Walkways a must at outdoor cafes

The future of outdoor dining has been secured with the Whangarei District Council's alfresco dining policy.

The policy aims to regulate outdoor dining in front of businesses, ensuring safety for pedestrians and diners while acknowledging that alfresco dining helps to create a more vibrant area.

The council says it has had complaints about alfresco dining, with concerns for public safety and ability for pedestrians to navigate the tables and chairs.

District living chairwoman councillor Shelley Deeming says the hospitality industry has had a large input into the policy and they are reasonably happy with it.

"It's a balance between creating vibrancy in the CBD and allowing clear access for people who have difficulty getting through or may even feel threatened by an inability to get through."

Business owners will enter into a licence to occupy agreement with the council, with the policy guiding where the alfresco dining area should be.

All businesses are to have a walkway zone of at least 1.75m.

Businesses will be charged fees to cover the cost of the application and regular monitoring, and there may also be an annual charge for the licence to occupy.

The policy does not say what those charges will be but businesses already pay a one-off fee for an alfresco dining permit.

Councillor Warwick Syers says he hopes the annual charge will not become a "money grab".

He believes businesses using just a small area of public land should not have to pay more than the compliance charge.

But he agrees bigger businesses that can use a lot of public space have an advantage over those with none and that have to pay rent for 100 per cent of what they use.

Councillor Jeroen Jongejans believes the final wording of the policy is good.

"We've removed a whole lot of really restrictive rules. This policy will work and will keep this place as a nice, vibrant city to live in and visit," he says.

Whangarei Leader