My Latest News

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 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?

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. 

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Hutt CBD – Stop flogging a dead horse and move forward

Lower Hutt’s CBD – Where to from here?

With more businesses closing down or moving elsewhere from our CBD, we really need to have a long hard look at what we are doing and where to from here. Issues around High Street and the surrounding area have been around for a while now, and the longer we wait the more money we will waste with little, if any, progress.

In 2006 High Street and the surrounding area’s death warrant was expedited with the redevelopment of Westfield Queensgate. I say ‘expedited’ because High Street was already on the decline prior to Westfield. The issues that we currently face with Westfield being in play would have progressed eventually even without it. The proof is in the pudding – across the world ‘High Streets’ are dying or dead. We no longer live in the 1980’s when they were all the rage, and now need to refocus and invest in a new approach rather than flog a dead horse. Hundreds of thousands of ratepayer dollars on programmes and infrastructure to try and resuscitate High Street and the surrounding area has been spent since 2006 with no significant results. This money has been a waste.

So the big question – What should be our approach to bring people back to our CBD? 

Let’s take a look at Petone.

I love it. Nearly as much as I love Wainuiomata. Jackson Street bars, cafes, restaurants, nightlife, the Petone Rec, the foreshore, the heritage, and most of all the vibrancy make Petone a great destination and attraction. One could fairly ask why keep throwing money at High Street in an effort to revitalise our CBD, when we could just jump on the boat and cruise with Petone?

This proposition has a lot of merit – but it would be the easy way out. One just has to remember what Petone was like 20 years ago – It was pretty undesirable. So what changed? We capitalised on Petone’s unique character. Residents alongside the business community and Council helped transform Petone into a unique experience. This is the key. This is what we need for our CBD.

We need to create a unique space which is seen as a destination by locals and visitors. Thankfully a vision on this front already exists – The Hutt River Promenade. For those who aren’t familiar take a look at the design next to this post. While some work is being completed on this front we need to be much more aggressive in making this happen. Currently thousands of dollars is still being poured into the High Street black hole – This needs to stop and be redirected towards the promenade vision.

Why the Promenade?

The Hutt River in my mind is one of the biggest assets we as a City hold. It’s our point of difference with other parts of the region, and we’ve turned our back on it. The promenade would encourage businesses, cafes, bars, apartment living and most importantly… people. The Hutt CBD would become a unique experience which cant be copied anywhere else in the region, and that’s excatly what people are attracted to. 

Overall, a unique CBD experience viewed alongside the developments happening in our civic precinct would completely transform Lower Hutt as we know it. People will want to live, work, visit and spend in our CBD.

This won’t happen overnight – But the sooner we start the better.

Whats your thoughts? Do you have a different vision for Lower Hutt?

