Archive - Wainuiomata North Statement of Clarification

Original Publication:  7th September 2020

Over the weekend there has been media coverage by Stuff and the Dominion Post about Wainuiomata North. This media coverage has been inaccurate.

Following approaches by Hutt City Council several amendments have been made to the online versions which correct the misinformation in the articles. The Dominion Post has confirmed it is reviewing our complaint.

This statement provides information and links to publically available documents (and others which are being released) to assist readers to more fully understand the issues raised in the articles.

Background

Population growth means that the city must plan for its future housing requirements. Wainuiomata North has been identified as a potential future development area and has been in the public domain for many years and set out in the Urban Growth Strategy.

Wainuiomata North is a rural residential area long identified for urban development (Referenced as the Upper Fitzherbert area in the Urban Growth Strategy 2012 to 2032.)  It is centred on Upper Fitzherbert Road to the north of Wellington Road and Wise Street in Wainuiomata and comprises 130 hectares.

The location is one of the last large-scale greenfield areas with significant potential to grow Lower Hutt’s new housing stock which is a key priority for the Council and the region.

As part of Council’s work to address the growing need for housing in our city, and following extensive consultation at the time, Council developed the 2012 Urban Growth Strategy (UGS). This consultation included a series of workshops (at least 6) with Councillors commencing 20 August 2012 through early 2013. Consultation on the draft UGS and hearings from submitters were conducted in mid-2013. The UGS was finalised late 2013 and launched in early 2014.

The Wainuiomata North Development Framework report was prepared for Council officers in 2018 to help inform this work and to assist officers to consider options around a Structure Plan and potential future Plan Change which could enable further residential development in the Wainuiomata North area at some future time.

The Framework was presented at an informal council briefing in April 2018 and identification of the region’s greenfield development sites were subsequently absorbed into the Wellington Regional Growth Framework (WRGF).

Detailed work on the Wainuiomata North Development Framework ceased at the end of 2018 because:

  1. Other planning initiatives to increase housing supply have been prioritised such as Plan Change 43 which has recently been adopted by Council enabling more intensification in areas of existing infrastructure and amenity
  2. Other Council initiatives have resulted in a higher than expected number of new housing developments which will help address supply issues as they come to completion over the next few years, including a number of large development in Wainuiomata.
  3. The infrastructure requirements to address 3 water infrastructure requirements for further additional housing growth across Lower Hutt will not be available until mid to late 2020.  It is anticipated these costs will be significant and may mean some developments are not feasible.

The WRGF provides an opportunity to progress greenfield development as part of a Wellington region-wide initiative with central government and other key stakeholders. The purpose of the Plan is to provide a long range blueprint that details the investment required over the next 30 years to ensure the future success and improve the quality of life in the Wellington region. A key purpose of the WRIP is to enable the region to collectively have a conversation with central government about the region’s long term growth opportunities and constraints and identify new partnership models to achieve desired outcomes.

Timeline

As early as the 1970's Wainuiomata was identified as greenfield space for housing demand. Some of the documents below make reference to this.

1 August 2017 City Development Committee The Committee was advised that work on implementing the Urban Growth Strategy included Wainuiomata (extension of Wise Street) and Upper Fitzherbert. It was also noted that District Plan work was continuing on the residential intensification changes required to operationalise the Urban Growth Strategy (UGS).

21-23 November 2017 Workshop with Council– A three-day workshop was held with council senior management and staff from teams from the wider council, as well other stakeholders including Wellington Water, MOE, GWRC, and Iwi.  This was a brainstorming session. At the conclusion of the three-day workshop, consultants reported back on their reflections – which outlined possible options, described by the consultants as “blue-sky thinking”. Councillors were invited to a conclusion/wrap-up session at the end of the three-day workshop.

28 November 2017 City Development Committee – A further update (written prior to the three day workshop noted above) was provided to the Committee where officers reported on implementation projects (for the UGS) including the workshop that was held 21 to 23 November. The report highlighted that a consultant team had been selected to prepare a best practice framework for the urban development of Upper Fitzherbert Road Wainuiomata and noted that this work will inform a District Plan change to enable residential development as proposed in the UGS. An extension of Wise Street was noted.

27 February 2018 City Development Committee – The Committee received an update noting the consultant’s draft report had been received and that a workshop was planned to go through the report (workshop 26 April).

26 April 2018 workshop with Council – There was a councillor only workshop regarding the possible future options for urban growth extension of the rural area around Upper Fitzherbert Road Wainuiomata held on 26 April 2018.

For the remainder of 2018 reports were received including one from Wellington Water highlighting the high cost of Three Water infrastructure for CBD intensification and Wainuiomata North.

Other than internal work on communications, no further work was progressed and the project was effectively in abeyance from the end of 2018, and became intertwined with the Wellington Regional Growth Framework (WRGF).

