John Broeren. PHOTO/FILE

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

Economic growth in Featherston will give the community the boost it needs to fulfil its wish list – but the South Wairarapa District Council needs to play its part.

That’s the view of prominent Featherston landlord John Broeren, who believes the council could make it easier for new businesses to set up shop.

“There’s only so many developers out there, and developers and businesses are all about risk versus return.

“What we’ve had in the South Wairarapa for a long time is the risks being hidden – people start investing money trying to start something up, and then they get hit with more and more requirements and it gets to a point where they walk away.”

Broeren was to address the matter at yesterday’s full SWDC meeting in Greytown.

He believed the council applied the same rules to all three towns in the district, but the returns were “far greater and more obvious” in Greytown and Martinborough, giving new businesses more leeway when faced with a challenge.

“Whereas people in Featherston don’t [have as much leeway], so they walk away from the projects and the town ends up with nothing.”

Broeren said “silly little issues” that could have been avoided came up during the resource consents process with projects in various buildings he owned in South Wairarapa.

In the past year or so, he said, projects had been stymied by council requirements for disability toilets, in one case, and in another case disagreement over the size of a grease trap required.

He said the council had also initially denied a liquor licence to a restaurant because the building was not deemed to be of the required standard – even though multiple liquor licences had been approved for the same building in the past.

Broeren said developers had everything to lose and the council needed to share in the risk to attract more investment to Featherston.

Toning down the demands during the set-up process of a new project was one way the council could help fill up the town’s empty shops.

Broeren said the council could set conditions that needed to be meet within a certain timeframe of a business opening.

“Give the businesses a chance to see some return, before they get these extra bills coming along.”

This would also allow new business operators a chance to “see if their idea is viable” before investing more money.

More jobs would also mean unemployment figures would drop.

Broeren said councils, country wide, were becoming “risk-adverse” in fear of being sued.

But “little rural towns will be floundering in the shallows” unless councils take more chances.

“Everyone’s got a wish list, and a lot of those wish lists will fall into place naturally if we have more employment.

“If you have local employment, everyone who’s employed within the town will have their $400 [monthly] train fair in their pockets and they’ll then spend that in the community.

“By not commuting they’ll have extra hours in the day to spend volunteering in different groups and organisations, which is the difference between a town and a community.”