Difference

Let’s do something that will make a difference…

What is Council’s role for empowering and supporting young people in our city?
This is a question I’ve struggled with for quite a while. One thing I am certain of – Council isn’t, and shouldn’t be a provider of ‘social service’ like programmes or activities for young people. We aren’t the experts in that field, and already have a number of fantastic organisations in our community providing such services that are much more connected with young people than us (Council).
Should our main contribution be funding a central youth ‘hang out’ space open to youth across the city? Yes and no. Currently Council funds Secret Level on High Street at a cost of $158k a year, SL has been around for 10 years + and has done a good job over the years. But has this hang out space really made a difference for young people in need? I’m sure for a few it has – But for most it hasn’t.
I believe that if we as a Council want to truly make a meaningful difference for young people then we must rethink and relook at how we operate. And in my view, education, employment and a sense of ownership by youth in our communities is the focus we need to take.
Education – Of course this is a focus and priority of central government, but as a Council we have so many great assets like our libraries, museums, art galleries, pools etc which could engage with young people more. They could become more ‘youth friendly’ spaces and work with schools and other education providers to get youth utilising these assets that we have on our doorstep. We could focus on getting parents and their kids into our libraries and other facilities – because the younger you start off the more likely you will be to use such facilities as you grow older. There are some great programmes like the ‘Reading Together’ initiative in our libraries, and our ‘Learn to Swim’ programme in our pools etc. – but we can still do more. Education is everything, and Council focus on this can make a big difference for youth across the board.
Employment – If you really want to make a difference for a young person out of study… Then find them a job. Give them an opportunity. Again, Council isn’t WINZ, and it shouldn’t be. But we can still make a big difference in this area given the position Council sits, and this has already been seen with the establishment of Youth Inspire (Mayors taskforce for Jobs) which focuses on getting disengaged young people into study or employment. This initiative came from the hard work and dedication of people in Wainuiomata who wanted to help make a difference – We as a Council then came on board to help fund the programme and get it on its feet (70k per annum). Since late last year 40+ young people in Wainuiomata who had fallen through the cracks have already been placed in further study or employment. That’s 40 young people who have been given a hand up and experienced a meaningful and positive change in their life. That’s what you call making a difference.
Sense of ownership by youth in our communities – One youth ‘hang out’ space for our entire city isn’t good enough. We should have them in every community. Your probably thinking, “well who’s going to pay for that? It will never happen”. Fair question, but in actual fact it can… and for little to no cost. It’s all about attitude. It’s about ensuring our current and future assets are youth friendly, attractive and safe. During the summer school holidays why not put 20 bean bags out in the middle of the dowse square, light up a BBQ and have a water fight (away from the bean bags of course!). Let’s forget about spending $$ on the bricks and mortar and utilize what we’ve got.
Going back to Secret Level – I’m not ‘anti-youth centres’. I genuinely believe there is still scope for a dedicated youth space in our CBD (Just look at Zeal in Wellington, they are nailing it and provide an awesome space for young people), but we as a Council shouldn’t just folk out $158k a year for a youth centre and think we are doing an awesome job for the city’s youth. We as a Council must look at the bigger picture and understand how we can make a meaningful difference for young people, and how we can transform what we already have in Hutt City to make us more of a Youth City.
WOA

Wainuiomata in the 2014/15 HCC Annual Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In June the Hutt City Council approved its annual plan which included a number of new projects designed to rejuvenate Lower Hutt. Wainuiomata looks set to benefit with a range of projects and initiatives with one being the inclusion of $300,000 over the next 3 years to focus on implementing a development plan. This spending is a part of Council’s Urban Growth Strategy and will ultimately focus on making Wainuiomata a more vibrant and attractive place to live, work and play.

Councillor Campbell Barry who proposed the $300k investment is very pleased with the result. “This is a good win for Wainuiomata, but it is just the beginning”. Councillor Barry sees the money as seed funding for bigger and better development here in Wainuiomata. “$300k alone won’t go far, but as long as we are smart in how we use it, I have no doubt that we can initiate some long term and on-going positive change for our community”.

Other significant projects and initiatives which are included in this year’s Council budget for Wainuiomata include $1.5m for the extension and upgrade of Wise Street, $1.2m (part funded by NZTA) for improvements to the Wainuiomata Hill Road, $1m for sewer renewals and $70k for Youth Inspire (Mayors taskforce for Jobs).

$820k is also being carried over from 2013/14 for a bridge at the top of the Wainuiomata Hill. “We are still waiting on NZTA to approve a 58% subsidy for the summit bridge, but from the advice we have received it looks very promising the subsidy will be approved this year” says Councillor Barry. Council has also continued its commitment of at least $30k each year for improvements to Waiu Park. There is also a provision of $225k to upgrade the Wainuiomata Garden of Remembrance at the northern end of Hine Road, however this will not be until 2016/17.

Overall Councillor Barry is happy with the outcomes of Council’s budget for Wainuiomata. “We are taking care of our core infrastructure and have some exciting new initiatives and projects that will compliment what is already happening. There is still a long way to go, and there will be hurdles to jump, but I believe we are on the right track”.

ENDS