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Growing pains in central Greytown

85 West St Greytown, site of the Greytown MENZ Shed. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

After several public submissions at last week’s South Wairarapa District Council meeting, questions about developing prime real estate in central Greytown are back on the agenda.

Three public submissions by Greytown residents asked that land at 85 West St, owned by the council and occupied by the Greytown MENZ Shed, be considered for sale or lease.

Submitters cited considerable economic and other benefits to the town.

The land is in a desirable location behind the town’s retail precinct. The three submitters were all members of Te Hiringa, a group concerned about the town’s future.

They said there was a strong appetite for the land to be developed, with one asking whether the council had an ‘electoral death wish’.

More than 1000 had signed a petition asking the council to reopen discussions on the site’s future.

After the Wednesday meeting, a council spokesperson confirmed the council had asked chief executive Harry Wilson to write a report on the costs, timing and scope involved in bringing forward consultation on future uses for the site.

The council said that in 2017 the lease on the site had been extended by 10 years, and it would expire in 2033. They could not confirm the rent.

“This is commercially sensitive information, and we are unable to provide it,” the spokesperson said.

“The council’s position at present is that there are no plans to sell, but it is willing to investigate future options.

“Many submitters to the council have told us that they are not as concerned about a proposal for the site by Mr Blackwell as they are about the site’s potential to contribute to Greytown’s future economic development,” they said, referring to a previous proposal.

“At the same time, the land is the last piece of central Greytown land in council ownership, and as such, the council has not wanted to dispose of it without assessing its current and future possible uses.

“Consultation on this was to take place in three years’ time as part of the Long Term Planning process. Depending on the report, council reserves the right to bring the consultation period forward,” they said.

Chief executive Harry Wilson said it was difficult to anticipate what the young people of today would see as essential in the future.

“It’s not just about what opportunities exist today, it’s about protecting council assets in the future,” he said.

Peter Bennett, chair of the Greytown MENZ shed, said it would be business as usual for the group.

“We haven’t heard anything, so we are going to continue as normal helping the community,” he said.

Submitter Gail Rapson asked why the fate of the land had become so contentious. She referred to a lease extension at a peppercorn rent reportedly given to the MENZ shed.

“I suggest to you if any of the councillors owned a significant piece of commercial land in Greytown, that would not happen, so why is it okay,” she asked.

“The current proposal for 85-87 West St is an economic plus for the council,” she said, citing employment, tourism, and other opportunities development would bring, aligning with current projects.

“The icing on the cake would be the council facilitating the sale of 85-87 West St, which would give us the keystone project right in the heart of the town.”

“To conclude, with considerable opposition to the excessive rates increase and the non-consultation with residents on the sale of land, it appears the mayor and councillors have an electoral death-wish,” she said.

“A better path is to roll up your sleeves, find a great alternative for the MENZ shed that makes it a win for them and embrace a terrific opportunity that has landed on your desks.”

John Norton added to the list of pluses development would bring, including significant potential income, vocational training and opportunities for locals, a pedestrian precinct and day-market for the Greytown CBD and a cinema.

Derek Williams said the town needed more and better accommodation and facilities.

“We need these for it to continue to be a vibrant place for people to live.”

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