Greytown Menz Shed on West St, Greytown. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND
Number 85-87 West St has become a bone of contention for many in the Greytown community.
It was handpicked as the spot for a multimillion-dollar cycling-inspired hospitality venue, but is already home to the Greytown Menz Shed.
And the council doesn’t want to make any hasty decisions on selling the land.
Councillors decided last week to explore options for the future of the land via an 18-month exercise.
Councillors voted for the process to start as soon as practicable, which was July 2022.
Public consultation to determine the future use of the land would happen after a detailed analysis was done and was set to be tied in with the 2023/24 annual plan process.
But the mind behind the proposed hospitality venue, Adam Blackwell, is not impressed, saying “process won over opportunity” at the council meeting.
His project, Pahikara, was first floated in November last year.
Meaning ‘bicycle’, Pahikara was a proposed $15 million hospitality complex with a boutique cinema and cycle hire.
At the time, Blackwell said the project would create 40 jobs and would make Wairarapa the “Otago of the North”.
“Having been a small business owner for nearly 30 years, I have focused on efficiency, creativity and energy to make positive things happen,” Blackwell said.
“Unfortunately for me, that style isn’t compatible with how our local governance works.
“A decision was made today to begin a consultation process that will take up to two years from now to complete; that may or may not lead to the availability of a small piece of ratepayer-owned land forming part of the footprint for my Pahikara concept.
“I didn’t do a good job of selling this idea to our town’s leaders and I apologise to Greytown for messing it up.”
He said the process the council was undertaking was “a noble idea”, but was also “expensive and complicated”.
“I believe the current generation of ratepayers and residents – especially those that live in Greytown itself – have priority.
“I remain optimistic that local governance will grow to understand that we live in an extremely special region with wonderfully successful small towns.
“Embracing strategic opportunities that propel a town forward in a way that aligns with Long-Term Plan principles should be energetically pursued, especially when the economic climate is strong.
“Stifling them with archaically designed processes creates a long-term loss.”
He said he did not have the energy to wait two more years for “a distant possibility”.
“We gave it our best shot. Onwards!”
At the meeting, South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] chief executive Harry Wilson said the council needed to follow due process with the land’s future use “so that we’re not making a decision that seems to be based on one particular option”.
Mayor Alex Beijen said there had been “a lot of miscommunication out there about what this decision is”.
“This is purely making sure that we know what the potential future use is of this land before making a decision to divest ourselves of the land.
“This has nothing to do with any proposed commercial use of this land.”
Councillor Brenda West asked if the council had a valid reason for retaining the land.
“The answer is yes,” Wilson said.
“We are holding the land for future use. It is currently being used by a community group and we are receiving a lease from a commercial property on the land.”
Greytown ward councillor Alistair Plimmer said the land use topic had brought out “bullying” behaviours in residents: those who wanted the land to be sold for commercial development, and those who wanted status quo.
“It is a very highly-charged issue in Greytown on both sides of the argument about it,” Plimmer said.
He said the process needed to begin and be completed as soon as practicable to relieve tensions in the town.
“It will show people on both sides of the argument that the council has taken this issue to heart and is progressing it.
“I do believe there is actual hurt occurring to people in town, the way comments are being made about people.”
Fellow Greytown ward councillor Leigh Hay agreed.
“This causing a lot of grief and anxiety, and given how people are feeling currently about council, I think [the process] needs to start as soon as possible.”
All councillors present agreed to commence a project plan to consider the future use of 85-87 West St next financial year.
This was subject to confirmation of a suitable budget for the plan including consultation.
The process would cost from $46,000 to $73,000. — NZLDR