Should council close Market St and see if it works as a mall?
Letters to the editor
If you will allow an outsider to take column space again, I would like to suggest that the readers who voted to make Market St pedestrian think carefully about what benefits they are looking for. Urban designers tinker endlessly with the problem of mixing cars and people without too much disadvantage to either.
Market St was created as an integral part of the now rather unfairly reviled overall design of central Blenheim, and it is an almost textbook example of solving the problem.
It has wide pavements with seating that I see people actually using, enough parking for the elderly or disabled to get easy access, and the single lane of traffic allows adequate movement of cars as they nose their way slowly along with a very proper sense that pedestrians are more important.
Sometimes a fully pedestrian mall can be right.
In Christchurch, Cashel Mall was a welcome oasis away from the violent traffic flows that drowned the inner city, but it never had the vivid liveliness of happy community that Market St has.
As always, we cannot make improvements without being certain we have correctly identified the goal. It may not be the cars that people are really troubled by.
I am sitting here wondering who is running this town.
A car park meeting at the Scenic Hotel to talk about a mall. The Marlborough District Council's Traffic Design Group - would that be the same group that has agreed to the new layout and road narrowing to allow the new theatre to be built across the footpath and on to the road? I cannot believe it.
The ratepayers and the people who spend money in the retail outlets will have to have a say. They are the customers who keep the retailers in business.
As regards angle parking, that is a no-no - the streets are too narrow. Maybe we should close Market St to all traffic, and put another "Pocket Park" in the middle. Now, what can we name it?
Just a little reminder that there is no money left in the reserves for anything. It was spent on a $6 million convention centre five years ago. This is being run by the Scenic Hotel, and it had to put on another 40 rooms; it hasn't met that part of the contract, and the council gets no money from that lease.
Another $6 million-plus for a new carpark for the theatre - very little money from that. The Classic Hits radio station site - the council paid $960,000, over $1 million in total, then had to clear the site and seal and mark it out - and that is a free car park.
I will have to mention the theatre. The council gave the land, a prime site worth $5 million, $350,000 for the new roof, $6 million for the old theatre site, when the new theatre requires money to pay the contractors, and now also given permission to borrow $2.5 million from the bank. The council is the guarantee for this loan.
The council loves to handle the ratepayers' money.
If the councillors or council want to deny this, I am prepared to face up at any time.
This is election year. Please use your vote or pay more rates.
Mayor's response: In response to Mr Brett's letter, I would like to clarify a couple of matters.
The Traffic Design Group has no involvement in the layout of Hutcheson St for the new theatre. It has been engaged by council to review council's parking strategies for Blenheim and Picton. They are experts in this area. This will include a review of parking areas that should be metered and areas that should be free. Consultation with the retailers is an essential part of this process.
The cost of the convention centre was $3.9 million, not $6 million. As far as I am aware, no council in New Zealand makes money from owning a convention centre. The objective is to ensure it does not cost the ratepayers any money to operate.
Council is currently renegotiating the management contract with Scenic Circle. The convention centre has been a great success and has created jobs.
Council will be considering its budgets in late February for the next financial year. This will include a review of council's financial reserves. Council is in a strong position financially, with low debt levels.
Not a majority
The Marlborough Express does an online survey [marlboroughexpress.co.nz, editor's blog, Dancing the car, December 28] and gets a response from 410 residents of Marlborough.
How about all the ratepayers in this province who fronted up with the money for the council under the advice of "experts" to develop Market St originally? Do they all have computers, access to one, or maybe the skill or expertise to deal with an online survey?
The only way to get the true figures is to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to vote. Maybe the shopkeepers would do well to consider a paper poll of their customers.
Then the Express has the temerity to say that there is overwhelming support for a mall in Market St ["Shoppers strongly oppose Market St mall", Express, January 16]. Bollocks!
In 2006, our population was 42,000-odd. That makes 410 about 1 per cent of the people who live and shop here.
You people at the Express need to look up the meaning of the word "overwhelming".
Then, blow me down, in comes Mayor Sowman saying: "We've got 80 per cent of people here telling us they want improvement." In spite of what the mayor says, 80 per cent of 1 per cent of the population is not going to win an election.
Stick with the sewerage, clean water for Seddon and roads, Mr Sowman, and keep to your very recent words about restricting expenditure to essentials.
- The Marlborough Express