OPINION: Yes. No. Maybe. And no.
These are the answers to the following questions.
Should there be a restaurant on Caroline Bay?
Should the Timaru District Council run it?
Should the council help set it up and then end its involvement?
Should the council set it up and lease it?
Well, that's what we reckon anyway. With some provisos.
Next Tuesday the people we elected to make such decisions will consider the same questions.
It will be an interesting debate, and councillors will be mindful of public and business reaction to the council running a commercial gym in the new CBay Aquatic Centre.
But in principle there should be a restaurant on the Bay (although not everyone will agree). The place is looking magnificent. A cafe/bar/restaurant would add to it. It would make us seem more - what's the phrase - grown up.
But the council shouldn't run it. The council's job is to provide roads and water and rubbish and sewage services, and recreational and cultural amenities, and implement rules on behalf of central government. It should be so busy doing those things that it hasn't got time to run businesses as well. Especially businesses that compete with some of its own ratepayers.
The council helping to set up a restaurant and then ending its involvement gets a maybe because it would depend on what "helping set up" means.
There's a case for supporting a restaurant through the planning changes, which could be complex, and building a road and taking services to the "gate". Councils do that now. Going much further though could present problems.
Like owning and leasing the restaurant. That's for private enterprise to take the risk on. It's their money. They cast different eyes over such propositions.
The council has supported a couple of Bay ideas in the past that didn't eventuate. In 2002 it was the hot saltwater baths and two years later the council came close to investing in a $2 million floating barge conference centre. In the end the numbers didn't stack up.
And they might not for another restaurant in town right now.
But it would be good to lay the groundwork, for councillors to say they were receptive to such a venture and let the market decide.
We'll see on Tuesday.
- The Timaru Herald