Hutt City Council Opts For Lower Rates Increase And Cuts Costs For Year Ahead
Hutt City Council met today to agree on final decisions for its 2020/2021 Annual Plan, which sets out priorities for the year ahead and includes an emergency one year budget with a rates revenue increase of 3.8 per cent.
The 3.8 per cent rates revenue increase reduces the 7.9 per cent increase which was signalled earlier this year by more than half. A lower increase was progressed in the face of the challenges arising from COVID-19, and the need to exercise restraint to support Lower Hutt through a tough and challenging period.
Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry says the Annual Plan strikes a balance - between continued investment in core infrastructure and services, while at the same time scaling back spending to provide some relief to ratepayers.
"This Annual Plan and emergency budget that is about three things - getting back to basics, tightening our belt, and getting us through uncertain economic times ahead," Campbell Barry says.
"We know this is a tough and challenging time for our community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That has meant we’ve taken the decision to ease the rates burden on people, and tighten our own belt to reflect what many people and businesses have to do themselves."
Mayor Barry says that while the Annual Plan includes significant savings, investment in core infrastructure is very much front and centre of Council’s plans for the next year.
"Two thirds of the rates increase will go directly towards much needed investment in our water infrastructure. We were told at the start of this year our Council needs to double capital investment in this area. I’m pleased we will make a start on tackling this enormous challenge, noting that we will have to pick this up as part of our upcoming Long Term Plan," Campbell Barry says.
Other key initiatives included in the Annual Plan are:
- $1.5 million to progress the rebuild of Naenae Pool
- $200,000 to develop an integrated transport plan for Lower Hutt
- $900,000 for the construction of Te Aroha Matauranga at Te Whiti Park
- $1.25 million for the seismic strengthening of Council facilities
Hutt City Council Chief Executive Jo Miller, says additional operational savings have been a big part of Council being able to adopt a lower rates increase, while also being able to progress key priorities.
"We’ve tightened our belt and made $3 million of operational savings and at the same time developed a comprehensive response plan, redirected funding and staff to support our efforts, and reduced the proposed rates increase by more than 50 per cent," Jo Miller says.
"Thankfully, we’ve managed to do this with very little impact on staff numbers and I am proud of what we’ve achieved to date when you consider the very short timeframes we’ve had to respond to this ever-changing situation."
Hutt City Council will formally adopt the 2020/2021 Annual Plan at a meeting on 30 June. Further information on average rates impacts for individual suburbs will be available on the Hutt City Council website.
Summary of key work to be funded in the 2020/21 Annual Plan
- Three Waters infrastructure $30.65M. Full capital programme for the Three Waters, involving major projects such as:
- Fast tracking of the construction of key renewals for water supply and wastewater pipes which are in poor condition, as well as renewing a number of critical wastewater pumps $4.4M
- Seismic upgrade of the Seaview Wastewater Treatment Plant. $1.2M
- Barber Grove to Seaview Wastewater Treatment Plant - Wellington Water has advised that additional costs will be required to lay a replacement main collecting sewer between the Barber Grove Pumping Station and the Seaview Wastewater Treatment Plant to serve the Hutt Valley. $6.675M 20/21; $10.2M 21/22
- Seaview Wastewater Treatment Plant Storage $1.26M
- Port Road Water Main Renewal $1.7M
- Stormwater Network planning, upgrades and improvements across the Hutt Valley $2.285M and for the Awamutu Stream $1M
- Roading & Accessways $19.7M
Full capital programme for Roading & Accessways involving major projects such as: - Beltway Cycleways programme ($6.675M), a cycling lane to the east of the city extending between Seaview and connecting to the Hutt River Trail at Taita Drive. This is a joint project with NZTA. - Cross Valley Link investigation and design work ($700k). Capital work attracts subsidies of $9.375M
- Days Bay Wharf $700K. Additional construction costs to complete the refurbishment of Days Bay Wharf.
- Te Aroha Matauranga at Te Whiti Park $900k. A long-standing project with Te Atiawa to build a multi-purpose facility adjoining the new toilets and changing rooms at Te Whiti Park.
- Integrated Transport Plan $200K. Reprioritised funding to complete a transport plan for Lower Hutt.
- COVID-19 recovery. Planning is underway on the requirements for this and funding is likely to be met from reprioritising funds from existing budgets.
- Living Wage for staff and contractors. Costs will be met from operational savings and will be implemented progressively.
- Climate change $250k. Funding for the initial community engagement to co-design how we get to zero carbon by 2050 (or earlier) and how the city can respond to climate change impacts. It does not cover any of the cost of adaptation measures. This would come through later following the development of adaptation plans linked to the Long Term Plan.
- Homelessness Strategy $520k. This covers three service delivery contracts and includes legal advice, assistance to find homes and providing immediate support.
- Wainuiomata Sportsville $50k. To progress a feasibility report on sporting facilities.
- Facilities Seismic Strengthening $1.25M. Covers structural engineering and architectural consultancy, plans, drawings, consents and physical construction for the Walter Nash corridor area, Little Theatre internal walls, and high priority areas of the War Memorial Library.
- RiverLink $5.43M. The funding allocated reflects our commitment to partners NZTA and GWRC by continuing with our part of the investment in the next phase of the RiverLink Project. The 2020-2022 phase includes consent applications, design development and progressing procurement contracts. Construction is planned to start in 2022. This phase is central and critical to the success of such a large scale and highly complex capital project.