Unmanned fuel station plan irks Tokoroa council

Plans to turn Leith Place into an attractive window to Tokoroa have been tarnished by the possible opening of an unstaffed service station, according to council staff.

South Waikato District Council was shocked by the Ngati Raukawa application for a resource consent, chief executive Craig Hobbs said.

"Council staff are disappointed that the development has been proposed - it was a surprise to be honest."

Raukawa said they did talk to the council first, but couldn't sit on the land forever while it worked out what to do with it.

Mr Hobbs said the council had considered developing the street for a few years, including that particular section, containing what used to be the town's bus station and, lately, a market venue, even consulting on it during past annual plan developments.

He said the council had already engaged an urban designer and architect.

"Council knows at the end of the day that Tokoroa has a bad impression, rightly or wrongly. We want to create a shop window for Tokoroa that is attractive."

The resource consent, which is still being processed, is for an unstaffed 24-hour Gull service station on 16 Bridge St. Mr Hobbs said the council thought the landowner, Raukawa, was on board with the project.

"This is out of the ordinary in terms of our relationship with Raukawa," Mr Hobbs said. He said the land was intended to be used in the Leith Place upgrade.

"Tokoroa is known as a tired, lower socio-economic town. Even if we do do something from the clock down, we will still have the 24-hour Gull station there. And it offers no economic return to Tokoroa. All the money will go back to Auckland. It doesn't offer anything to our community."

However, Raukawa said all the rent would stay within the South Waikato.

The council held off on designing the concept until it had completed further economic analysis.

A Raukawa spokesperson said while it may have come as a surprise to council, it (the lease to Gull) was well received by Raukawa Settlement trustees when it was detailed at the November hui.

"Raukawa Iwi Development Ltd (RIDL) did not consult with the council but we did endeavour to provide the council with a heads-up that we were considering commercial options."

He said RIDL, the commercial arm of Raukawa, was open to offers, including from the council.

"But we could not responsibly keep the site undeveloped indefinitely. As prudent commercial managers for the people of Raukawa it is incumbent on RIDL to maximise development opportunities when a quality commercial tenant seeks to progress negotiations."

Discussions between RIDL began with Gull in September and there was now a lease arrangement between the two.

The spokesperson said Raukawa's involvement with the Leith Place upgrade was limited.

"There had been some informal discussions over several years. However, these had not progressed past discussions."

He said Raukawa did not realise the council had engaged an architect until the council made its objection to the station clear.

"This development is RIDL's first major commercial property development within the South Waikato and we are excited and proud to be providing a development which enhances Tokoroa, develops a piece of land in the centre of town, and provides a further opportunity for travellers through the town to stop."

Waikato Times