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Accessway hearing hits full speed

The Woolworths NZ resource consent application hearing in Greytown was the scene of heightened emotions this week.

Independent commissioner Lindsay Daysh listened to evidence for and against an accessway development and signage to Greytown’s FreshChoice supermarket over the two-day proceedings.

Woolworths NZ has been working to get the resource consent application for the Main St and SH2 development across the line since 2015.

The 8.4m proposed accessway is deemed necessary by Woolworths NZ due to what it says is an unsafe parking configuration for big delivery vehicles, which currently must reverse into a loading dock.

The proposed development also includes new signage to improve the supermarket’s visibility to SH2 traffic.

The application has riled many local residents, 77 of whom made submissions entirely opposing it.

Those adamant the proposal should be refused cited a range of issues, most of which involved concerns about the development’s potential to compromise aspects of traffic and pedestrian safety, as well as the town’s heritage values.

Several submitters told the Times-Age they have been boycotting the supermarket in protest at the prospect and also questioned whether any accidents in the current supermarket car park have been recorded to date.

Woolworths NZ counsel Allison Arthur-Young began the hearing by reading the main points of the application, noting Woolworth’s reasons for pushing the development: “The current situation requires a complex manoeuvre of vehicles and b-train trucks reversing into the loading dock.”

Noting the proposal is consistent with the district plan, Arthur-Young said there should be “discretion and flexibility” when considering how it will be achieved: “This is not a situation which raises complex legal or planning matters.”

Arthur-Young said the accessway and associated signage have been carefully designed with respect to vehicle and pedestrian safety, as well as heritage values.

“Woolworths has carefully considered the look and size of the sign in response to concerns about it,” Arthur-Young said.

“The proposal has been designed to make sure Greytown’s heritage values are protected.”

Residents’ worries about whether the large copper beech tree facing SH2 on the development site would also be protected were canvassed too.

In previous iterations of the proposal, the tree was going to be removed, but local protests led to Woolworths NZ committing to keeping it.

Referencing submitters’ scepticism about this assurance, Daysh brought up the certificate of compliance for the tree’s removal that Woolworths NZ has requested and received.

“The applicant goes to some pains all the way through to say it is your intention to keep the tree,” Daysh said.

“Would it be fair to say that a lot of concern from submitters emanates from the fact that you applied for the certificate of compliance?” – a query that was met with wry chuckles from the seated submitters.

In response, Woolworths NZ development manager Daniel Shao said the certificate was solely a means of confirming the tree’s status.

“There are many measures we’ve accepted that maintain the protection of the tree,” he said.

Richard Peers, an arborist expert representing the applicant, maintained that the tree would remain intact, going so far as to point to which branches would need to be pruned.

The tree and proposed signage were brought up by multiple submitters in the context of Greytown’s status as a “destination town”.

Several submitters also aired concern about the impact of truck and delivery noise on local businesses and neighbours.

Greyfriars Motel owners Michelle Dawson and Ian McDonald said additional noise from increased vehicle traffic would adversely affect their guests’ comfort.

“We’re a motel. We have people who come to sleep; they want to relax and sit outside,” Dawson said.

“Talk of a 1.8m fence is ridiculous. I’m sorry, that’s not enough for people sleeping – even though they have a wall, they will still be affected by all this noise.”

To further demonstrate her point, Dawson gave a vocal demonstration of the loud clangs and beeps she anticipated the delivery vehicles next door would result in.

The most common concern – shared by submitting residents, the council, and Waka Kotahi – was the potential erosion of road and pedestrian safety.

Pointing at a photo of a Main St pedestrian crossing close to the proposed site, McDonald – who uses a wheelchair – said the accessway would contribute to increased traffic and queuing to the area.

“I’m about the height of an eight-year-old. If there’s a car there, I can’t see past a passing vehicle over the road,” McDonald said.

“The crossings are a nightmare. The number of times I’ve stopped a third of the way across because someone’s not seen me.”

Multiple submitters said they have observed near misses in Main St traffic, although Woolworth NZ’s transport expert Leo Hills said traffic modelling showed a low chance of any incident occurring.

One submitter, David Lloyd – a retired truck driver – took the opportunity to draw different truck configurations on a whiteboard to convey the impact of heavy vehicles on the road and their inability to turn without crossing the centre line of Main St.

Also speaking against the proposal were representatives from Greytown Community Board, Greytown Heritage Trust, and Greytown School Board.

Speaking for the school board, David Ross also made a point of acknowledging the contribution FreshChoice makes to Greytown.

“We have always considered FreshChoice an important part of our community. They’re supportive of so many good initiatives for our kids, with generous donations to charitable causes,” Ross said.

“However, what Woolworths proposes goes completely against what it means to be a good corporate citizen.”

At the hearing’s close, Arthur-Young reiterated that heritage and traffic elements of the development would be well managed.

It is expected that Daysh will receive a written right of reply from Woolworths NZ by October 20.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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