Upper Hutt: Akatarawa Road Bridges to be replaced

The Upper Hutt City Council has programmed the replacement of the three wooden bridges on Akatarawa Road (situated a short distance either side of Staglands) over the next five years. Just yesterday one of our readers witnessed and accident at this very bridge.

Those that use this road regularly are well aware that these bridges pose traffic problems on what is already a dangerous road to travel.  The first bridge will be replaced in mid to late 2010.

The bridges are believed to have been constructed in the 1920’s. During a routine inspection two years ago they all showed signs of deterioration within the wood work. While a considerable amount of structural repair work has been undertaken on the bridges all three have reached the end of their economical life and need to be replaced.
The new bridges will be built to a more durable design and have two lanes, providing some width for pedestrians, cyclists etc. Disruptions may occur, but wherever possible the City Council will try to to minimise the impact on residents and motorists. Retaining one of the bridges as a heritage structure will also be investigated.

The bridge for replacement in the 2009/10 financial year is the first one from Upper Hutt, just before the Wellesley Country Club, and is the most critical for access to residents and businesses past this point.

The middle (weight restricted) bridge and the bridge at the foot of the summit will follow in 2011/12 and 2013/14 respectively.
The Council is very aware that these bridges provide essential access to the residents and businesses along Akatarawa Road and whilst every endeavour will be made to keep disruptions to a minimum during the construction there may be times when it is not possible to maintain full vehicle access. If this should happen contingency plans will be discussed with residents/businesses affected.

Daly Street Apartments Live again

Daly Street Apartments have risen from the ashes.

The apartment development in Lower Hutt has been taken over by another developer looking to finally get it off the ground.

The backstory on the development was that the property group Merge was the original developer in March 2008 declaring that it had sold 26 of the the 28 apartments. Prices ranged from $630,000 to $1.5 million for a penthouse.

The projet stalled because of lack of working capital and Merge approached the Hutt City Council for financial support. Councilors initially approved a $1.7 million loan to support the $22.5m project sighting it supported inner city development. This was then cancelled in the face of public outrage when it become public.

Peter Savage,a director of City living Group, confirmed this week his company had taken over the Daly Street Project. He declined to say how much he had paid to Merge Group.

Mr Savage said the entire project was under review and it was not possible to say when work would begin. However, his company had been in touch with all the previous apartment buyers and was looking at all aspects of the building and elements of design.

Lower Hutt: River realignment to affect Mill Street and popular Walking area

Despite angry and strenuous objections from Lower Hutt Mayor David Ogden, Greater Wellington Regional Council will proceed with consultation on the taking of houses for the Mill Street stopbank and the narrowing of the dog-walking area alongside State Highway 2 north of Melling.

GWRC’s Hutt River Advisory Subcommittee, which includes three Hutt City councillors as well as mayors and regional councillors, earlier this month decided to approve “in principle” the flood protection works that only recently came to light, surprising and angering locals.

Recently GWRC told 14 Mills Street residents that up to a dozen houses might have to be bowled to make way for a straightening of a bend in the Boulcott-Connolly Street stopbank that engineers say constricts the river.

But flood protection manager Graeme Campbell told the subcommittee that it was wrong to suggest, as reported from the residents’ meeting, that up to 40 houses along Connolly Street might have to go.

He also assured a Rotary clubs delegation that the Hutt River walking trail along the right, or western bank, built by Rotarians, would be recreated in the remaining narrow corridor between the river and a possibly widened highway.

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Engineers believe the river-channel widening is required to slow floodwaters as much as possible opposite the floodplain-encroaching Transpower electricity substation and Safeway Storage buildings before it reaches Melling Bridge. But it means the park-like river verge now used by dog-walkers and many others for open space recreation will be lost to a new river berm and heavy river-slowing vegetation plantings.

Rotary Club of Hutt City member Robin Maud made a public submission for all nine Hutt Valley clubs, saying they agreed flood protection is paramount. However, the river corridor had evolved into a public recreation zone that should be preserved as much as possible in any new works.

“The results of your determinations here will affect whatever future generations will have for recreation in that area,” Mr Maud said.

