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.
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.