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Retailers seek answers

CARALISE TRAYES
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2013
Orewa Business meeting

TALK SHOP: Developer Leigh Hopper, at the table in front with Albany ward councillor candidate Brent Robinson, Malcolm Webster, and Scott Kettle from 89.9 Times FM. ASB Orewa branch manager Tasha Ford is seated second from left at rear

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For the first time in more than 13 years, Orewa retail business owners met over a pint to discuss how to turn the town from "hole" to happening.

About 50 business owners met at the Ship and Anchor on Wednesday evening to try and address the dire state of Orewa township. Host Mark Norris says he has seen 23 shops close in a year.

Around a third were retail owners, with professional services and dining retailers making up the rest.

Developer Leigh Hopper attended, as did local body representatives Auckland Council Rodney ward representative and former Rodney District Council mayor Penny Webster and Hibiscus and Bays Local Board member Greg Sayers.

Destination Orewa Beach was represented by Hellen Hyndman and Gayle Hill.

The meeting was the first of its kind and the start of what business owners hope will be a fresh move to regenerate the heart and soul of the town that has been struggling to pull in shoppers.

"This is the first serious meeting ever taken place, and it's because we are getting desperate," Gecko Gifts owner David King says.

Underground Skate owner Nick Humphreys says the town is boring and dead. "There is no community interaction, landlords keep putting up their fees.

"We are getting businesses coming to the area for two years so their owners can get residencies, then bugger off," Mr Humphreys says.

Major issues suggested by the group include the difficult economic climate, the new Silverdale retail development which pulls the spending, the Auckland Council Unitary Plan which is causing uncertainty for developers deciding to invest in the area, an aging demographic on low to moderate incomes with limited cashflow.

Lack of parking was a hot topic. Some business owners are being blamed for parking outside their own shops, clogging up spaces.

"One of the problems we have, especially on wet days, is there are a lot of employees' cars parked outside businesses," John Clements says.

Shops closed on Sundays and public holidays also affect the area's vibrancy, the meeting heard.

"Half the shops are open. It's hard doing business seven days a week, but it's worth it," Orewa Menswear owner Tim Green says.

"Sometimes for us Sundays are our best days."

A fired up Penny Webster, who sits on the unitary plan working party, slammed the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board for not representing the retailers well in the feedback for the draft plan.

"The way the local board is angling Orewa is low-rise, low density," she says.

"In the unitary plan we have said that we want Orewa to have six to eight storeys. That would mean Auckland Council would spend in the area.

"We are hearing from a group of people who probably won't be here in 10 years. We need people like you all here tonight to tell us what you want."

Mr Hopper said unless there were six storeys "there is no payback as a developer of land so you will not see any change in this town."

The Orewa ASB Bank building is for sale and bank branch manager Tasha Ford says all the people who have come to look at the building ask if they can build upwards.

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Edgewater Motel owner Les King says he bought a business in Orewa in 1998.

"The town is now scruffy, and I blame both tenants and landlords."

A consensus was the need for Orewa to rebuild a town centre with a heart and soul.

Mr Humphreys says they really need landlords who look out for the benefit of the community.

New to the landlord game, Warwick and Petra Hewitt from Orewa Optics have just bought the store next door to theirs.

"We need to attract better shops," Ms Hewitt says. After addressing a number of issues, one suggestion was prize draws for people who shop in the area, something Destination Orewa Beach has co-ordinated before.

Some say major sales would help draw shoppers, but that was contested by others who said they couldn't compete with large retail firms.

Mr Norris suggested advertising on the motorway is important to point people to Orewa. The group agreed to meet again shortly with suggestions on how to improve the situation.

A second meeting is scheduled at the Ship and Anchor on July 31 at 5.30pm and a retail committee is planned to feed back information to Destination Orewa Beach.

- Rodney Times

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