Buses get corner of The Square

FUTURE OUTLOOK: An artist's impression of what InterCity buses in The Square would look like.
FUTURE OUTLOOK: An artist's impression of what InterCity buses in The Square would look like.

Regional buses will be stopping in the "precious" heart of The Square in Palmerston North from May.

The Palmerston North City Council voted 12-4 in favour of the interim solution to the bus terminal saga yesterday.

Mayor Jono Naylor said the search for an alternative to Pitt St for Tranzit-operated InterCity buses had "festered" for years.

The most recent proposal, to use the Highflyers car park, had foundered with development of the building stalled, and the council had pulled out of a lease agreement.

Tranzit had now forced the council's hand by telling Horizons Regional Council it was moving.

City council infrastructure and projects engineer Robin Malley said there was limited scope to refuse consent without evidence of serious dangers and problems that would stand up to court scrutiny.

However, there were grounds for moving the buses to another permanent site in future, with the library corner of The Square the preferred option, Malley said.

Naylor said he was comfortable with the plan to allow up to five extra buses at a time into The Square, at least on a temporary basis, to park on the i-site side of the central car park area off Rangitikei St. "I'm not too concerned about the loss of amenity in The Square.

"It is already compromised by a car park."

His usual adversary, Chris Teo-Sherrell, also supported the move.

A central, populated area close to quality toilets was particularly good for the unaccompanied children, youth, and older people who made up a large proportion of bus travellers, Teo-Sherrell said.

"It's about valuing visitors to our city who use this mode of transport."

Deputy Mayor Jim Jefferies said bringing up to 300,000 extra visitors into The Square each year would add vitality.

Councillor Rachel Bowen said a majority of people she spoke to believed extra bus passengers would make the "precious" area feel safer, and that they would support local businesses. The councillors who voted against the proposal were Duncan McCann, Tangi Utikere, Ross Linklater and Billy Meehan.

Utikere said people should be able to relax in the public open space of The Square without the encroachment of heavy vehicle movements.

There would not just be buses changing the nature of the area, but shelters, road markings, and provision for taxis.

In the last term of council, a decision had been made refusing the creation of a series of plaques celebrating the city's sporting heroes in exactly the same place that buses would now be parked.

"It was seen as disrespectful to the cenotaph and now we are going to allow 60 heavy vehicle movements a day," Utikere said.

Linklater said he understood the motivation of others who wanted to bring visitors into the heart of the city. "But I'm dead against having The Square commercialised any more. It is sacrilege."

Some of the $250,000 budget allocated for the Highflyers' site will be used to set up the bus facility in The Square.

Manawatu Standard