By Hayley Gastmeier
The new Featherston Town Square was the object of contention at a meeting last week.
A community event arranged and self-funded by two Featherston residents had to be relocated for fears of “scuffs and scratches” to the new town hub.
Earlier this month Rebekah Mehrtens and Martine Bijker put on a ‘First Fridays’ event, a concept which is popular in America and where communities come together on the first Friday of each month to share music and art.
Initially the pair arranged for the event to be held at the newly finished Featherston Town Square, but later changed the venue to Featherston School after a conflict with South Wairarapa District Council.
Ms Mehrtens spoke to the Featherston Community Board about confusion around the use of the new hub.
“We want to put forward the idea that there needs to be public consultation about how the Featherston Town Square can be used,” she said.
“We actually thought we were doing the council a favour by running an event.
“It was free, we weren’t asking for any funding… it was meant to be a great positive thing for the community.”
However, the event organisers and SWDC butted heads over one particular performer booked for the occasion, street performer Kim Potter and his Vegas style wedding chapel.
SWDC were not happy to have the chapel, which is built on top of a trailer, brought onto the town square for fear of damaging the pavers.
After learning of this, Ms Mehrtens and Ms Bijker approached the site foreman.
“He assured us that it had been built to take weight. We then went to the designer who also reiterated that.”
In a document made available to the Times-Age at the meeting, Ms Mehrtens produced a statement she received via email from SWDC chief executive Paul Crimp.
“We will not be allowing vehicles, including trailers, onto the site as damage cannot be avoided,” Mr Crimp’s statement read.
“The weight is not the issue, the issue is the very real possibility of the surfaces, tiles, steps, benches, plants in the ground, being damaged needs to be avoided.
“This should be treated as a pedestrian area, it won’t take long for scuffs and scratched to appear and ruin the outstanding workmanship.”
The event was subsequently moved to Featherston School, where it was successful with over 100 people turning out.
Ms Mehrtens said a public space should be designed with vehicle access.
She said “proper consultation” was needed so the community hub could be utilised by the townspeople.
“We want to embrace this space, we want to feel ownership, we want to feel that our feedback is being listened to and then being actioned upon.
“There needs to be a real mandate, a management plan developed. And we want to see creativity and energy being encouraged in this town because we have got world class artists and performers and we want to see them given a place [where they can embrace their skill sets].”
Councillor Colin Olds said council officers were putting together guidelines for the use of the space.
FCB chairwoman Brenda West said, once the draft guidelines were complete, “we’ll take it to the community and get feedback”.
Another First Friday has been arranged for December 2.
It will be at the Featherston Town Square, however it will not feature the DJ and his Vegas wedding chapel.