Residents of the Western Hills did not have many flat reserves among their suburbs, and a large number of people from the hills came down to the river bank for recreation of all types along the river, not just dog walking.

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Rotary’s submission says alternatives dismissed by engineers, and other new ones, should continue to be investigated. Among their points were:

* The right (western) bank along this reach was the most highly-used section along the entire river, with over 100,000 visits per year.

* GWRC had not properly considered retreating the eastern bank, which had less recreation appeal.

* There were other river control measures such as rock lining and groynes that would allow retaining a wider berm and more views.

* The Transpower substation would have to be moved sometime in the future and then the right bank could be preserved.

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Rotary wanted GWRC to retain the maximum right-bank berm, ensure access points on the right bank to the river and beaches, maintain river views, and minimise buffer planting, which screened river views.

Above all, Mr Maud said, it wanted to be assured this was a preliminary decision, and GWRC would engage in wide community consultation. The council had already been very cooperative, he said. GWRC flood protection officers gave committee members an assurance that they would do so.

A few Mills Street residents came to the meeting, but didn’t speak publicly, saying they were there to observe the council’s processes. They had expressed shock and anger to the meeting that told them their houses were now, they had said, worthless, unsaleable and not worth continuing to put money into maintaining until GWRC took them and paid them compensation under the Public Works Act.

Mayor Ogden told them, ”I’m sorry you’ve been put through what you have been put through. I’m pretty perturbed about it, and needless to say it’s not good enough.”

Flood protection engineer Jacky Cox said a number of flood works designs had been investigated and this was only a starting point for consultation.

The river could not be deepened because of erosion danger, and the need to maintain a constant river gradient and level as at 1998. The left (eastern) bank was not considered for channel widening because it already had an established vegetation ”buffer zone”, removal of which would cause greater erosion. There was much more room available on the right (western) bank for a wider channel, buffer zone and berm. Rock lining was a possible alternative to a large vegetation buffer zone on the right bank.

After a lot of questioning, but no discussion or statements by councillors, committee chairman and Hutt Valley regional councillor Sandra Greig put the motion and immediately said ”All in favour?” But Mayor Ogden said he’d like to speak to the motion.

He said he wouldn’t vote for the motion because it showed ”a lack of foresight and consideration of other options. I know we are the largest populated floodplain in the country and flood defences are paramount. I’m not going to vote for it because of the impact it may have on the Waimare Croquet Club and Mills Street.”

Cr Ian Buchanan, chairman of the catchment management committee that will also have to approve the measures, said ”This is not a final decision, we’re just agreeing to [the engineers’] preferred option. This is about them consulting; those who are concerned should take heart” and a different result could happen.

Councillors worried about what the consultation process would be, as there is no formal requirement for one under council rules, but the motion passed with only Mr Ogden’s nay.

Later, in discussion of the Boulcott, Mills and Connolly Streets stop banks, Mr Ogden again chided officers for the ”suffering” caused to Mills Street residents by the officers’ ”secrecy.

”As a long-time Hutt Valley resident, I never heard of Mills Street having to be taken.”

He pointed to the Belmont Flats residential neighbourhood which had successfully resisted GWRC attempts to increase flood protection but was still there as an encroachment on the river. (Not mentioned at the meeting, but implied in council papers, the Safeway site is also a floodplain encroachment that GWRC could order removed by the designation process.) The committee wasn’t asked to vote on Mills St.

But Mr Ogden said, ”This is a mistake by GWRC.” It wasn’t necessary to take the Mills St houses, and the stopbank didn’t have to be of the same larger construction as the new Ewen-Ava one. He said he wants the engineers to find another solution to save the houses. He was there as the residents’ voice on the issue and it wasn’t a political fight between Hutt City Council and the regional council.

”I know you think I’m always coming here and complaining, but it’s fertile plains to complain about. I’m very disappointed to have to come and do it.”

Lower Hutt: More redundancies hit Hutt Valley

Announced late today two Lower Hutt firms, laundry powder manufacturer Unilever will make 33 people redundant, while furniture maker Formway will shed 50 staff.

Formway chief executive Alan Buckner says the company, which opened in the 1950s, and recently won design award has decided to outsource its manufacturing and focus on design, sales and marketing.

