Car-free weekends find favour

Herbert Martin, Leigh Martin, and Marise Martin celebrate the closure of Harbour St with a ``pop...
Herbert Martin, Leigh Martin, and Marise Martin celebrate the closure of Harbour St with a ``pop-up lunch'' on February 18. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN
Harbour St businesses are generally pleased with the historic street's car-free weekends, the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust says.

This year's closure had gone over well and ``most'' of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust's 26 tenants were ``very much in favour'' of the street's car-free weekends, the trust's operations manager, Dr Mark Smith, said.

During discussions at a recent Waitaki District Council annual plan forum, Dr Smith, answering questions from Cr Jan Wheeler, who noted no monitoring of the number of visitors to Harbour St was taking place, told the forum those tenants with favourable views of the car-free weekends had reported strong sales.

``Some of them have had very busy weekends.''

The car-free trial, from weekends in February to April, began after the council withdrew its first proposal in order to consult affected businesses.

In November, a dozen business owners signed a petition, organised by Oasis Antiques owner Greg Waite, opposing a summer trading hours closure.

After the council met Harbour St businesses the weekend trial was announced.

Four tenants remained opposed to the weekend closure, Dr Smith said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, who is one of two council-appointed trustees, said as there had been no monitoring of people in Harbour St before the trial, ``the best test is the businesses''.

Cr Peter Garvan said the conditions of the trial could be ``tweaked'' in future.

Cr Jeremy Holding, whose wife is a trust tenant, said he believed the trial had prompted some business owners to adapt to the car-free periods and the trial was a ``good opportunity for the retailers to have a play with it, as well''.

The council approved a $60,000 budget for roading, pedestrian and parking improvement work in the precinct on November 30 last year.

Temporary speed limits of 30kmh from the Humber, Itchen, Wansbeck and Tyne St approaches to the area have been in place since the end of last year.

Council communications adviser Alena Lynch said after the trial the council would ``discuss with the community and stakeholders the outcome of the trial, whether it's extended, made permanent or if changes are to be made''.

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