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Call for Free Pool Entry for Under 5’s in Lower Hutt

PRESS RELEASE FRIDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2017

Hutt City Councillor Campbell Barry is calling on the Council to introduce free entry for Under 5’s to all of Lower Hutt’s six swimming pools.

“Seven out of ten kids in New Zealand can’t swim, and Lower Hutt, like most of New Zealand, is surrounded by rivers and beaches. We should be leading the way in getting our kids in the water as young as possible” says Councillor Barry.

“The Council currently offers a fantastic learn to swim programme for kids but the reality is a lot of families in our City can’t afford the cost. Making our pools more accessible for parents with young children can only be a positive when it comes to water confidence and their well-being.”

A motivation for Councillor Barry introducing the policy was witnessing a teenager nearly drown at Petone Beach last summer because he didn’t know how to swim properly. “It was a very scary thing to witness, he was just lucky that people were around to save him”.

“I truly believe that making our pools more accessible for kids in their early years will be a life saver for some”

“Of course it won’t teach every child how to swim, but it’s a start and something affordable that we can do to get the ball rolling and more kids in the water”

The estimated cost of introducing free pool entry for under 5’s is $130,000 per year.

Council currently charges $3.50 for everyone who is 15 years or under. Parents supervising children under 8 can enter the pool for free.

Councillor Barry says the policy would be cost neutral on Ratepayers by re-prioritizing a small amount of Council spending in the CBD or by making minor changes to the Pools current fee structure.

Councillor Barry will be presenting his policy proposal to Council in November, with the aim of having it be part of next year’s Long Term Plan consultation.

PRESS RELEASE THURSDAY 2 MARCH 2017

Campaign promises already broken on Living Wage

Last night the Finance and Performance Committee of Council considered a report on the Living Wage. This looked at introducing a Living Wage for directly employed Council Staff and investigating further options around people employed via contract.

The debate was conducted in public excluded to protect legally privileged legal opinions that had been provided to the Hutt City Council.

After receiving this information, Mayor Wallace moved a recommendation which was an attempt to be pragmatic, but showed an unwillingness to take any leadership on the issue.

It was moved that Council direct the CEO to look at introducing a Living Wage for employees currently below it, after taking into account the legal aspects of ‘cost effectiveness’ in the Local Government Act.

The CEO advised that this option would likely see only a handful, if any, employees (out of 232) lifted to a Living Wage.

Councillor Campbell Barry argued that the recommendation was an attempt to pass the buck “This motion shows an unwillingness to take leadership, and is essentially saying, no we won’t pay a fair wage to our lowest paid employees, and we will make the CEO deliver the bad news.”

A motion was also tabled by Cr Briggs and Barry to ‘support the living wage in principle’, this however was voted down by the Mayor and other Councillors, some, who were already breaking their campaign promises on a Living Wage.

“As a Council, and leaders in our City, we need to be courageous with our actions. We must not shy away because we are scared of being challenged.

There is significant evidence across the board that shows benefits in paying our lowest paid workers a fair wage for a fair day’s work, and it shows we value them for the work they do.

There are legal opinions on both sides of this debate, whether a living wage could be successfully challenged or not, shouldn’t drive our decision. Lifting the wages of our lowest paid workers should be a fight we are ready to take on because it is the right thing to do.” says Councillor Barry.

The recommendations passed are still required to be debated and finalised by Full Council on 14th March.

Information:

  • The living wage for directly employed Council employees would cost $570,000 per annum which would be 0.33% of Council’s total expenditure.
  • Council will be releasing shortly the recommendations passed and how Councillors voted.
  • A redacted version of the minutes and debate is available via an Offical Information Act request.

Contact: Campbell Barry, 027 216 0364

Council contracts Chamber for $200k a year – Good investment or corporate welfare?

Currently the Hutt City Council contracts the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce at a cost of $200k. Is this a good spend of rate payers money?

While I have no doubt the Chamber plays an important role in our City, I have some concerns about the value we as a Council are gaining when we contract the HVCC at a cost of $200,000 a year.

