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


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.

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 

September 2015 Report – Page 67

March 2015 report – Page 46

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?


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.