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Tensions rise over access

 

Voices and tensions are rising as the debate about Fresh Choice’s future reaches fever pitch.

It was standing room only at a public meeting last week to discuss the latest resource consent application for an additional access at Greytown’s supermarket.

The public meeting to discuss it.

It was a vocal meeting with many issues raised, including, safety concerns about increased traffic on Main St, noise pollution, visual pollution and damage to a heritage copper beech tree.

The application, lodged by Woolworths New Zealand in June, was stayed on day 19 of the 20-day consent process for South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] to seek more information from Waka Kotahi NZTA and Woolworths.

The consent is similar in scope to one granted in 2015 but abandoned in response to the threat of legal action and a High Court case.

The application proposed a driveway at 134 Main St connecting State Highway 2 to Fresh Choice, creating a thoroughfare, and thereby mitigating the health and safety risk of trucks manoeuvring in the carpark.

Woolworths proposed a nine-metre wide vehicle crossing for service and customer use, a 2m wide pedestrian footpath, and 2.4m high fence on the southern boundary.

Of great concern to the public, was the proposed 2m by 6.4m “gaudy” Fresh Choice sign at the Main St entrance.

A report by Auckland transportation consultants Commute said a daily average of six vans, two light trucks, and 10 b-trains [4.25m high, double-axel trucks], would use the access from the north.

Resident Sandy Palmer said the purpose of the public meeting was two-fold: Inform residents of the proposal’s details, and launch action to oppose it.

She said Greytown residents could not simply wait politely for the application to go through.

“Last time the council simply went ahead without consulting or notifying anybody. It is possible that they will do the same again.”

Many residents objected to more trucks on Main St citing a safety risk to pedestrians, created by 23.5m trucks idling at the nearby crossing.

Co-owner of Greyfriars Motel and wheelchair user Ian MacDonald said the crossing was already a hazard.

“I’m a lot lower. I’ve had to stop halfway across because people don’t see me. For me, it’s dangerous already.”

He said the noise pollution created by extra trucks was also concerning for a motel business.

Palmer said trucks using the new access would damage a nearby heritage copper beech tree.

One resident said the proposal to replace the beech tree with grasses should it die was equivalent to giving the town that launched Arbor Day “two fingers”.

Others, however, urged a measured response, arguing Fresh Choice had a health and safety issue that needed resolving.

“We don’t want to make this an us vs them. I have lived in Australia and in small towns who fought Woolworths tooth and nail and they lost.

“Don’t make them the enemy. Find solutions.”

Fresh Choice owner Chris Ward said he was the unfortunate meat in the sandwich of Woolworths and the public and was unaware of the application until it had already been lodged.

However, he said something had to be done to mitigate the significant risk with trucks manoeuvring in the carpark.

“The nub of the issues is health and safety. A dedicated entry for goods vehicles means it’s a forward-moving process.

“A truck can unload and drive off into the sunset so to speak. I don’t think there is another option, we’re landlocked.”

Ward said if pedestrian safety was compromised on Main St by idling trucks he would request truck drivers access the driveway from the south.

He said he agreed with residents that the proposed signage for Main St was “stupidly big”, but said a sign on State Highway 2 was necessary.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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