Mayor: Bridge St upgrade no blue
Nelson mayor Rachel Reese sees no need to change the controversial Bridge St upgrade project.
There has been a strong public backlash against the streetscape project costing nearly $200,000 which includes 68 blue lines painted on the footpaths, white Milenio seating from Spain, locally made timber seating, cycle racks, planters and lighting.
In a Nelson Mail online poll, 1430 votes, or 86 per cent, thought the lines were pointless. Public reaction has included questioning the council's spending priorities, lack of public consultation and criticism of not using Nelson talent.
Reese said the project was installation art, and art was controversial, especially in the public realm.
"Some people don't like blue - perhaps they prefer red - always a vexed question in an election year. Some people like dots not stripes. Did we consult the wider public of Nelson on stripes v dots? No. Do I think the council should have? No. What would happen if we did? Very high rates and very little progress. Is my personal view relevant? No. Although I prefer blue to red, especially in an election year," she said.
As for local artists, she said:"I like to see a local expression - maybe the blue stripes are a blank canvas for local graphics?"
The Mail asked for the project brief. On consultation, it says: "Design options should be developed in consultation with the local business community and Nelson City Council.
"The favoured options and ideas will then be drawn up, costed, and consented if required."
Bridge St businesses the Mail spoke to supported improvements to the street, with most in favour of the planter boxes, seats, and bike stands.
But few favoured the stripes.
The design work was carried out by Nelson landscape architects Canopy.
The draft concept plans were displayed last August at the Collective Cafe in Bridge St.
The council is allocating a further $200,000 this financial year for the next stage of the upgrade to enhance the crossing points at the junction of Bridge and Alma streets.
A spokesperson said how this money would be spent would be discussed with the council.
Reese said the original Bridge St project had a significantly larger budget, which was cut back as part of the 2012-2013 annual plan process.
That budget was based on developing a high quality urban environment for the CBD.
But once the budget was cut it was decided to rethink the approach on a more limited budget to create an overlay.
"What I signalled in this year's annual plan is a significant investment in our CBD.
"Its health is critical to the city's prosperity. I'm not talking about overlays," said Reese.
"Am I spending a lot of time dissecting an overlay of blue stripes and relocatable seats?
"Do I think these matters deserve governance attention on operational matters like performance of seating? No I don't.
"If there are operational problems then the public should let the operational staff know so issues can be addressed."
Reese said her time was better spent on the fundamentals, the things that would make a difference.
She gave examples: "securing the new Farmers development, levelling the playing field on parking, getting a sensible approach to earthquake-prone building regulations, incentivising private investment in public facades and places, and reducing red tape for development opportunities."
The Nelson Mail