Upper Hutt Council increasing debt to pay for infrastructure

ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF
Upper Hutt is one of the few councils not providing ratepayer funded kerbside recycling and the locals still like their recycling station.

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 lack of kerbside recycling in Upper Hutt is a long-running problem. The council wants to know if residents support a council run recycling system and are prepared to pay for it. (File Pic)
Stuff
The lack of kerbside recycling in Upper Hutt is a long-running problem. The council wants to know if residents support a council run recycling system and are prepared to pay for it. (File Pic)

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.

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy says the city is expecting to grow significantly over the next decade and the draft Long Term Plan aims to ensure the city has the infrastructure to cope.
Brady Dyer/Stuff
Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy says the city is expecting to grow significantly over the next decade and the draft Long Term Plan aims to ensure the city has the infrastructure to cope.

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.

Upper Hutt is one of the few cities that does not provide kerb-side recycling.
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Upper Hutt is one of the few cities that does not provide kerb-side recycling.

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.

Upper Hutt has a surplus of flat land waiting to be developed. (File photo)
NICHOLAS BOYACK/STUFF
Upper Hutt has a surplus of flat land waiting to be developed. (File photo)

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