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An Invercargill businessman has been blindsided by the Invercargill City Council’s plans to close the city’s CBD to vehicles for 14 months.
The council is set to begin work on its city streets upgrade next month, which would cause disruptions at the main retail area in the city at Don and Esk Sts.
Neighbouring Retailing Group and Shoe Clinic owner Ben Fokkens raised his concerns to councillors yesterday during an extraordinary council infrastructural services committee meeting.
He said since March 2019, the group had supported the inner-city development and upgrade and he understood there were always going to be road closures in order to complete the project.
However, he felt ‘‘blindsided and in disbelief’’ when he heard the proposal was to close the block from August 2021 to October 2022.
‘‘I’m not a roading or infrastructure expert but 14 to 15 months sounds like extremely long and unreasonable time for us retailers to suck it up,’’ he said.
He said when pipes were upgraded in Tay St in the past, trade was down by 30% during the three months of work.
When he asked during which hours the work was expected to be done, he was disappointed to learn it would be only from 8am-5pm Monday to Friday. He asked the council to increase the wage budget to enable the contractors to work longer hours.
‘‘There is no reason why the working hours can’t be from around 7am till 9pm.’’
Another concern raised was about the crossing. He said the road works had made it hard for people to access the street from nearby car parks.
A lengthy debate during the meeting canvassed ideas including a drop-off point, rates rebates, and a potential partnership with private car parks.
Infrastructure group manager Erin Moogan said a rates rebate would not be recommended as it would add costs for ratepayers.
Council’s roading manager Russell Pearson said he would be continuing to try to mitigate problems but the timeframe of 14 months given by the contractors was the the best at the moment.
He said there was a ‘‘seasonal opportunity’’ to extend the work hours but he also highlighted the council would need to balance that, due to noise and the potential disruption for hotels in the area.