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Work to name town square starts

The Featherston Town Square. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM

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Is it a square, is it a squircle?

The wheels are in motion to have Featherston’s Town Square renamed.

On Monday night, the Featherston Community Board discussed how they would consult on the renaming of Featherston’s Town Square, which opened in 2016.

The request to rename Featherston Town Square came from former South Wairarapa councillor Dayle Harwood in June 2018.

Harwood was pleasantly surprised the request was still on the cards.

“It was very divisive at the time when the squircle first went in – there was a lot of bad blood,” he said.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity for Featherston to take ownership of it by renaming it.”

When the town square opened in 2016, the Featherston Community Board asked South Wairarapa District Council what was still to be done and when this work would take place.

This came after residents said they were unhappy with the council’s half-hearted approach to the project, in which stage two of the development never went ahead.

Then council chief executive Paul Crimp said there was no further work to be done.

At the time, Harwood requested that the plaque on the Featherston Town Square be removed and that “the square be renamed to something more suitable for Featherston”.

Members of the Featherston community embracing their town square last year. PHOTO/FILE

The plaque dedicated the public space to a previous South Wairarapa mayor and the construction company who built it, both of whom Harwood said were paid to do the job.

Although Harwood told the Times-Age on Monday that his biggest regret was “getting involved with local government” and that it was “a waste of five years of my life”, he was pleased the town square would be renamed.

This could be his legacy, along with coining the term “lemon land” to describe a piece of commercial land in Featherston obtained by SWDC in a land swap, he said.

The renaming consultation was parked at the end of the 2019 and was discussed again by the Featherston Community Board in its June meeting this year.

“It shows that someone is doing something right within council to ensure that any resolutions that are open are followed through with,” Harwood said.

In the Featherston Community Board agenda, SWDC staff said the decision to rename the square was “not considered to be a significant decision” in terms of the Local Government Act and council engagement policy.

“However, officers consider there is likely to be public interest in this matter and consultation with the community is desirable.”

It said the board should consider whether to consult Featherston ratepayers, Featherston residents, South Wairarapa ratepayers, South Wairarapa residents, the South Wairarapa district, or the general public.

“The board should also consider if all views are to be treated equally and, if views are to be weighted, how this would be achieved.”

SWDC staff said any name put forward for consideration should have some meaning behind it – “a back story that can be easily understood by the community and be culturally sensitive to all parties”.

They said the board should consult with mana whenua, the Maori Standing Committee, and historians.

Three consultation options have been suggested by SWDC staff: option one, a traditional approach – the board would propose a name and consult on it and call for feedback; option two, two-stage engagement – the board runs a competition and asks the community to vote; or option three, the same as option two but with a partner to reduce cost and provide expertise.

Staff recommended the third option.

The board’s recommendations, made on Monday night, after time of publication, would be passed to the SWDC assets and services committee, which met yesterday.

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