Squeeze goes on Vibrant Invercargill
A damning city-centre ratepayer survey could be the final nail in the coffin of Vibrant Invercargill.
A city council representative said the survey was a contributing factor to the cessation of funding for the central city promotion agency. Last month the Invercargill City Council decided to end its annual $80,000 funding of Vibrant from next June.
The council decided a rate to promote the central business district would continue but the service delivery would likely be provided by Venture Southland.
The stoush between the council and Vibrant continues, with the two at loggerheads about the survey and the future of Vibrant.
Vibrant Invercargill staff members have accused the city council of misleading the public, and claim the council has ignored the wishes of the central city community. Vibrant board member and treasurer Philip Todd said the survey was supposed to be independent but it was carried out by council staff and the wording of the questions were confusing.
The fight with the council to keep funding Vibrant had been a constant battle and the council did not engage with Vibrant, he said.
"This is the fourth time in 11 years council has placed Vibrant in this position and never has been able to show any good reason why . . . if Vibrant should cease to exist it should be for the right reasons and not on the whim of a few," Mr Todd said.
"In my opinion, council does not have the ability to consult with any third party in a constructive way and council chief executive Richard King is talking about getting rid of consultation by dictatorship," he said.
Vibrant Invercargill town centre manager Joan Scarlet said Mr King and Councillor Neil Boniface had tried to get rid of Vibrant since its inception.
The survey of central city ratepayers was incomplete and inconclusive, and asked about "city centre promotions", which could also refer to Venture Southland or the chamber of commerce, she said.
Mr King said Vibrant had had its chance but failed to impress the council and central city businesses and it was now time for a change. The survey result, presented to the council's finance and policy committee in July, was a contributing factor for the council decision to end funding, he said.
The survey was independent and it had provided a lot of feedback.
Mr Boniface said he thought Vibrant did not have the support of the community and the council thought central city businesses did not get value for money.
It was not possible to get mixed up about the survey's questions and businesses knew the survey referred to Vibrant, he said.
An overwhelming number of businesses surveyed said they would much rather the council and Venture Southland were involved with promotion, he said.
Vibrant had talked about the result of its central city survey, where businesses supported the agency, but it was four or five years old and only a petition had been seen by the council since then, Mr Boniface said.
H & J Smith chief executive John Green said he supported the principle of Vibrant and the need for the promotion of the inner city retail and hospitality industries.
The ideal option would be to establish a manager of the inner city at the council, he said.
The role would include co-ordinating promotion and other aspects such as infrastructure work, to ensure customer satisfaction.
The survey questions about Vibrant Invercargill were answered by 35 building owners, 6 tenants and 27 building owner/occupiers.
The first question was to find out the length of time respondents had been involved in the city centre and to get their understanding of proposed redevelopment. The other questions included: City centre promotion and events, business attraction, relationship with council and Vibrant Invercargill.
Observations on the survey, in a report by Invercargill City Council director of environmental planning Pamela Gare, say the city centre community did not feel they received noticeable benefit from events and promotions.
Businesses wanted a stronger relationship with council and business attraction should be done by council and Venture Southland.
It also says the newsletter is the most recognised service provided by Vibrant Invercargill.
"Many respondents did not feel they received a benefit from Vibrant and did not want additional services provided by Vibrant or its funding increased," the report says.
When asked who should be responsible for promotion and events in the city, 37 said Vibrant, 44 said it should be council and 29 said Venture Southland.
From the respondents, 42 supported the council collecting the special rate for Vibrant and 20 did not.
When asked what benefits the respondent currently received from Vibrant Invercargill. Out of 53 responses, 24 said none and 8 said they did not know.
"Hard to find any info on what Vibrant does."
"For whatever reason Vibrant is not working effectively. The time is ripe for an overhaul . . ."
"We have always supported the principle of a promotional organisation focused on the CBD – I would prefer a stronger and wider ICC to drive a programme . . ."
"Council should take them more seriously, it is easier for council to deal with one body rather than individual property owners."
"Service businesses like us receive no benefit from Vibrant."
"I don't believe they have the depth of governance/leadership to do more."
"I think Vibrant provide ideas and suggestions but do the council take any notice?"
- © Fairfax NZ News
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