1492397582052 - Invercargill public react to proposed street changes

Invercargill public react to proposed street changes

A new plan to transform Invercargill has had a mixed response from CBD business and industry leaders.

A new strategy, developed by Wellington retail consultants First Retail Group after months of business input, was adopted by the Invercargill City Council last week.

It aims to combine the work of all previous CBD strategies to build a better business and retail precinct. 

A two-way Don St and a right turn from Dee St to Esk St were listed as “high priority” in the strategy.

READ MORE: * Consultants want Don St two-way in city transformation * No more excuses, no more barriers for Invercargill CBD – retail expert * Kari Graber says Invercargill is ‘where anything actually is possible’

Also on the list was a four-way crossing for Esk and Kelvin St. 

However, some people said there had been many strategies introduced in the past and none had worked.

Kelvin Hotel general manager Aaron Mills said anything that was better for pedestrians was a good idea for the city. 

If the retail part of Esk St were to become pedestrian only, that might be good for walkers, he said. 

Mills said he did not think the Esk St upgrade had given any sort of extra value to the street. 

“If there were more business incentives for the centre of the town in the long term that would benefit everyone in the town. 

“There’s a lot of shops that could be given an incentive to make them a lot better for everyone.” 

Lollie Shop owner Neil Thomas said he had never been a fan of one-way streets. 

He favoured the opening up on Don St to two-way traffic. 

Thomas agreed with the strategy’s plan to create a right turn from Dee St on to Esk St. 

“I just hope something comes of this one, because we’ve had that many consultants in the past, and nothing’s really come from it.” 

He said he fully supported HWR director Scott O’Donnell’s comments at the Southland Chamber of Commerce AGM, where he said the council was acting as police rather than enabling change. 

The council had laws to comply with, but also needed to support businesses, Thomas said.

City-centre coordinator Kari Graber was the right person to “get things moving”, Thomas said. 

“The council’s got to stop being the policeman, and the council has got to help new businesses.”

The First Retail Group’s strategy aimed to combine planned developments and past reports. 

This included the 2010 report Identifying Invercargill’s Points of Difference, the 2011 Craig Pocock, Kobus Mentz and William Watt report Invercargill City Centre Action Plan, the 2016 Kobus Mentz presentation the Invercargill City Centre Action Plan and the Southland Regional Development Strategy. 

Architect Bob Simpson said he was frustrated with the number of consultants and plans the council had instigated.

Simpson was a foundation member of the former Vibrant Invercargill Board and the inner-city steering committee.

The board and committee existed when the last city upgrade was designed by architects, town planners and other professionals in the mid-1990s.

The Southland Regional Development Strategy had formed a similar group with the same intention, called the Vibrant Urban Centres Team.

Simpson said he believed a four-way crossing for Esk and Kelvin St was “fair enough”.

However, many previous ideas had never eventuated and seemed to be making more work for traffic engineers, he said.

The improved CBD would need more car parking, he said.

“It’s good to have people driving around in their cars, but we need people to be parking and getting out of them.”

Don St was made one way many years ago.

To reverse that decision would take away some parking.

Invercargill needed parking buildings, and somewhere where people could pay when they left, he said.

“Most of us don’t know how long we’re going to shop for.”

Having unlimited time, and paying when the day was done, could encourage people to stay in the CBD longer and socialise more.

“I think talking anything about it before the announcement of the ILT hotel is a waste of time,” he said.

“It’s actually a more complicated problem than a lot of people appreciate, and the hotel is quite important.”

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