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Hutt City Council’s Annual Plan to tackle homelessness

Hutt City Council last night unanimously approved funding for a plan to support families on the brink of becoming homeless, as part the Council’s 2019/20 Annual Plan budget.

Council committed an average of $533,000 per year over the next three years to support the homelessness action plan, which will be reviewed in its third year.

The focus of the plan is to prevent vulnerable families from becoming homeless and improve access to housing for those who are homeless.

The action plan, developed over the past year in partnership with social service and government agencies and those who have experienced homelessness, is part of Council’s recently established homelessness strategy.

Council research showed Lower Hutt has a growing homelessness and housing hardship problem, with housing need projected to remain high for the next three to five years.

The number of Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants issued to Lower Hutt households for emergency accommodation in hotels and motels has risen steeply in the last three years, and is now around half that of the entire Wellington region, despite having only about 20 per cent of the region’s population.

A survey to measure support for the strategy found around 88 per cent of respondents supported Council’s strategic priorities.

Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace says he is proud Council stepped up to the challenge.

“Councillors now have a very clear understanding of the issues, they’ve read the local research, they’ve heard the public discussion on homelessness and they’ve united to confront a grim community problem.”

“This has been a textbook case of democracy in action, and for me a source of pride in those sitting around the council table,” he says.

Yesterday’s meeting also considered other projects and budgets, all against the backdrop of finding a solution for Naenae Pool as a top priority. New capital expenditure provisions agreed will only be released subject to finding a solution to Naenae Pool.

Council has voted for a rates revenue increase of 1.8 per cent for existing ratepayers, with a further 1 per cent rates revenue increase expected from growth. Individual increases for ratepayers will vary depending on a property’s capital value and whether it is residential or commercial. An average residential property (CV of approximately $476,000), can expect a rates increase in 2019/20 of approximately $1.59 per week.

Council will meet again on 27 June to adopt the plan and set the rates.

Mayor Wallace said there were some difficult discussions and debates, especially given the priority to find a solution for Naenae Pool.

“There was plenty of public participation and robust debate on many different issues which is good and healthy for democracy.

“Every year we walk a fine line between keeping rates increases low, while also investing in the things that will make a difference in the lives of those in our community. This year we’ve had to be even more careful, given the urgent need to find a solution for Naenae Pool,” says Mayor Wallace.

“Given the unknowns we have around Naenae, this is really the first stage towards a solution. We have a long way to go but we’re committed to doing the right thing for the community.”

In late June, preliminary cost estimates and concepts for Naenae Pool will be presented to Council. Options for strengthening the current pool complex, construction of a replacement pool, or construction of a combined pool and community hub complex will be presented. Council will then undertake thorough engagement with the community with a view to putting a preferred option to the community as part of a formal consultation, which will be required to amend Council’s Long Term Plan. A final decision by Council is likely in early 2020.

Other projects of significance in Council’s Annual Plan 2019/20:

- Capital investment for the city of $67 million (including $19 million for roading and accessways, $16 million for three waters, $22 million for leisure and wellbeing, $5 million for city growth and $5 million for solid waste).

- Supporting Naenae while the pool is closed, including $200,000 over two years for Naenae CBD activation and $100,000 over two years for events and activities, and $9 million for Naenae Pool refurbishment brought forward to allow work on options for replacement to begin.

- A commitment to pay Council cleaning contractors the Living Wage

- An extra $70,000 towards improving accessibility in the city, including footpath improvements for those with limited mobility and assistance for those with sight impairments

- A further $850,000 contribution towards four new indoor tennis courts and strengthening of the pavilion at Mitchell Park for Hutt Valley Tennis

- $45,000 to the Southend Business Group for improvements in southern High Street

- $300,000 contribution towards a multi-purpose community room in the sports pavilion at Te Whiti Park

- $250,000 towards the cost of a hard court surface at Bell Park

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