our community agree with the direction we are taking. We’ve enjoyed a tremendous last few years with developments underway that will stimulate long-term economic and social growth in our city, and this work is set to continue. To ensure we continue this momentum Council has also adopted a new financial strategy that strikes a balance between economic growth and affordability”.
The change to the financial strategy means Council can now borrow up to 150 per cent of its annual income. The amount of debt as a percentage of income Council can commit to in the subsequent years of each Annual Plan will gradually reduce to 90 per cent after 13 years. The adopted plan sees Council’s net debt peaking well below these limits, at 121 per cent of revenue. This change allows Council to borrow more should the need arise following a significant natural disaster.
Council has committed an additional $39 million to the RiverLink project over the next fifteen years. RiverLink is a joint venture between Greater Wellington Regional Council, New Zealand Transport Agency and Hutt City Council to deliver better flood protection, lifestyle and transport links for the people of Lower Hutt. Council’s part of the project includes the development of a riverside promenade on the Hutt River to enable better connection between the CBD and Hutt River. This will also include a new pedestrian and cycle bridge linking Melling Station to the CBD.
Mayor Wallace adds; “The Hutt River is one of our most treasured assets, and this joint initiative is a once in a lifetime opportunity to significantly reduce the impact of flooding on the CBD and areas further south. We see this project as a catalyst to allow the CBD to grow with increased development of commercial and residential space in the city centre”.
Other projects of significance which Council has committed to include:
- The city's wharves: refurbishing Petone Wharf and shortening the outer head of the 390 metre structure by approximately 50 meters, fully refurbishing the Rona Bay and Days Bay wharves and removing Point Howard Wharf.
Council initially allocated $9 million in the budget for this work, but the accepted options at $7.3 million come in approximately 20 per cent under the initial budget. This work will commence this year and is expected to conclude in 2020.
- Funding was committed to the development of two new community hubs, following on from the model adopted at The Walter Nash Centre in Taita, and the Koraunui Stokes Valley Community Hub that will open later in 2017.
Community hubs are proposed for Naenae (an additional $4 million on top of the $4 million already allocated), and Wainuiomata ($7 million). Council has signalled it will consider the timing of these projects, with the intention of bringing the construction of both projects forward.
- Council committed to extend development incentives and remission policies to now include rates remissions for redevelopments of the Wainuiomata Mall and Naenae Shopping Centre.
- Additional funding was approved for infrastructure work at Petone Library ($1.5 million in 2021/22), Naenae Pool ($2 million in 2021/22), the Dowse Art Museum ($650,000 in 2018/19) and the Hutt Recreation Ground ($700,000 from 2023-2027).
- An additional $3.7 million has been added to the Lower Hutt Events Centre budget in the 2017/18 year.
- Council debated Sportsville projects for Wainuiomata and Petone at yesterday’s meeting. Sportsville projects are a partnership initiative to bring multiple sports clubs into one location, to reduce operating costs and share resource between clubs.
Budgets of $300,000 have been approved for the 2017/18 year to allow further progression of design and business case analysis for each site. Almost $4.5 million had been budgeted for Wainuiomata for work from 2018-2020 and $7.1 million for Petone from 2023-2025.
Hutt City Council’s average rates increase for the 2017/18 year has been confirmed at 2.3 per cent, as proposed in the Draft Annual Plan. Residential rates increases will be higher, due to the sharp increase in residential property values across the city, which on average has increased by 24 per cent. In contrast business rates will, on average reduce slightly.
To partially offset this, Council has adopted a plan to put a one-year hold on the current rates differential transition between business and residential rates. This change sees residential rates increase city-wide by an average of 4.3 per cent, rather than the 5.1 per cent forecast in the Draft Annual Plan.
Council will meet on 29 June to formally adopt the Annual Plan and set the rates for the 2017/18 year.