Of course, a contract outlining what must be delivered for this money exists, however the outcomes reported back are difficult to measure and appear to be a regurgitation of what the Chamber does on a normal day to day basis. The only outcomes that appear to be measurable are events the Chamber has held, business boot camps they run, submissions they have made on different issues, and the provision of information from the business sector to Council.

To put it simply, we seem to get a few workshops and events, occasional submissions, updates on what the business community is saying, and a whole heap of fluffy stuff. By ‘fluffy stuff’ I mean things that sound good, but are not really measurable. It feels like much of our $200,000 just acts as a subsidy for the day to day operation of the Chamber.

Another issue I have with the current arrangement is that no focus whatsoever is given to our suburban areas. While we watch communities like Naenae, Stokes Valley and Wainuiomata lose business after business the Chamber is nowhere to be seen.

One example is the proposed Wainuiomata Shopping Centre redevelopment. News broke around 18 months ago that the owners will spend significant money on an upgrade if they can lock in a certain amount of leases.

For the $200k we give each year, you would think that the Chamber would get hands on to help the Shopping Centre secure the leases (or something else to help) right? Wrong.

When they are being contracted to help grow the City’s economy/business sector as a whole, of course there should be a focus on our CBD and industrial areas, but at the same time they should not be ignoring our suburban centres.

The Chamber isn’t all to blame for the current situation – a contract is a two way street, and we as a Council should be giving more direction and demanding more tangible outcomes.

When I was first elected to Council a colleague gave me some very good advice:

“Treat rate payers money as if it were your own.”

Putting this to the test, there is absolutely no way I would be paying the current amount to the Chamber for what we are getting in return.

I’ve reviewed the last 3 reports Council has received (6 monthly reports) from the Chamber and they are clearly cut and paste jobs with minor details being changed or the odd thing being added or removed.

Would you be happy with that if you were contracting someone for 200k a year?

Given our budget is so tight this year maybe we should consider reducing the $200k or scrapping it all together?

You be the judge: 

March 2016 report – Page 11

http://infocouncil.huttcity.govt.nz/Open/2016/02/CDC_23022016_AGN_AT.htm 

September 2015 Report – Page 67

http://infocouncil.huttcity.govt.nz/Open/2015/09/CDC_22092015_AGN_AT.htm

March 2015 report – Page 46

http://infocouncil.huttcity.govt.nz/Open/2015/03/CDC_10032015_AGN_AT.htm

Interested in your thoughts…

Views are my own and do not reflect the view of the Hutt City Council.

Council budget needs more transparency

Transparency in business, is the availability of all information, without hidden agendas, to make good and sound decisions.

This is a fundamental principle when spending money from the public’s pocket.

While I’m confident our Council adheres to this principle, in my past two years as a Councillor there have been times where it’s been called into question.

Most in Lower Hutt will be aware that over the past 3 years the Council has undertaken a bold strategy to revitalise our City through a number of capital projects. Something that I support for the most part.

Unfortunately, what people don’t always see is the tactics employed to get some of these projects over the line. Budget ‘reworkings’, off-loading of extra costs (taking from Peter to pay Paul) and a lack of clarity around the total cost of projects are just a few of the tactics that I have witnessed.

The worst case of these tactics being employed is the work associated with the Council’s Administration building, Riddiford Gardens and ANZAC Lawn projects.

Let me explain; in early 2013 a budget of $22m was set for work on upgrading and earthquake strengthening the Council’s Administration building on Laings Road.

When it was realised that this budget did not include all associated costs, instead of coming back to Council and requesting further funding (what should happen), $1-1.5m of costs associated with the ‘building frontage’ was put into the Riddiford Gardens budget without any additional funding being allocated. The ANZAC Lawn project ($1m) was also thrown into this budget even though none of this work was considered to be part of the Riddiford Gardens project.

The result: An impression that the Administration Building will be completed within budget was created. The budget of $5m for the gardens will be blown with little of the actual work planned being completed. Council will now be asked to approve an unbudgeted $3m to make up the shortfall.

