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Why the Wellington region's hottest settlement is now in Upper Hutt

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

While in past generations, the slow commute into Wellington City from regional centres has grown ever longer, and slower, the future might well see a lot more traffic going the other way… or many just not commuting at all.

Surrounded by farmland and forested hills, Upper Hutt hasn’t traditionally been regarded as a serious business location. But with more than $150 million in development planned for the region, heads are now turning North to see what all the fuss is about.

The Settlement founder Meredith Walshe says the combination of significant new investment, combined with a post-Covid change in workplace expectations is seeing Upper Hutt becoming the best new location for business in the region.

"People just don’t want to lose valuable time on their daily commute anymore. They want to work closer to home, to have more access to the outdoors and more flexibility in the way they work.

"That’s why we’re expecting the Wellington CBD will continue to struggle, while regional centres like Upper Hutt will continue to grow in vibrancy and amenity," she says.

The Settlement has coworking and shared office spaces in centres including Petone, Porirua and more recently, Upper Hutt - all areas that has seen strong growth in recent years, especially as the pandemic forced business and workers to review how they work, and live.

"We’d seen the great new energy in the region and the demand was there for workspaces and meeting rooms, so it was just a case of finding the right landlord and creating the space," Walshe says.

The Settlement - Upper Hutt is co-located with one of the Hutt’s existing success stories, Brewtown, home to five craft breweries and numerous other attractions - situated within the 36,000 square metre South Pacific Industrial park.

It joins other significant developments happening in the Hutt, including the $100 million plus New Zealand Campus of Sport and Innovation, KiwiRail’s 2,700 square metre North Island control base, a $50m film studio, and a mixed use development at Trentham.

And recently, The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced it would be leasing 1,300 square metres in stage one of the Blue Mountains Campus, which is one of the Government Property Group’s new regional hubs.

All of this will see hundreds of new people coming to, or staying in the region - something that will benefits all kinds of local businesses and services, says Upper Hutt Mayor, Wayne Guppy.

"Well, there's certainly a lot happening and it's great to see. With that sort of scale of development, and that includes The Settlement, it gives confidence, not only to the local community, but to other developers and investors and business people to look and say, ‘we need to be part of this’."

Mayor Guppy says that the demographics of the region have been evolving in recent years, with high real estate prices in the Greater Wellington region making the more economic option of Upper Hutt more attractive. And also those people not moving on when they decide to start a family.

"We've traditionally been really a city for families. So when they started coming out, particularly with the house prices like they were, Upper Hutt wasn't seen as somewhere transient. It's become home," he says.

Places like Upper Hutt were often described in the commercial real estate business as ‘dormitory cities’ - places where people slept and spent the weekends, but had to commute from each day to work.

But Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy says that now, with people working more flexibly, these places are less dormitory and much more community! Cafes, hospitality operators and shopping strips are busier - which in turn causes more investment and a positive knock on effect throughout the local economy.

"People will still travel in to the city and in to work, because there'll be times when we need that. But it's also important that people have somewhere to be able to operate and interact with people in the area as well," he says.

Walshe says that’s where The Settlement fits - providing a professional, well-appointed shared workspace with all the mod-cons, that can be used whenever a member needs it, for an hour a day, a day a week, or full time, as required.

And ironically, Walshe says that the number of people coming from the city to meet remote teams at a convenient ‘halfway point’, is on the rise.

"Covid proved we don’t have to have an office in the big smoke to work effectively - and that a zoom call can cover off many of those less essential meetings.

"So, it’s a great time to be in a coworking business that helps people create a better work/life balance and contributes to a more vibrant local economy," Walshe says.

The Settlement - Upper Hutt is holding an Open day on Friday, the 13th May, with tours and activities happening throughout the day. See https://thesettlement.co.nz/upper-hutt-open-day for details!

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