1 July 2019 – Jo Miller starts as Chief Executive

17 September 2019 Wellington Regional Investment Plan – In September 2019 Council received a report on the Wellington Regional Investment Plan in the open part of the meeting. The Plan covers resilience and transport, economic enablers, and visitor attraction alongside housing which is dealt with in the Wellington Regional Growth Framework. The Plan identifies a number of areas of our city which could potentially be targeted for intensification. The report refers on page 245 to Wainuiomata where 1600 potential dwellings could be built between 2029 and 2048.

The WRGF is a region-wide initiative being developed with Iwi and central government where future growth opportunities are being identified. The intention is to put the framework in front of Councils around the region and central government. It’s currently in draft form and it’s expected that public engagement would be undertaken on the WRGF next year when it has been endorsed by all partners.

Following a request for information an email was sent to the new Council in December 2019 noting some previously withheld documents had been published.

Interest declared

28 March 2019 Cr Campbell Barry (as he was then) emailed Council to advise of his house purchase in Upper Fitzherbert. The Council’s Chief Legal Officer provided advice, set out in emails on how to manage the conflict Cr Barry sought advice on regarding the property he had purchased in Wainuiomata North.

It was again noted that the information that Wainuiomata North was a potential future development area was already in the public domain and set out in the Urban Growth Strategy. For this reason there was no further legal risks identified.

Cr Barry declared the interest on the Council’s register and will not participate or vote on matters relating to the development of Wainuiomata North.

Enquiries during the 2019 election campaign

In August 2019 a member of the public made a complaint to the Officer of the Auditor General (OAG) effectively alleging insider dealing. The OAG referred the complaint to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) as it was within their jurisdiction. The SFO stated:

“The SFO has conducted inquiries to determine whether the criteria under the Act was met to open a formal investigation. On the basis of these inquiries and the evidence presented to us, we are satisfied that there is no reason to suspect that you have committed fraud, corruption or bribery in relation to the purchase of the property.

We note that you received advice from the Council’s General Counsel in relation to managing any potential conflicts of interest arising from your purchase and ownership of the property. We agree with the advice provided and consider that you should adhere to it.”

In September 2019 Council received media enquiries about Wainuiomata North and Cr Barry’s interest in discussions on any District Plan changes. Following provision of the information the journalists who had raised the queries did not proceed with covering the story.

The Chief Executive verified with senior staff and Council’s Chief Legal officer that there were no governance/ethics concerns regarding then Cr Barry’s house purchase. There were none.

Media enquires

A media enquiry surfaced last week from Stuff journalist Rob Mitchell. Information was made available to Mr Mitchell including a context statement on the Wellington Regional Growth Framework and material facts relating to Wainuiomata North and the Mayor’s house purchase. This information was not included in the article and has led to confusion. Council sought corrections to the online articles which have substantially been corrected though significant inaccuracies remain. Further conversations are ongoing.

Further information

Strategies

Date Report name Commentary/description
N/A Urban Growth Strategy N/A

Council meetings

Date Report name Commentary/description
1 August 2017 City Development Committee Meeting (extract) Request for EOI from selected providers for the urban development of Upper Fitzherbert Road, Wainuiomata.
28 November 2017 City Development Committee (extract) Officers have selected a consultant team to prepare a best practice framework for urban development of Upper Fitzherbert Road, Wainuiomata.
27 February 2018 City Development Committee (extract) Officers have undertaken a planning exercise to develop a best practice framework for urban development of Upper Fitzherbert Road, Wainuiomata.
17 September 2019 Wellington Regional Investment Plan to Council (extract) Table of foreseeable growth – where and when.

Council workshops

Date Report name Commentary/description
21-23 November 2017 Wainuiomata North Development Framework – Workshop with Council Outlined possible options, described by the consultants as “blue-sky thinking”
26 April 2018 Wainuiomata North Development Framework – Workshop with Council Councillor only workshop on the possible future options for the rural area around Upper Fitzherbert Road, Wainuiomata.

Reports

Date Report name Commentary/description
February 2018 Wainuiomata North Development Framework Prepared for Hutt City Council to inform a future Structure Plan and Plan Change process
23 July 2018 Advice on cost estimates HCC CBD and Wainuiomata North Highlighting the high cost of Three Water infrastructure for CBD intensification and Wainuiomata North.

Emails

Date  Report name Commentary/description
19 September 2019 Jo Miller to Ray Wallace Re: Meeting attendance
25 September 2019 Ray Wallace to Jo Miller Re: Wainuiomata North Development
3 October 2019 Jo Miller to Ray Wallace Re: Meeting attendance
9 October 2019 Ray Wallace to Jo Miller Re: Development discussions
15 October 2019 Gary Craig to Ray Wallace Re: Wainuiomata North Development