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Traders feeling skittled

By Geoff Vause

[email protected]

Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson says her council wants to engage with the community on CBD development, but some business owners affected by the plan say they have heard nothing.

Darrin Pilcher and partner Angie Flemming run the bowling alley in Queen St, and after six years in business near the centre of town have never had an approach from the council about what they do or how the council can help business owners.

“There is no engagement,” Mr Pilcher said.

“They aren’t talking to us about what they’re doing, and never have.”

The council plans to spend around $4.1 million upgrading the CBD, and Mr Pilcher said he was waiting for some sort of overture from the council to see what he and other business owners thought.

“Perhaps we could have a public meeting at the town hall with business owners, find out what the issues are, what can be improved right now.”

“They could look at compliance costs and delays, for example. We understand the liquor licence laws and so on are a constraint for the council, but there are other ways they can streamline things, help things come together more quickly.”

“What is our relationship with the council? Are we just clients, paying rates, or are they interested in us?

“Is it the council’s responsibility to help us survive? What do they know about us? Do they look around the town and ask themselves what’s happening?”

Angie Fleming said the town could look more closely at how to promote what was already happening, citing her own business as an example.

With a nine-lane bowling alley, bumper cars and an arcade, they offered facilities not usually found in towns with less than 50,000 people. There had been no mention of this on any council website promoting the region.

“We haven’t even been offered a link on the council’s Facebook page, neither has the theatre or Aratoi as far as I know.”

She said using online resources which cost very little was not being properly considered. Interaction and feedback could be sought from the public using the CBD to promote the area and canvas for useful ideas.

“It’s unfortunate. Mention the council to anyone in business and watch them roll their eyes.”

Mr Pilcher said the bowling alley was doing well now, but it had been a struggle.

“Landlords can make a huge difference. Guys like Robin Dunlop, who owns our building, make a solid contribution to the town. We would have closed if it wasn’t for him.”

Mayor Patterson said her council did not have a preconceived idea on the CBD and was working with designers and seeking the views of the community.

She said the council needed to ask what the CBD needed to be relevant.

The senior projects boss Peter Whisker said the CBD revamp plan had just kicked off, and a series of workshops with key players and the wider community were planned.

“It’s part of a long term urban plan with a 50-year timeframe,” Mr Whisker said.

“We held the first workshop recently and that involved the Chamber of Commerce.

“The next will be held on a local marae, and we will hold one more specifically with business owners sometime after that,” he said.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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