Interestingly, I’ve figured out that the only way I can get a genuine grasp on how much ratepayer money has/is being spent on projects in our civic centre is by adding all of the actual spend together, as well as the cost of what is needed to complete the projects. That figure comes to $60m.

That’s $1,600 per dwelling in Lower Hutt being spent in a 300m radius over a 3-4 year period. When you crunch the numbers you start to understand maybe why things aren’t as transparent as they should be.

Here are some more examples of budget reworking and the off-loading of extra costs associated with capital projects:

The redevelopment of The Sir Walter Nash Stadium (something I wholeheartedly support) came in at a cost of $12m. At the time of completion it was cause for celebration that the project was completed within budget – technically it was, but only after $350k in cost associated with the project was offloaded onto the Parks and Gardens department of Council (additional budget was approved for Parks and Gardens on this occasion).

Similarly, the Regional Bowls Centre in Naenae. During public consultation, the public were told the project cost to rate payers would be $4m. However, after consultation it was revealed that an additional $450k of project associated costs would again be lumbered with the Parks and Gardens department of Council.

The Avalon Park project is another example – $150k was taken from a playground maintenance budget to help cover extra costs associated with that project. This practice means much needed maintenance and/or projects in other parts of the City are delayed or forgotten about.

Case by case this may not seem big in the context of multi-million dollar projects, however the bill starts to add up when this happens regularly.

What really gets me is that this money comes from the same source – rate payers! So the only thing achieved is a lack of transparency around information, a misled public when it comes to the real cost of projects, and more cost eventually having to be stumped up by rate payers.

The other major concern I have is the Council’s habit of only approving say 50% (for example) of a project knowing that more money will be needed to start or complete that particular project.

Some argue that this simply shows intent for a project without fully committing to it. However in practice, from what I’ve seen, the Council becomes committed every time. The only time this can make sense is when a project is clearly staged and the first stage doesn’t necessarily rely on any of the future stages to be funded.

The key reason why I think this happens is so that the Council’s overall budget remains within the bounds of its financial strategy. If all projects were budgeted for properly, then the debt target of $120m (that we have set) would be breached or rates would have to be increased above the level of inflation – both which are in breach of the strategy.

The problem with this approach is that you are operating on a false economy. Sooner or later it will catch up with you and you’ll eventually have to cut other projects that the community has been waiting a long time for or you will have to cut services that people rely on.

My solutions to these problems are very simple.

  • When a project is consulted on and considered, every single dollar which is coming from the ratepayer (doesn’t matter what budget or department) should be clearly outlined in the total cost.
  • If significant money from an existing budget is going to be used towards a capital project, then it should always go to Council for a decision so the public can understand the ramifications and have their say.
  • If you approve a project, then budget for the full cost of that project from the start – Always. If you don’t want to fully commit to the project, then have conditions tied to the budgeted amount. Simple.
  • Change the Council’s financial strategy so officers aren’t forced to get creative with the City’s budget in order to comply.
  • When setting budgets and reporting on costs be as transparent as possible. This will help Councillors make the best possible decision for the benefit of our City.

I’ll leave you with one question to ponder.

If, 4 years ago, you were consulted on a, let’s call it, ‘Civic Centre project’, which included the Administration Building, Town and Horticultural Halls, Riddiford Gardens and ANZAC Lawn, and were told it would cost you $50-60m total – Would you have seen this as a good spend of rate payer money and a priority for our City?

No matter what your answer is – Understanding the total cost (and benefit gained) would have led to a more informed public, and ultimately a better and more sound decision by the Council either way.

Always keen to hear your thoughts?

The Mall is not a Wainuiomata problem; it’s a Mall problem

The state of the Wainuiomata Mall is not a Wainuiomata problem; it’s a Mall problem that has existed for 10 years plus.

