Pianos for city centre in hands of council

00:43, Jan 29 2014

A move to set up a set of three public pianos in central Nelson will be placed in the hands of city council staff, who will prepare a report on the ins and outs of the plan.

Nelson music aficionados Joe Gibbons, Joe Rifici, and Neville Claughton are the trio behind the plan. They want the council to endorse the project by taking on the [upright] pianos, which would be deeded.

Mr Claughton, the Nelson instrument repair and sales and service businessman known as Mr Music, is to supply a couple of pianos.

Starbucks, the Sprig & Fern and TSB Bank have agreed to have the pianos outside their premises. They would be wheeled out daily and stored inside at night.

Mr Gibbons, the head of Nelson-based worldwide specialty stainless steel distribution firm Great Plains Stainless, was inspired after seeing a similar idea on a trip to Chile's Santiago.

He believed that having pianos dotted around the city would also add to Nelson's tourism value.


Mr Rifici, who taught piano among his many musical attributes, said Nelson had a great pool of piano players. As a teacher he could vouch for the fact the city was full of all kinds of people who had taken piano lessons throughout their youth.

Mr Gibbons said in the public forum of yesterday's community services committee that once the pianos were gifted to the city, the council's only responsibility would be to tune the pianos "once or twice a year", which was unlikely to cost more than $1000.

Councillor Eric Davy agreed with the project, calling it a "marvellous idea" but suggested the council-funded inner city promotions organisation Uniquely Nelson might be a better fit for taking on the responsibility.

Mr Gibbons said the businesses willing to have the pianos outside their premises were hoping for council endorsement of the plan before fully committing.

"Starbucks and the TSB mentioned to us they were happy as long as the council was, so I think it needs the council's blessing and agreement," he said.

Mr Rifici believed it would be good mana for the council, and would be "one more thing to make Nelson a nice place".

Councillor Matt Lawrey said he loved the fact the trio had got as far as they had with the idea.

"If something like this exists in Levin, then we can do it here."

He asked if it was likely that busking might occur, but Mr Rifici said that would be inappropriate.

Councillor Brian McGurk said it was a "brilliant idea" but if they wanted to advance it they needed to be clearer about what they wanted.

Councillor Mike Ward likened the idea to the city's flower baskets project, which was initiated by someone else and adopted by the council.

Youth councillor Carla Lindley agreed it was a great idea, but thought three pianos might be a little ambitious for a city the size of Nelson.

"I wonder if one might be used to see how it goes, and if it works, then introduce the other two."

Committee chairman Pete Rainey, who endorsed the project, said he did not want it to become a big issue but the bylaw that applied to trading in public places needed to be looked at, to ensure it was OK to operate public pianos in the central city.

Council's group manager of support services Hugh Kettlewell said regardless of whether the pianos were played for money or not, playing music in public would still be considered busking and therefore the bylaw would need to be looked into.

Staff would bring a report back to the committee.