Formway hopes 15 to 20 people will be offered jobs with the company it is outsourcing to but does see overall job losses.

Lower Hutt – Mills Street houses affected by Stopbank move

“It’s been a bolt from the blue,” said Matthew Flood, a resident of Mills St, Boulcott, for 37 years.

Residents had not been properly consulted on a Greater Wellington regional council plan to move a stopbank east, meaning up to 12 homes would go, he said.

“The bigwigs decided our homes should be bulldozed simply because we’re in the way.”

Flood protection manager Graeme Campbell said the council needed to move the stopbank to boost its flood protection.

The Hutt River was narrow near Mills St and there were fears the existing stopbank would not cope with a severe flood. “We just can’t afford a failure in the defences.”

A big flood in 1898 had prompted the building of stopbanks. The council was now considering two options.

One was to move the stopbank 30 metres to the east, meaning four homes would have to be shifted.

The second was to move it further, placing eight more homes in the firing line.

The council hoped to confirm its plan by the end of this week, Mr Campbell said.

Homes would be bought and moved, rather than bulldozed, he said. If homeowners refused to sell, land could be seized and compensation paid under the Public Works Act.

Mr Flood said he had never seen the stopbank threatened by a flood.

“The natural flow of the river curves away from Mills St, so any scouring is more likely to affect the opposite bank.”

A Mills St resident of 57 years, Tse Wk, said the council’s plans were not essential and a blow to the whole street. “I’ve got no idea why they want to do it.” A simpler option would be to clear the riverbanks of rubbish and debris.

The council has held two meetings with Mills St residents.

Hutt River advisory subcommittee member Peter Glensor said any work was five to 10 years away.

The matter came to a head when a Mills St house went up for sale two months ago and was bought by the council, Mr Glensor said.

“We didn’t think it was reasonable for someone to buy it, then be told of the situation.”

Petone: New Motel Development seeks resource consent

The new motel development is at resource consent stage and will be situated at 44 Cuba Street, just off Jackson Street. It will incorporate an adjacent property and has the backing of the developer Mr Rudings.

Mr Rudings says he learned a lot from building Boulcott Lodge (opens end of July) in Lower Hutt (see below)
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and he is confident that he can avoid the problems that delayed it when it comes to the Petone motel.

His application for resource consent is based on a 21 unit property on the corner of Cuba and Heretaunga Streets.

To try and avoid any difficulties with neighbours he says he personally visited 25 neighbours to explain the proposal. Consultation also included two presentations to the Petone Planning Action Group and local residents.

A local urban design consultant was also used to make sure the two-storied building blends in. The design will make the motel look like three buildings, so it does not look out of place amongst residential properties, he says.

The site currently features a dilapidated house and a large building that was once used for car upholstery.

The feedback he has got from neighbours is that they believe the motel will improve the area.

The design includes traffic calming measures in the entrance of Heretaunga Street, which he will pay for.

”That will slow down the boy racers and make the place look much better.”

The proposed design does not conform with the District Plan on three aspects but Mr Rudings says they are all minor and he is confident that he will get consent.

Upper Hutt: Private Wind Turbine possible on Emerald Hill

A 15 metre high wind turbine to be installed on private land (situated next to the trig station) at Emerald Hill owned by Adam Blackwell has past its first hurdle after being accepted by the Upper Hutt City Council.

It will provide power to the owners Main Road North property with its generated net power fully used by the house.

The decision by the council is the first stage in the planning process and sees the council acting as the “requiring authority” only. It will be subject to normal resource consent requirements.

Emerald Hill is a dominant landscape feature for residents of Maoribank, Brown Owl, Emerald Hill, Parkdale, Birchville and for users of State Highway 2.

An earlier report commissioned with regard to recent cellphone tower installation at the Emerald Hill site says

“Although the ridgeline has been comprised by power lines running across its northern face, the presence of a cluster of cellphone towers close to the summit will increase the visual encroachment into the skyline.” 

The cellphone towers are regarded as utilities and as such have dispensation within the Councils District plan, this private  installation of a wind tower will now facing normal Resource Consent processes which call for public input.

The question is will the public dispute its installation.