In fact Wainuiomata has a number of exciting developments and initiatives, which are either on going or soon to be started. We have over 100 homes planned for the Parkway Extension (both sides of the road), which will be built over the next few years. We are on the brink of securing a $20-30m retirement village at Hugh Sinclair Park. $9m is being invested into a 4m wide protected shared walk/cycle path over the Wainuiomata Hill, which will be completed over the next 2 financial years.

House prices continue to be some of the most affordable in the region, and sale statistics show that we are attracting more families and young professionals than ever before. Sportsville is gaining momentum, and we have a fantastic gym that is going from strength to strength. We are the gateway to the outdoors with our mountain bike tracks, bush walks, campsites, golf course, coastline and stunning views.

Of course we have our challenges, but in no way does the Mall’s problems characterize or reflect on Wainuiomata generally.

There is no question that we all agree that something needs to happen with the Mall, but there is no point in continuing with the thought that ‘it use to be great’ or simply pointing the finger at Mall Management.

Instead, lets focus on things that we can control. Lets work with building owners and people in the private sector who can and want to make our town centre a more vibrant place NOW.

In December last year I was reflecting on what my priorities would be for 2016, and near the top of my list I put down working with who I can to transform our town centre, knowing that eventually the Mall would do something once they see everything else happen around them.

Here’s some of my thoughts and a few examples of what I will be focusing on this year:

  • I want to see office space developed above our Queen Street shops and target small businesses, start ups, call centres etc to move in with the attraction of some of the lowest rent costs in the region. This would not only help existing businesses, but it would also attract cafes, coffee as well as provide local jobs for local people.
  • As a part of our Development Plan, I want to see Queen Street and the Strand turned into attractive shared spaces for cars, cyclists, walkers and relaxers. Free Wifi should be on offer across the whole area and the entrance of Queen Street must be opened up so visitors passing by know it’s there.
  • With the Hutt River being widened over the next 5 years, we need to be knocking on every single manufacturing business on Pharazyn Street and telling them about the space available down Waiu Street. The more people working in the Valley the better for our town centre.

If we can get cracking on all of this, alongside all the good things happening already, then I’m confident the Mall will pull its socks up and come with us. But if it doesn’t, so be it… We will still be creating a more vibrant town centre, and stronger Wainuiomata.

Of course I can’t do all this by myself! – I’m keen to hear your thoughts/ideas and get in touch if you would like to help.

Congratulations to Tama for winning Harcourts Wainuiomata Welcome to Wainuiomata sign competition

“Welcome to Wainuiomata” Sign Competition

I would like to say a special thank you to Harcourts Wainuiomata for there work on this. Also a special thanks to everyone who submitted designs and voted. Tama and I will now work with Council to make the winning design happen. We are hoping for it to be all completed by April 2016.

Here is a release from the team at Harcourts…

Harcourts Wainuiomata would like to congratulate “Tamariki Ferguson” for his 1st place design in the “Welcome to Wainuiomata” Sign Competition for 2015!

We, here at Harcourts, had a blast running this competition over the last couple of months and it was fantastic to see so many people (the voting post on Facebook reached over 14,000) in the community supporting something so positive and having the opportunity to voice their opinions on how they wanted to welcome visitors into our community. An extra “Congratulations” must also go out to all of the other designers, particularly the rest of our top 4 (Jan Almond, Nicola Jones and Jess Thimbleby) – you were all very deserving designers and did some really great work so, a big “Thank you very much”. We’d also like to Thank the panel of judges who selected the design finalists – Trevor Mallard, Linda Olsen & Ruth O’Grady.

When talking about the inspiration for his winning design, Tamariki said that “… it comes from our community itself. A diverse range of cultures that live in a vibrant and growing place that is unique to anywhere else in the Wellington region…The 2 carved posts on the sides (Pou) are like spiritual Guardians welcoming people to and protecting our community. These will be adorned with carvings/symbols from each of the 5 continents (All cultures) represented in Wainuiomata as well.

