How can Lower Hutt improve its ageing and run-down community facilities without a massive increase in rates and debt?
That is the problem Hutt City Council community services manager Matt Reid has been grappling with.
His answer, under a Long Term Integrated Community Facilities Plan, is better planning and hubs providing a range of facilities.
The city has $216 million worth of community assets, many of which are in need of modernisation.
"Our suite of facilities is very tired. We spend millions every year painting over the cracks," Mr Reid says.
In the 50 or 60 years since many of the facilities were built in mayor Percy Dowse's era, there have also been significant changes to demographics and the way communities are run.
The Dowse era administration built community halls.
For years sporting clubs held barn dances in the halls to raise funds. These days the halls get little use and are not well maintained.
Mr Reid says halls are just one example of the need for change and the plan sets out how that can be achieved.
Key aspects are hubs based around sports and community facilities, as well as a civic hub.
The proposed hubs include: Fraser Park Sportsville and the associated Walter Nash development.
A civic hub in the central city featuring major upgrades of existing civic buildings and linking in with the sports facilities at the Hutt Rec and Huia Pool.
A regional sporting hub on the west end of Petone beach.
Hubs in Stokes Valley, Wainuiomata and Eastbourne.
The council has a 30-year plan for the development of the central Hutt, known as Making Places.
The development of facilities in the city needs to focus on creating assets, like an improved Dowse Museum, that will create regional attractions, he said.
In areas like Naenae, the council facilities include a library, a swimming pool, computer house and a hall. Future development of these needs to better co-ordinated and come within an overall plan.
In some cases that could include "rationalisation", but Mr Reid said people need to remember the ultimate goal is to produce better facilities, relevant to each community.
The obvious difficulty is getting the community to accept change.
That was evident in the recent debate over the future of McKenzie Pool. Councillors backed off on closing the pool in the face of opposition from a group of Petone residents.
Mr Reid concedes selling the plan will not be straightforward.
Consultation is planned. Rather than just looking at their own local community, he wants people to accept the bigger picture.
He is aware that some people worry the sportsville and hub concept will see major projects taking money away from small community organisations, but he disagrees.
At the moment money from pokie trusts is being lost to the region as it is increasingly going to larger projects. Building larger facilities here will see more pokie money spent in the city to the benefit of all, he said.
DECADE OF LOBBYING
Talk of a regional water sports hub based on the western end of Petone has been welcomed by Star Olsen.
The Kokiri Marae elder has lobbied for better facilities for waka ama for more than a decade.
The marae has looked at a number of options over the years but, for various reasons, all have fallen over. Combining waka ama with sports like rowing, canoeing, kayaking and open water swimming in a shared facility, ideally on the foreshore, is an idea he supports.
'I think that would be sensational,' he said. The marae has six senior teams.
The number of juniors fluctuates. In areas like Gisborne, waka ama is a major sport and he says it does not get the attention it deserves.
- Hutt News
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