OPINION: The Invercargill City Council's decision to stop funding Vibrant Invercargill is the right one, made for the right reasons.
The question here is not whether Vibrant ought to be the best organisation for the job of promoting the inner city, but whether it actually is.
Vibrant receives $80,000 annually - money wrenched from commercial and industrial ratepayers - to promote the central business district. Seriously, what benefits have resulted?
It can be a trap to confuse mere activity with achievement but, in any case, it's hard to detect a great deal of either from Vibrant, save perhaps the regular production of a newsletter.
If you were charged with promoting the inner city you would surely be coming up with promotions, incentives, and a raft of ideas to attract people to the city. Ask yourselves what downtown inducements spring to mind from the past decade.
There remains, perhaps, the possibility that Vibrant's achievements have been real but inconspicuous. If so, they also seem to have escaped the notice of the downtown ratepayers and businesses themselves, given the critical reactions that the city council's July survey of downtown ratepayers attracted. It wasn't a vote of confidence or satisfaction.
It is also true that Vibrant does not have a good working relationship with the city council.
One conclusion from the July survey results was that city centre businesses "want (but do not currently have) a strong relationship with the council".
Whose fault is this?
The disconnect could simplistically be portrayed as an example of sustained town hall petulance, given ill-feeling reaching back to 1998 when Vibrant's opposition to siting Stadium Southland so far from the inner city was at one stage expressed with a widely circulated cartoon mocking the council and the Invercargill Licensing Trust.
This would have been fair enough had it been an upfront criticism, but it wasn't. Vibrant's co-ordinator at the time, Alana Reid, having commissioned the cartoon and faxed it throughout the city underneath the council's own header, initially publicly denied doing so.
But that's little more than a bedraggled bygone. Essentially the council has long held the view that Vibrant hasn't come up with the goods, producing neither impressive initiatives nor even an efficient background hum. More a background whine, if anything.
So, from the end of June next year, Vibrant loses the contract and the council, citing the steer given by the businesses surveyed, is now looking towards Venture Southland, either as a straight replacement promotional body or in conjunction with the council itself.
Venture and the council are scarcely without their own host of critics.
So they will have plenty to prove.
Whichever way the new promotional duties are parcelled out, there will need to be evidence of much, much more achievement, particularly given council's inner-city upgrade project.
It's hardly as if Vibrant has set the bar all that high.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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