The 3 Green curved lines represent the rivers/creeks that run through our valley, The Hill shaped top represents the hills that surround us and the brushed steel plate represents the contemporary way forward. The 3 shades of GREEN represent the colour with which our community is most identifiable with/for out on the sports/recreational fields. Although modern in look, having traditionally carved posts pays homage to our Tangata Whenua and Early Settlers to the Valley.”

Tamariki will work alongside Campbell Barry & the council to see his design now come to life. We look forward to seeing his fantastic creation up on the hill, welcoming visitors to our community in the near future.

A huge Congratulations once again Tamariki and a big Thank you to all of the Wainuiomata community for your fantastic support throughout the competition.

To celebrate Tama’s victory, we had a Community BBQ outside the Harcourts Wainuiomata office together with the fantastic designers & judges and all of the Wainuiomata community.

With Tama at the BBQ party

Wainui 3

Welcome to Wainuiomata – Vote now!

Now is your chance to have a say in how we welcome people to Wainuiomata!

After receiving submissions from the public, a judging panel (Trevor Mallard, Linda Olsen and Ruth O’Grady) have come up with a shortlist.

I would like to thank all of the submitters, the quality was really high. 

Make sure you get voting on Welcome to Wainuiomata Facebook page.

Below are the entries, make sure you vote for what you think BEST represents Wainuiomata!

***Click on the images below to be directed to the voting page

Wainui 1 Wainui 2 Wainui 3 Wainui 4 Wainui 5

 

 

KPI

Council Representatives should have KPI’s

When it comes to an election, voters should have a clear measure of their elected representatives’ performance over the tenure of their 3 year term. They shouldn’t have to rely solely on the campaign rhetoric of candidates. Nor should there be a reliance on the local media to hold elected representatives to account, but of course it’s still very important that they do!

As you will know, most successful organisations have some form of key performance indicators (KPI’s) that set a standard to which their employees can be measured too. Hutt City Council itself has KPI’s for its operations arm of Council – However there are no KPI’s or anything of its kind for elected or appointed Council representatives. This needs to change.

The introduction of KPI’s will make us (elected representatives) much more accountable to the people whom we represent. I also think that it will help with elected representatives’ personal development, which will ultimately (and most importantly) help towards the best possible governance and advocacy for our communities and our City.

Later this month I’ll be approaching Mayor Ray Wallace and requesting  that he get an independent advisor to report back to Council on how a set of KPI’s may look and how they could work in practice.

Since I’m a Councillor I think it’s appropriate for me to leave the detail in how KPI’s could look to an independent expert. However, I believe it is crucial that 3 elements be included:

  1. Implementation and oversight must be from an independent body to avoid conflicts and politics getting involved.
  2. If possible (by law), KPI’s should be linked to salary. If you’re doing a poor job then you should get a pay cut.
  3. Performance reviews must be publicly accessible. This will significantly help enhance elected members accountability to their community.

I have no doubt that it will be tough to come up with a clear set of KPI’s. In most organisations your role and goals are clearly defined and set out for you – Not so much for Councillors and Community Board/Committee Members. However, just because it may be difficult shouldn’t mean we drop the idea. Let an independent advisor go away and work with the community on coming up with a proposal for us.

Your thoughts and comments are always greatly appreciated.

Internal Reserve

Selling off our City’s reserves in the name of growth is an irreversible mistake

Council is currently going through the process of reviewing all of its reserves across the Valley floor. A significant part of this process includes the consideration of revocation and eventual sale of reserves which are deemed surplus to current requirements. This is being undertaken in the name of ‘urban growth’ and the need for more houses to be built in Lower Hutt. This process has already resulted in Council revoking most of the Copeland Street Reserve in Epuni.

My Thoughts…

Revoking Lower Hutt City’s reserves and selling them off in the name of urban growth is a short sighted policy and completely out of touch in making Lower Hutt a more attractive place to live for future generations. One of the most popular reasons to live in Lower Hutt is the abundance of reserves and open green space we have across most of our city. Unfortunately it is the view of some of my Council colleagues that since we have a lot, we should start selling reserves which are deemed ‘surplus’ so we can encourage more houses to be built.

