Queen St upgrade placing 'massive burden' on Richmond businesses

CHERIE SIVIGNON
Last updated 10:37 07/10/2017
CHERIE SIVIGNON/STUFF

The western end of the Queen St upgrade on Thursday.

CHERIE SIVIGNON/STUFF
Tasman district councillor Kit Maling says the completed sections of the Queen St upgrade look stunning.
CHERIE SIVIGNON/STUFF
The Queen St upgrade in Richmond is not far awy from the area in front of Taylors shoe store.
CHERIE SIVIGNON/STUFF
The eastern end of the Queen St upgrade works on Thursday with Taylors shoe store on the left and the entrance to Richmond Mall on the right.
CHERIE SIVIGNON/STUFF
The outside of Richmond Library before the upgrade.
CHERIE SIVIGNON/STUFF
A new pedestrian crossing, paving, seating, plantings and a narrower road are features of the upgraded area outside the library.

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The extended upgrade of Queen St in Richmond is placing a "massive" financial strain on many businesses, say two long-standing businessmen.

Craig Taylor, of Taylors We Love Shoes, and his brother, retired Queen St businessman Phil Taylor, on Thursday spoke directly to Tasman district councillors in the public forum at an engineering services committee meeting. 

"I'd just like to make it really clear to councillors that the financial burden to date on a lot of businesses in the street has been massive and, I think, it would be wise for some of you to visit some of these people," Craig Taylor said.

Phil Taylor said there had been several changes to the work programme since the $11 million Queen St upgrade project got under way in February. Stage one finished 15 weeks behind schedule and work was now being completed in multiple stages instead of one stage at a time as originally planned. The "final blow" was recent advice that the completion date for the project was now the end of May – a month later than originally scheduled.

"Each one of these has added to the financial impact on Queen St businesses," Phil Taylor said.

The brothers' comments come after the council last week released a revised construction programme for the six-stage project, designed to pull back some of the lost time.

Richmond Unlimited vice-chairwoman Belinda de Clercq and events and marketing co-ordinator Charlotte Bidlake were in the public gallery to support the Taylor brothers.

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Craig Taylor said most businesses had prepared for the possibility there would be some cost to them as a result of the upgrade.

"I'd suggest that not many of them are in a position financially to be able to take on even more of a cost burden as a result of this changed plan," he said. 

The hardship that was happening and would happen to the business community "is very significant and very concerning to most of us".

Phil Taylor said the revised construction programme did not "discuss the possibility of significantly increasing the workforce to bring this job to conclusion much sooner rather than later".

"I appreciate that more manpower requires more money but the additional financial impacts need to be shared fairly between council and the business community," he said. 

However, later in the meeting, council programme delivery manager Russell McGuigan there were additional people working on the upgrade.

"There are now three teams on the job where there used to be two," McGuigan said. "We came out of stage one 15 weeks behind. Our current plan sees us finishing the project four weeks behind our original schedule so the next few months, we're actually going to make up 11 weeks."

The "boxes" – safety fencing and hoardings – needed to be extended to allow the three teams to work concurrently.

"We can't get the three teams in one box," McGuigan said. "The key message from the businesses is: 'Get the job done' so our emphasis is on getting the job done as quickly as possible whilst not compromising safety or quality."

Cr Mark Greening said he believed the concern from a lot of the businesses was "a longer wall is being created between the north side of Queen St and the south side of Queen St and the business transfer, the foot traffic, to get across has been more disincentivised hence they're wanting this to be moving faster if this wall is getting bigger and longer".

On Thursday afternoon, the street was fenced off from an area near ASB to beyond the library a distance of 190m, though pedestrians could cross outside the library itself. 

McGuigan said the intersection of Queen and Cambridge streets was due to open by the end of this month, which would improve the traffic flow.

"The library section's looking rather good; it's almost finished," he said. "That gives you a feel for what the street will look like; it's quite a different look."

Cr Kit Maling said he had seen more productivity over the past six weeks.

"The result looks stunning ... and to catch up 11 weeks is to be commended but it's just that it started off so bad," Maling said.

- Stuff

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