Wellington Scoop

Hutt City’s $200m riverside transformation starts ground investigations

Press Release – Greater Wellington Regional Council
After several years of planning and preliminary design, work on Lower Hutt’s most ambitious transformation project is starting to ramp-up.

RiverLink recently recruited a project director to oversee and coordinate the project, the resource consent process is underway, and ground investigations along the river banks to provide the data critical for the design of stop banks, bridges and other structures have begun.

RiverLink will strengthen the flood defenses of central Lower Hutt – upgrading the protection of more than $2 billion worth of homes and business – and improve transport links. The development of a riverside promenade is projected to attract 2600 new residents and 2700 workers to the central city, and is described by an economist as “the switch” that will reinvigorate the central city.

RiverLink is a partnership between the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Hutt City Council and the NZ Transport Agency.

Recently appointed RiverLink Project Director Martin White has three decades experience leading urban regeneration, economic development and urban planning projects in Wales, England and New Zealand.

He says RiverLink is a highly complex project entering an important phase.

“For many reasons, RiverLink is crucial to the people of Lower Hutt. We have one opportunity to get such a large scale and highly-detailed project right, so the consents and investigation work currently underway is a critical part of the project.

Ground investigations – including drilling and trenching – have begun along both sides of the river. The data collected will be fundamental to the design of the new stop banks, a proposed pedestrian and cycle bridge and the buildings that will line the promenade. It will also ensure that construction will not affect the Waiwhetu Aquifer.

Meanwhile, RiverLink has appointed Isthmus, Tonkin+Taylor, GHD and Holmes Consulting to take RiverLink through the consenting process. Isthmus was involved in the design of the award-winning New Plymouth Coastal Walkway – a project with strong similarities to RiverLink’s promenade.

Hutt City Council also recently published its Central City Transformation Plan, which provides a detailed guide to how the central city could be developed and reinvigorated with the promenade as its cornerstone.
RiverLink video url is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv5KSSe1u4w

Background Frequently Asked Questions

What is RiverLink?
• RiverLink is a partnership between the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Hutt City Council and the NZ Transport Agency.
• RiverLink comprises three closely related parts – a significant strengthening of flood protection, improved and safer transport links, and the riverside promenade, which is the focal point for Hutt City Council’s planned reinvigoration of the central city.

Where is the project at?
• Preliminary planning and design for the Hutt City Council and the Regional Council is complete.
• The all-important RMA consents process is starting
• Geotechnical ground investigations are underway, which are critical to the design of structures along the riverbank, such as bridges, new buildings on the promenade and the new stop banks, as well as the protection of the aquifer.
• As RiverLink’s momentum is starting to build, we’re assembling a dedicated joint project office to oversee and coordinate the three strands that make up RiverLink.

How much will the project cost?
• For such a large-scale project, with many moving parts, the final cost can only be an estimate.
• The estimated cost, excluding a new Melling interchange, is around $200m
• Hutt City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council have already allocated funding in their long term plans.

When will construction start?
• The start of construction is dependent on the work we’re doing now – preliminary design, the ground investigations and the consents process.
• We’re aiming to start the first stage of the flood protection construction in 2022.
• We’re aiming to start the Promenade and pedestrian bridge in 2024.

When will RiverLink be completed?
• RiverLink is a complex, large-scale project and there are many variables that will determine the exact completion date. We will update the programme at key stages as the project progresses.
• Our best estimate at this point is that the flood protection and the central city transformation parts of the project could be completed by 2028.

What’s happening with property acquisitions?
• GWRC is currently buying property on a willing buyer/willing seller basis. It does not intend to resort to the Public Works Act approach, unless required, and only after the completion of the designation and consents process.
• So far, 77 of the 118 properties required for the new upgraded flood protection works have been purchased.
• Another 16 are in negotiation.
• Hutt City Council is acquiring land for the city transformation parts of RiverLink

How much has been spent on property acquisitions so far?
• GWRC has spent $51 million on property acquisitions so far.
• HCC has spent just over $1 million.

What’s happening with NZTA’s consents?
• NZTA has identified a preferred alignment for a new Melling bridge and intersection.
• It is expected to complete its detailed business case next year, which is required before deciding whether they will proceed to consenting the project.
• No decision has been made whether NZTA will take part in the combined consenting process at this stage.
• NZTA is able to join the consenting process if the timing of NZTA’s decision to consent aligns with the RiverLink consenting programme.

How does NZTA’s absence from the consents process affect RiverLink’s timing and the flood protection and promenade parts of the project?
• RiverLink will proceed as planned, and we’re hoping NZTA will join us with the consents process at some point.
• Without a replacement Melling Bridge, RiverLink achieves a one-in-200 year return period flood level built into the current best practice standards of design – a huge improvement on the one-in-65 year level of protection built to the standards of the 1970s.
• A requirement would be established (if NZTA were to not jointly consent with the project partners) that once the existing Melling Bridge is replaced it would need to meet the flood capacity requirements of the 2800 cumec, one-in-440 year flood including the effects of climate change. This situation exists for other bridges crossing the river.

When will the public have its say on RiverLink?
• There has already been extensive engagement with the public and key stakeholders.
• This will continue with informal engagement and project information events to keep people up to date with the project and design progress.
• There will be ample opportunity for the public to give its views and ideas.
• There will be trials and pilot projects where we test ideas, look out for Belmont Wetland next to Belmont School, the trial dog exercise area near to where Waimarie Croquet Club used to be, cycle and recreation trials in and around the river bank carpark, and work at the southern end of High St developed with the businesses in that area.
• We expect the statutory consultation on the RMA process will start in April or May of next year.
• There will also be a programme of public consultation put in place as the project progresses.

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