Development welcomed but opinion divided on council's involvement

The Invercargill City Council and Mayor Tim Shadbolt hear submitters on the first day of a hearing about inner-city development. Photo: Luisa Girao
The Invercargill City Council and Mayor Tim Shadbolt hear submitters on the first day of a hearing about inner-city development. Photo: Luisa Girao
A development for Invercargill's inner city is welcomed by residents, but council investment in it, and the project itself, have divided opinion.

A hearing started yesterday to discuss the Invercargill City Council's proposal to invest up to $30million in the city's CBD upgrade project.

While some submitters believed the new mall would bring ''vibrancy'' to the city centre, others raised concerns about the management of the investment by the council and the cost of the project.

Invercargill Ratepayers Advocacy Group spokesman Nobby Clark said when HWCP Management Ltd announced the project in January 2018, director Scott O'Donnell forecast a $100million development, but now it was going to cost $280million.

He also said the group had ''serious concerns'' about the loan needed by the council, which would mean an increase of 1.25% on rates.

''We believe that [the council] should forecast the worst scenario.''

Resident Lindsay Buckingham agreed and said the development was not ''the silver bullet'' Invercargill needed.

He wondered if there would be another ''budget blowout'', referring to issues at the Awarua Industrial Park and the $4.5million blowout on an investment property in Don St, which had been managed by the council.

Kari Graber said the project would not have any social good for the city.

She wanted a place where housing, playgrounds and public art were highlighted, but she did not believed these were included in the HWCP development.

The council was not looking for other ways of funding the project.

''I don't understand why everything needs to fall to ratepayers.''

Ben Fokkens from Neighbouring Retailers Group (NRG), which represents 24 owners and three store managers from surrounding businesses, disagreed.

He said the investment sounded like a lot of money, but was a ''small price to pay'' for the future of Invercargill.

''We fear this development won't go ahead, leaving the CBD lifeless and unattractive.''

A total of 671 submissions was received during the community consultation, 70% in favour and 29% opposed. Fewer than 1% were listed as ''other''.

The hearing continues today.

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