Protest over signs

01:57, Jul 07 2010
SIGNS
UNHAPPY: Alpaca farmer Kerry Hart wants visitors to easily find his olive grove and farm shop.

A TOURISM operator is asking why his olive grove and farm shop will have to stay a "well-kept secret" after years of battling to let visitors know the location.

Te Whau Peninsula alpaca farmer Kerry Hart is also owner of Azzuro Olive Grove and wants tourists to be able to find his farm shop and the grove when they visit the island.

But, in common with other island business owners, he has been told roadside signs contravene Auckland City Council bylaws.

He is planning to appeal to the Waiheke Community Board for help at this month's meeting, after a fruitless battle with the council.

The appeal is being backed by deputy board chairman Herb Romaniuk.

Mr Hart's sign battle started in June 2008, when Azzuro Grove's sandwich board was confiscated.

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He applied for dispensation from the bylaw but was later told he was unlikely to get it.

He says council planners tried to help but in June last year the company received letters from the council saying all signs were banned.

Up until recently, the board had been adamant it would not back any changes to the laws.

Waiheke Community Board chairman Tony Sears has consistently voiced concerns over what he sees as the potential for signs to "clutter the island".

But the board softened its stance about advertising for community events after an approach by the Waiheke Business Women's Association in May.

A meeting has already been held between board members, council officers, and Jazzy Sundays event organiser Briar Ross, who is a member of the association.

The meeting decided to identify a suitable place for advertising on a banner board and poster board so long as criteria, such as limitation on profits, could be agreed.

Work is still in progress.

The board has also agreed to the development of a proposal for a Waiheke Wine Trail, with special signs to let tourists know where vineyards are located.

And it is talking to the council about signposting a special tourist drive from Matiatia to Onetangi, and between Onetangi and Orapiu.

Mr Hart will be asking the board to consider similar signs directing visitors to all of the island's olive groves, which he believes are a similar tourism drawcard.

He has already written to the council outlining his concerns and inquiring about continuing the use of fingerboard signs. The council says such signs in future can only show the type of facility rather than firms' names.

Applicants will only be allowed two signs each and there must be no more than four at any one intersection.

Mr Hart wants the board to look at the policy and consider whether it is appropriate and fair. He says having signs with no business names on them will be confusing for tourists when several similar businesses operate in the same area. And he is urging the council to hold a meeting of Te Whau businesses to discuss the whole issue.

"We're part of the tourism experience on Waiheke.

"People love the shop, the alpaca garments, items and they try the olive oil.

"Some say: `This has been a well-kept secret', and we're struggling to let people know we are here. I'm angry signage policy has been made without consultation."

Board member Herb Romaniuk is backing Mr Hart and says the council and the community board has been over-restrictive.

"The island needs a successful retail industry, and signage – advertising the commercial presence – is a necessity.

"We can achieve a result without cluttering the visual space."

Waiheke Marketplace