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Friday, July 19, 2024
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People build heart of a town

By Geoff Vause

[email protected]

Revitalising Masterton’s CBD is more than spending a truckload of cash on making Queen St pretty.

The district council is embarking on “a long term urban plan with a 50-year timeframe”.

It has more than $4m to spend. The key, as always, is in people, not bricks and mortar.

Some business people say they have not been asked for their views.

Some want a public meeting of business people to determine what their hopes and aspirations may be.

The council is not responsible for the performance of businesses, but it can play a huge role in the setting in which they operate.

The ambitious plan must include increased residential use of the CBD and environs.

In this the council can act.

They can make it much easier for warehouse conversions and apartment dwelling as close in to the heart of the town as possible.

This has proven crucial in revitalising urban precincts elsewhere in the world, some of which have been decidedly more dead than Masterton.

Students, families and single people need to be encouraged to live in the centre of the town.

Training providers can be attracted, with campuses spread among numerous buildings to help create the flow of people at all hours and on weekends.

People generate business. They generate ideas. Stuff happens around them.

Part of the council’s budget could include activities, not only infrastructure.

A permanent street performer budget, an arts budget, a few chunks of retail space kept aside for exhibitions and performance can play an important part of a flexible response by the council to changing expectations and needs of the most important element in any CBD revitalisation – the people.

The council needs to look hard at what has worked elsewhere.

Any plan has to demonstrate involvement with iwi, with the rural community, with the businesspeople and the shoppers, schools, sports groups – everyone who makes up the colourful variety of the urban population and users.

This needs to be an active element in the plan building, not a tick-the-box exercise.

Right now, business people don’t feel engaged in the process.

If they don’t, many other groups and individuals will feel the same way.

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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