NiMBY City Council

Napier City Council is scared development of the former Caltex site (far left) will be detremental on Napier's CBD. But seem perfectly happy for it to clash with the Marewa Shopping Centre (far right)

Napier City council is scared development of the former Caltex site (far left) will be detremental on Napier’s CBD. But seem perfectly happy for it to clash with the Marewa Shopping Centre (far right)

Property developer, “Matvin Group” has bought the vacant former Caltex service station site on the corner of Georges Drive and Kennedy Road in Marewa, Napier. They plan to turn it into “a six-store retail complex”, but Napier City Council and its subsidiary, Napier Inner City Marketing is concerned these new shops could harm Napier’s CBD.

Oh, for goodness sake!

I can’t help but notice that just a few weeks ago, I read about Napier councillors welcoming with open arms a home décor store, not unlike those we already have in central Napier, into their new site in Ahuriri – even further away from the CBD.

But two councillors do own businesses in that area, so I guess that makes it perfectly fine…

Council staff recommended granting permission for the Marewa development, but suggested it only contain businesses that won’t compete with central city stores.

So, as councils do, NCC:

Passed the decision off to a hearings committee and employed an “independent commissioner” to oversee proceedings:

The committee was to be chaired by former deputy mayor Kathie Furlong and include current deputy mayor Faye White and long-term councillor Mark Herbert.

I’m a little concerned at the “independence” of the committee, though. Furlong was Napier City Council’s representative on the Napier Inner City Marketing board for many years until her retirement from council. She has since been replaced on the NICM board by none other than Faye White!

“Napier Deputy Mayor Faye White said the committee was still deliberating after the “lengthy” 6-hour hearing, and an outcome was expected “by the end of the week”.

And an “economic effects” consultant’s report was commissioned:

“The report, by Adam Thompson of Urbecon, concluded the new development would have either no effect or a very limited impact on existing retailers, and it was not necessary to limit the types of retail businesses at the proposed site.

However, council planners said in their report on the consent application, despite Mr Thompson’s assessment “there remains concern that the proposed development could contribute to what appears to be a trend of declining retail occupancy rates within the CBD”.”

Napier Inner City Marketing’s latest manager did something her predecessors never did – addressed this elephant in the room / CBD:

“We already have quite a significant amount of untenanted spaces in Napier.”

Is this is the fault of a few shops over a kilometre away in Marewa? No!

Outrageously high rents have taken business away from Napier’s CBD. Long-term empty shops, like the giant, boarded-up and half-abandoned Mid City Plaza have scared potential business away from Napier’s CBD.

NICM’s goals include promoting the central city and attracting diverse and vibrant businesses to the CBD. So why have they been so unsuccessful in filling the numerous empty shops in recent years?

The developers have at least shown some flexibility and agreed to alter their plans to suit the council.

“Matvin Group had offered to restrict the type of businesses at the site to “convenience” retailers – including food and beverage sellers, chemists, hair dressers, butchers, florists and dry cleaners – that were unlikely to be located in the CBD. That restriction has been included in a list of conditions council staff have recommended the hearings committee include in granting consent for the development.”

Here we have a major problem. Marewa Shopping Centre, mere meters away from the site being developed, already has long-established businesses providing those exact same things! You can’t tell me that replicating these businesses in such close proximity would have an adverse effect on the existing Marewa businesses!

I live just down the road from this development and half expected the site to become a Carls Jr or Wendy’s Drive-thru / Fast Food Takeaway – something that would be quite well suited for the site and most people wouldn’t mind.

However, the amount of noise and disruption a drive thru would cause to the suburban houses and streets surrounding it and a lack of space for parking makes it reasonably impractical and kind of rude to the neighbours.

So we are left with the current development debate.

As usual, it doesn’t do a thing to address what is central Napier’s biggest problem in recent years, but rather continues a NCC trend of deflecting blame. Such posturing is typical and sickening.

Napier deserves better!

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