Editorial: Right time for new ideas at Tahunanui

Slotted between Nelson City and Stoke, Tahunanui, at first glance, is all about recreation. In particular, it features one of New Zealand's finest, safest beaches, backed up by the attendant playing fields, Natureland and fun park facilities. But it's more than just a splendid summer playground magnet for locals and visitors alike.

Tahunanui is also a vital dormitory, with some 10 per cent of the city's population living there. In that regard, it is not well served when it comes to that common feature of life in the ‘burbs - the suburban shopping centre propped up by a supermarket.

Perhaps it is a victim of its proximity to the shopping centres in Nelson and Stoke. There are three Countdowns, two New Worlds and a Fresh Choice within 10 minutes or so of driving time from anywhere in Tahunanui. The suburb also boasts a petrol station, the park store and a sprinkling of dairies for those seeking more basic foods and supplies.

In mid-2010, Wakatu Incorporation was talking up proposals for a major, $10-15 million development on a 1.2ha site including the Ocean Lodge. Negotiations were on with grocery and supermarket owners, with plans also for a restaurant and upmarket bar as part of a development which, according to Wakatu, would bring a retailing heart to the seaside suburb.

Chairman Keith Palmer talked optimistically about hoping to have stage one of the development up and running in time for last year's Rugby World Cup. Today, in an update on the proposal, he says negotiations are continuing in an attempt to get a supermarket or food store interested, but admits that the incorporation has priorities in other areas.

The likely situation is that Nelson city has one supermarket too many - especially with two Countdowns almost within spitting distance of each other. Another reality is that no developer would press ahead with any big project as substantial as Wakatu's without signing up a tenant large enough to anchor it.

That said, the flurry of comings and goings as reported on yesterday's front page is an encouraging sign that others see opportunities in Tahunanui. With summer just around the corner and more confidence in the Nelson economy than six months ago, according to some feedback to Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce, it seems an appropriate time in which to establish new ventures - particularly those well placed to take advantage of the summer holiday population surge as the all important jam on top of the year-round bread and butter local market.

Presumably most existing owners will welcome the new players to their part of town as adding to the vibrancy and attractiveness of the area. They may well also be pleased to hear that the New Zealand Transport Agency plans a meeting with the council this month to discuss possible safety improvements to Tahunanui Dr.

The southbound merging lane is an accident waiting to happen - in one notable prang as witnessed by nearby shop staff, a boat flew over the vehicle towing it and flattened a car which got in the way. The peak-time clearway parking rules are frequently flouted, deliberately or otherwise, and a fresh look at whether the merging lanes are working is overdue.

The Nelson Mail