OPINION: The Palmerston North City Council appears to have taken a draconian approach in its handling of some recent tongue-in-cheek placemaking activity.
For the past eight years Burger Fuel franchisee Ryan James has drawn stencils on the council-owned carparks outside his Fitzherbert Ave business.
The large stencils, which aren't permanent, state the parks are "not technically reserved for Burger Fuel".
It's meant as a bit of fun and, of course, people not looking for a burger aren't frowned upon if they use them.
But the council has received complaints about the stencils, with some people thinking the parks were reserved for Burger Fuel. Others claimed to have been issued tickets after not realising the parks weren't free.
After being threatened with a $138 bill for the cleanup, James relented to the council's demands, though he has expressed disappointment that his attempts to provoke interest along the street have been rebuffed.
Squashed between the back of The Plaza and the Pak ‘n Save loading depot, the section of Fitzherbert Ave leading into The Square is a plain stretch of road.
James is probably being a tad disingenuous about his primary motives, there are clearly some economic imperatives at play here, but any attempt to brighten up this area should be supported by the council.
The placemaking on George St is an example of how business owners took over council parking spaces in the pursuit of civic beautification. No-one is criticising their actions, but they were surely more disruptive to motorists than a few stencils painted on the ground.
James wasn't formally linked to the council's placemaking scheme, which means he didn't pick up a DIY kit nor did he contact them for a list of dos and don'ts.
So it looks like he may have been penalised for displaying unauthorised initiative. When Seattle neighbourhood guru Jim Diers, a man with 38 years' experience in fostering community projects, spoke in Palmerston North this month, he called for the council to stop setting the agenda and start letting the public lead the way.
The council would do well to listen to him, as suppressing the creativity of people trying to improve the city's aesthetic isn't the wisest way to foster placemaking efforts.
Lytton Street School principal Geoff Lovegrove retired this week after 19 years at the Feilding school's helm and 43 years in the education game. His work in education at both national and local levels has been a credit to the wider Manawatu, so it is fitting that he'll retire in Feilding alongside wife Sue.
- Manawatu Standard
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