Upper Hutt Council increasing debt to pay for infrastructure
While Wellington City is looking at a rates increase of 14 per cent as it grapples with expenditure of $2.6 billion needed for water infrastructure, increasing debt levels and kerbside recycling are the hot topics in the Upper Hutt City Council’s draft Long Term Plan.
With a rapidly growing population and a booming new house market, Mayor Wayne Guppy said the 10-year plan signalled the council, which is proposing a rates increase of 4.8 per cent, was responding to the growth occurring in the city.
“We need to make sure we have a strong foundation, and are well-prepared when unexpected things impact us. This draft plan will have a particular focus on resilience, sustainability, infrastructure, and facilities, and investing in a vibrant city centre,” he said.
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The plan proposes increasing net debt from around $60 million to $244m over the next 10 years to meet the resulting cost. To borrow, at that level, the council would need to improve its current credit rating, which it believes it can achieve.
One issue that could divide residents is recycling. Upper Hutt is one of the few councils in New Zealand that does not provide kerbside recycling. Residents can drop off recycling at a station in the central city, which sometimes struggles to meet the demand, resulting in large piles of rubbish.
Although it is an excluded item in the draft plan, the council is seeking feedback on providing kerbside recycling, a cost of approximately $25m over 10 years, or $2.64 per week per household.
Guppy said if enough people wanted it, the council would provide it. “It is an issue that has been around for the last few years, and now we need to find out what the community want to do in the future.”
Capital projects include $27.5 to upgrade the H2OXtream swimming complex, $15.2 for flood protection in PInehaven, $15m for a sports hub and $20.7m to upgrade the civic precinct.
No longer considered “fit for purpose” the council’s administration building has had no work done on it for more than 50 years. The upgrade will modernise the building and add an extra floor.
The council is also looking to significantly increase funding for three Waters, although it is unclear what the final cost of the proposed work will be.
Guppy said Upper Hutt was growing rapidly and the plan looked to future proof the city by investing in the infrastructure needed for a modern city.
The population (just on 44,000 in the 2018 Census) is expected to grow by 10 per cent by 2031 and the council has identified the need for an extra 5600 new homes by 2047, he said.
“To continue to thrive and be a vibrant city and a great place for families, we need to invest.”
Consultation on the plan runs until April 26