Council panned over plaza plan snub

Former mayor Peter Tennent is calling for the council to let John Matthews fundraise for a grand plaza in Queen St, in ...
ROBERT CHARLES/ Fairfax NZ

Former mayor Peter Tennent is calling for the council to let John Matthews fundraise for a grand plaza in Queen St, in front of the soon to be completed Len Lye Centre.

Former New Plymouth mayor Peter Tennent has accused the district's current crop of councillors of getting in the way when they should be leading the way.

This week the New Plymouth hotelier took to Facebook questioning why the council last month said no to businessman John Matthews' offer of fundraising as much as $1 million for a grand Queen St plaza on the doorstep of the soon to be completed Len Lye Centre.

Tennent's online post has found support from former district councillor Pauline Lockett and New Plymouth business heavyweight Bryce Barnett.

Yesterday Tennent said there had long been talk about revitalising Queen St and making it a cultural precinct, and he was incredibly disappointed when councillors voted against Matthews' offer to raise the funds to make it happen.

Tennent said it seemed councillors who were against the Len Lye Centre had decided to take a stand on the plaza issue, but instead they had done the community a great disservice. He has called for them to review their decision.

"Put the Len Lye Centre aside, this is a wonderful opportunity to develop Queen St at no cost to the ratepayers," he said.

"We have someone saying they might be able to find the money to make that happen and the council turned him down. I'm incredibly disappointed. The council has poured water on the aspirations of the community."

However, New Plymouth deputy mayor Heather Dodunski defended her council's decision.

She said though there was an assurance the funds for a grand plaza could potentially be raised, there was no guarantee.

If councillors had accepted Matthews' offer it would have meant waiting for funding to be found and this could have delayed the streetscape by at least six months.

The council had a responsibility to deliver a finished project on July 25 when the centre opened, Dodunski said.

"It's going to be broadcast around the world, the streetscape needs to be finished by then."

The plan that was given the go ahead by councillors last month was not too different to the one architect Andrew Patterson had designed, she said.

Councillors had compromised by including some elements of the proposal, like the widening of the footpaths and the addition of more trees on the Devon St West side of the building to mitigate glare.

Dodunski said the decision didn't mean a Queen St plaza couldn't be looked at in the future.

Wading into the online debate Barnett commented on Tennent's Facebook post that a downward spiral was gaining momentum in New Plymouth.

"The first goal is to stop that spiral. Then the hard job is to restart the positive momentum. We can do it and we will do it."

Lockett also commented on the post and said the district's current leaders should be continuing the long-held vision that New Plymouth was the best place to live, work and play.

She said the council had already committed $209,000 to the streetscape and if the community was offering to fundraise for a grand plaza, it should be allowed.

 - Taranaki Daily News

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