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Hutt Valley prepares for largest-ever infrastructure upgrade

Blog Post, 1News, 25 October 2022

The Hutt Valley is about to get its largest-ever infrastructure project which will inject close to $1 billion into the region.

There is some concern however as the Riverlink project will also mean years of disruption for residents and businesses.

But many who live in Aotearoa's most densely populated floodplain are welcoming the short-term pain for long-term gain.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform Lower Hutt to ensure we have good quality housing, apartments, living right in our CBD and ensuring we have resilience at the heart of it," Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry said.

"Particularly as we know there will be more weather events, storm events in the future as well."

Riverlink is set to upgrade transport links, increase flood protection, and lay the groundwork for urban intensification.

It's a collaboration between Waka Kotahi, the local councils and iwi.

"Riverlink itself, the RFP that we've just put out is $659 million that's not the total cost, but when you include IAF and some of the other costs, we're talking close to a billion dollars, potentially plus, of investment into the city. So it's significant, it's huge," Barry said.

Of the total cost, $100 million has been contributed from the Government's infrastructure acceleration fund.

"There's one thing to have land, but there's another thing to have build-ready land to build houses on," Housing Minister Megan Woods said.

There will be 19 new builds. In Taitā they are set to welcome home some of the community's most vulnerable, currently on waitlists.

Around 3500 further homes in the region are currently in the works.

"I think it's a huge opportunity for the area, and it's very exciting. And obviously, there'll be a range of different housing opportunities there, from public housing, and social housing, to home ownership," Ali Hamlin-Paenga from Kahungunu Whānau Services said.

"Our partnership with the HCC will allow us to contribute to that."

The project will also completely re-design the city business district to face the river.

"The disruption over the next few years, we certainly have to acknowledge that, but I think the tone of the businesses is starting to move towards being more engaged in the project, they understand more about the project, and certainly over time will see opportunities rather than threats," Partick McKibbon from the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce said.

"It's just transformational, it's impossible, to sum up in one word. It's reduced congestion, it's improved flood protection, it's more and better housing, it's more commercial opportunities, it's better walking and cycling, it's better public transport, you name it, Riverlink's got it," National MP Chris Bishop said.

The project will see two new bridges span Te Awa Kairangi Hutt River, one for vehicles, the other for bikes and pedestrians, linking up with a relocated train station.

But beyond re-shaping, a city Riverlink is also vital for the valley's flood defences by widening the river channel and raising the stopbanks.

"This is a project that's been talked about for a very long time in Lower Hutt. At its heart is resilience. In 2004, we were a couple of hours away from having serious floods that would have actually done $1.1B worth of damage if the riverbank had burst its banks. So at its heart that is vital," Campbell Barry said.

The work is expected to start in mid-2023.

Link to 1News Article here.