Push for plan to enhance suburb

TRACY NEAL AND LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 13:00 01/10/2012

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Nelson city councillor Paul Matheson is pushing to have the Tahunanui Development Plan put back on the council's radar, which rests partly on decisions to improve traffic flow through the area.

The development plan, which aims to enhance the suburb as more of a destination and less of a place people drive through to get elsewhere, has been on hold.

However, Mr Matheson hopes a forthcoming meeting with the Government roading authority, the New Zealand Transport Agency, will provide an update on planned improvements.

The council's acquisition of land to create parking behind the shops on lower Bisley Ave was "still on the table" and walkways across Tahunanui Dr to allow better access to the beach and reserve areas were part of the expansion plan.

Wakatu Incorporation's plans for a multimillion-dollar complex in Tahunanui, which would include a grocery store, an upmarket bar, and a restaurant, were still in the pipeline but had been delayed by difficulties in finding prospective tenants and Wakatu's decision to prioritise spending in other areas, chief executive Keith Palmer said.

About 10 per cent of Nelson city households were located in the area, and it really needed such a development, Mr Palmer said.

"We're still trying to line up tenants, a key one being a supermarket or food store. The problem at the moment is that Nelson and Stoke are considered to be over-serviced, and there's only so much demand - they feel if they build any more it will take away from existing supermarkets.

"That doesn't help the Tahunanui community at all though," Mr Palmer said.

He said it was a matter of priorities and Wakatu Incorporation had a lot on its plate. However, it had received support for the planned complex in Tahunanui from locals and several local politicians.

Mr Matheson said the suburb's development rested on improved traffic flows.

"The first thing that has to happen is to improve Tahunanui Dr so people have safer access. I have been on the back of NZTA about the [southbound] merging lanes, and we have a meeting with the agency this month when an update will be provided."

Mr Matheson said NZTA was waiting for an engineer's report on how to improve the lanes. Discussions were also being held on the possibility of moving or adding pedestrian crossings to make access to Beach Rd easier.

He said opportunities for improvement existed in the council's call for expressions of interest to take on Natureland and the fun park next to it. There was potential to enhance use of the reserve area if Natureland was not viable.

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"Natureland is probably outdated, and while there's no reason why some sort of animal park can't be looked at, the days of walking through looking at ducks and getting your jandals full of crap are outdated," he said.

Mr Matheson said Tahunanui is worth millions of dollars to the region in tourism.

"I would hate to see the ‘plastic attractions' like bouncy castles and ice rinks become permanent, but Tahunanui is the entrance to the city."

Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle said today that Tahunanui was an area ripe for development, with its close proximity to the CBD and plans for the beach area.

She said plans to set up a temporary ice rink over Christmas at Tahunanui and improve access to the cycleway might grow business confidence in the area.

The chamber of commerce has been assessing the 21 entries for its business awards which will be announced next month, and in that process has been gauging business confidence.

It found they were more confident than six months ago, and either expecting business to stay the same or get better. Several businesses had taken on new staff recently, Ms Kettle said.

"Tourism is very nervous about the summer season. That's why we're pleased Air New Zealand has cut airfares, that's a sign of something happening and it's something that needs to happen."

- The Nelson Mail

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