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Residential development in Greymouth's commercial area could kickstart the revival of the town's down-at-heel CBD, according to experts working on a new district plan for the West Coast.
But it will need detailed consultation with the Mawhera Incorporation, the Maori landowners who own much of the area involved.
Te Tai o Poutini Plan Committee, made up of West Coast councils and iwi, scrutinised the mixed-use zone proposal at its meeting last week.
The zoning would allow developers with resource consent to renovate old buildings as apartments or build new accommodation within easy walking distance of the Greymouth town centre.
Altering existing buildings or constructing new ones for residential use would be a discretionary activity, principal planner Lois Easton said.
"We want a clear degree of certainty of outcome for this … as part of the transformation from, to be honest, a dilapidated and not very highly-utilised commercial area, to a vibrant and exciting mixed use area."
The streets also included in the draft zone include the wharf quarter - land along Richmond Quay and Gresson St.
The area was a mix of freehold and Mawhera Incorporation-owned land.
Ms Easton said the mixed-use zone proposal arose from the Greymouth CBD Redevelopment Plan.
"I think by rezoning that area there is a high likelihood you will see some of that redevelopment start. What we are trying to achieve with the rule framework is a place that people will want to live, but also we don't want to drive away the existing commercial development that's there, so there is that difficult tension."
Mixed-use zones had now been used in towns all over New Zealand, Ms Easton said.
"There are lots of places where the commercial centre is just a bit big now, and mixed use has become a really great way to see reinvigoration of them."
The rules the planners had drafted were similar to those used in other smaller centres around the country.
"We're not talking about urban Melbourne or anything like that; this is Greymouth so it's the kind of redevelopment that will fit with the feel and scale of Greymouth."
Ms Easton was asked how involved the Mawhera Incorporation had been in the mixed-zone draft.
"They have not been involved in drafting the rules, but they obviously will be a key stakeholder we will want to engage with."
Mawhera representatives had attended the first redevelopment options workshop in Greymouth and had seemed supportive of the CBD plan, she said.
"We really gained the impression they are not developers as such; they hold the land and other people do development on their land."
Iwi representative Paul Madgwick said the Mawhera Incorporation deserved their own level of consultation early on in the process.
"They are not an ordinary stakeholder and I think it would be wise to start early," he said.
Plan committee chairman Rex Williams said he had met briefly with Mawhera and the rezoning issue was high on their agenda.
Draft rules for the mixed-use zone include requirements for sound-proofing; separate entrances for residential and commercial spaces in the same building; and 'facade control' streets with verandas over footpaths.
While the new zone had been created primarily for the Greymouth town centre, it could also be used in Westport or Hokitika if needed, Ms Easton said.
By Lois Williams
Local democracy reporter