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The Waitaki District Council has received $100,000 from the NZ Transport Agency, one of 40 successful applicants to the $13.95million Innovating Streets pilot fund to make streets in New Zealand more people friendly, using tactical urbanising.
Tactical urbanising is the use of non-permanent features, such as planters, furniture and artificial grass, to create a community space from excess road space.
The area of focus for Oamaru would be the intersection of Thames, Tees and Itchen Sts, Waitaki District Council roading manager Mike Harrison said.
The proposed changes involved making the western side of lower Thames Street, currently a two-lane, one-way road, into a regular road for traffic travelling in both directions.
The eastern side would be closed to traffic and instead be a public, pedestrianised space.
Mr Harrison said the starting point was to make the intersection work well.
"We need to make it aligned ... that’s the one intersection in Oamaru where the traffic has the greatest lack of surety about what they’re supposed to do.
"It’s not an accident hot spot, but it could very easily be. We’ve got pedestrians, we’ve got cars and we’ve got a very twisted alignment. So that’s why we picked that one, and it gives us a greater space to re-use.’’
Mr Harrison hoped to have the changes in place by Christmas and said community collaboration was vital to the project’s success.
"The next stage will be to start talking with the business community, and the community, and we’ll work out what is an absolute requirement.
"It’s not about reducing the level of service, it’s about repurposing the spaces.
"The only thing that is certain is, it will change.’’
It gave Oamaru a "huge opportunity’’ to do different things, he said.
"The beauty of it then, is to start looking at the rest of town and saying well, can we repeat this in other places?"
Oamaru Business Collective founder Annabel Berry said she was “absolutely thrilled’’ the council had secured funding and was pushing ahead with plans to revitalise the North Otago town’s centre.
"It’s something we’ve really wanted for a long time and it’s really a great start towards the revitalisation of our main CBD.’’
Mrs Berry echoed Mr Harrison’s hopes that this could be the beginning of a bigger town project.
"Also, we really want to see how people would utilise the space and we need to look at different activities and events as an option there as well.
"It’s really about creating that central hub where people meet and filter out into the different areas.
"We’ve got quite an awkward town roading plan and now what this would create is that direct sort of link between us [lower Thames Street businesses], the old part of town and then also Tees St.’’
Mrs Berry said the collective was looking forward to working with the council on the project.