Josh loves the parklet, but he is a council worker. PHOTO/PAM GRAHAM
Parklets divide town

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

On a gorgeous sunny day in Masterton on Tuesday, the debate about parklets was storm-force.

All aspects of the temporary recreation spaces in Queen St and Park St were up for grabs.

What was the council worker sitting on a bean bag really up to? What about the businesses who paid council for permission to put in outdoor spaces? Is this design gone mad? Had we heard Paper Plus has to take the Queen St bean bags and equipment in each night?

The Park St parklet in action on Tuesday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“No, we’re not paying staff to ‘hang out’ at the parklets with the intention of increasing their popularity,” a council spokeswoman said.

“Josh chose to spend his free time there – which is fantastic.”

Who secures the games at night is a small matter under discussion, says Paper Plus owner Warwick Delmonte who is a fan of the parklets.

“We are quite happy to participate in something out of the ordinary,” he said. “Whether you like it, dislike it, don’t understand or love it, whatever, it is a change and we mustn’t be scared of change.”

The critics say the council should stick to its knitting and fix roads and pipes.

“The money should have been spent on sealing the leaking swimming pool and providing an adequate water supply and possibly IQ tests for councillors and staff,” reader AH Wall wrote in a letter to the editor.

Others said the parklets disrupted businesses and were a design solution to town centre issues that are a reflection of the type of consultants used.

Some say the parklets are a good idea but are in the wrong places. The first one in King St was on a hot, busy corner and was hardly used by anyone not using the adjacent Don Luciano café.

The parklet in Park St is the most controversial and largest with activities and a food court being put into a blocked off side of the road for a month.

Councillor Brent Goodwin says money should be spent on enhancing the vibrant areas of town which are elsewhere, citing international literature on the topic, and on planting existing neglected spaces.

He said it was a poor effort to only visit the businesses on the south side of Park St.

Councillor Jonathan Hooker says there has been extensive consultation, including in the Long Term Plan.

“This is not a five-minute thought. There’s been years gone in behind this. There has been numerous forums for people to be involved in and some have chosen to be involved and some haven’t.

“The whole idea of parklets is for folk to get an opportunity to see the potential and to see if there are any pitfalls.”

He said the focus of CBDs were changing and people were coming to town for recreation as well as shopping.

“If you had asked me five years ago about putting money into extending the library I would have said you’re crazy.

“But we now know libraries are not just about the books, they are about the social interaction.

“Many folk are on their own, they don’t necessarily want to talk to people but they want to be around people.

“It is, I guess, about having a sense of community.”

He said all cities were investing in outdoor recreation spaces in business districts and he had recently visited some in west Auckland.

In future you might not be able to park right outside a business but the lanes leading to and from it would be a lot more interesting, he said.

“We are going to have to make some pretty tough decisions and there may be some pluses and minuses to those decisions but overall we believe that the plan will be successful for the town.”

Councillor Bex Johnson said she was all for supporting business in town “but I would also like to encourage us to try new things”.