Pedestrianisation to be looked at again

Bruce Blackie outside his Harbour St business last year.
Bruce Blackie outside his Harbour St business last year.
The Waitaki District Council's assets committee will revisit plans to pedestrianise Oamaru's Harbour St today when it considers a recommendation for a Saturday and Sunday closure for the coming tourist season.

During a second trial that ended at Easter - closing the street to cars from 10am to 4pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays - Harbour St Collective Cafe co-owner Bruce Blackie said the decision to close the street on Fridays had been an unwelcome surprise to businesses and called for the council to reinstate vehicle access on that day.

While business was good on Saturdays and Sundays, the cafe was about 30% down on turnover on Fridays.

He welcomed the news that Friday closures were no longer recommended by the council staff for the coming season, but said the council should not rule out a longer closure in future.

"Wherever the traffic leads us, we'll follow,'' Mr Blackie said. "If the foot traffic increases, it gets to that stage, we would love to have the seats out almost every day.''

When plans were first mooted - at a November 30 council meeting in 2016 - the public gallery was full and eight speakers aired both favourable and unfavourable views of a proposal to restrict cars from using the street.

Oasis Oamaru owner Greg Waite, whose Harbour St business sells antiques, art and interiors, organised a petition against the proposal before the meeting, and argued at the public forum the council would be making a "shocking mistake'' pursuing its plans.

He has since questioned the legality of a road closure and criticised the council's consultation with businesses in the area.

But at the other end of the spectrum, Waitaki Tourism Association chairman James Glucksman said the association believed the pedestrianisation of Harbour St could create a "destination retail area'' and should be trialled as soon as possible.

Last week, Nanna Bangles owner Livvi Kwant said because she opened her Harbour St shop in November last year she could not make a year-on-year comparison in terms of the pedestrianisation's impact on her business, but she believed pedestrianisation, possibly into the evening, had potential.

"I really loved it on the days that it closed and the cafe put all the tables out,'' she said.

Presence on Harbour owner Dawn Brown last year during the trial said she was experiencing similar trading during the weekend car-free periods.

But during the summer months her clientele switched to about 70% tourists, she was in favour of a weekend closure, but said more could be done to increase Harbour St's visibility.

The council should consider how to make the entrance to Harbour St from Tyne St more attractive to visitors with something to let visitors know "it's worth coming around the corner''.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

Comments

What a surprise, businesses that want to sell bulky items need vehicle access so people can actually buy stuff. Other businesses that want to increase their floor space into the road way for free want to do that. Last time I visited the area there was a pretty even mix of both business types. Will there be enough new restaurants and cafes to fill the empty spaces when all the "bulky" retailers move away? Will the area even be worth visiting without something other than just cafes and bars?

 

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