When it comes to urban growth I’m the first to put my hand up and acknowledge that we need to be proactive in attracting more people to come and live in Lower Hutt. The facts speak for themselves; Lower Hutt has the lowest projected population growth over the next 10-20 years in the Wellington region, and over the past 10 years we have seen some areas like Wainuiomata suffer from de-population. If we want to grow and be a vibrant city, then we must attract more people.

However, there are many different ways we as a council can encourage more homes to be built. Greenfield development, intensification, working with Housing NZ on some of the very large pieces of empty land which they hold, and utilizing many of our old derelict school sites are just some of the avenues we can (and will) explore. We have so many options up our sleeve, so why on earth are we putting the sale of our reserves at the top of the list in our efforts to encourage more housing? Selling reserves should be at the bottom (if at all).

There is no doubt that over the next 20-30 years the way we live and what we value will change. What we take for granted now may well become closely treasured in years to come, and personally I think that with more and more urbanisation happening everywhere, that’s exactly what’s going to happen with our open greenspaces. If I’m wrong, then you could still do something with these reserves later on, but if I’m right there won’t be much a future Council could do because once you sell a reserve, you’ll never get it back.

As you can probably guess I opposed the revocation of the Copeland Street Reserve in Epuni based on many of the points above. What makes this decision to revoke even more short sighted is the fact that Epuni is already a very dense suburb. On average we have 4 hectares of open greenspace across the Lower Hutt Valley floor per 1,000 people. However, Epuni only has 1.4 hectares per 1,000 which makes it one of the most highly dense urban areas in our city, yet we are happy for it to be first up on the chopping block? To make things worse, just up the road we have many HNZ houses which have large sections which could cater for some significant housing developments, but I guess this is just in the ‘too hard’ basket to deal with. Revoking a reserve is much quicker, easier and also gives Council a nice profit in the bank from the sale. I’ll be working hard this year to stop this short sighted policy before we see reserves like Bell Park next in line for the chop.

As always I am keen to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Closed Wainuiomata Landfill

From Rubbish Dump to Regional Rifle Hub

Last month the Wainuiomata Community Board approved a licence ‘in principal’ for a regional Rifle Range to be established at the old Wainuiomata Landfill site. The Hutt Valley Shooting Association (HVSA) will now do some further costings on the project and apply for consent.

Some very fair and legitimate concerns have been raised by the Wainuiomata Golf Club and local residents who operate/live in the proximity of the proposed Rifle Range. I just want to take this opportunity to ensure these stakeholders that significant sound testing will occur, and a consent will only be granted if the noise is able to be kept to a reasonable limit. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet the Hutt Valley Shooting Association team, and it’s clear in my mind that they want to be good neighbours in the area and be a part of the hub of outdoor activities that are currently on offer down the Coast Road.

While the rifle range is likely to create some noise even with a consent, this needs to be weighed up against the significant benefits and opportunities it will create for Wainuiomata. The HVSA have a ‘sportsville’ like concept in mind where the range would be a regional facility for Rifle Clubs from across Wellington. Both regional and national events are expected to be held on site, which will bring hundreds of people into Wainuiomata.

I’m not really a gun enthusiast, but this proposal has me really excited. Sit back for a moment and have a think about what we actually offer down the coast…Rimutaka Forest Park, free roaming Kiwis, Quad Biking, a Seal Colony, Baring Head, Black Sand Beach, Fishing, Rock Climbing, Horse Riding, Swimming Holes, Wellington’s #1 Golf Course, Camp Wainui, Pencarrow Lodge, Home Stays… and the list goes on. Who would have thought our old Landfill would join the list as a regional attraction!

As a community our biggest challenge will be capitalising on what this project offers. Currently we aren’t the best at snapping up the opportunities that our great outdoors offer us, but I’m glad to report that we are working on this as we speak.

We must welcome HVSA into Wainuiomata with open arms. They are looking to invest a significant sum into getting this project off the ground, and they are very keen to work with the wider community. This will be another asset that helps put Wainuiomata on the map.