One area that the Draft Masterplan suggests some major changes to is Ardmore Street, Helwick Street, and the lakefront area that currently hosts the log cabin and bus depot.
Chiefest to the ambitious plan is to remove all lakefront parking from the corner of MacDougalls to Lakeside Drive. The parking will be reallocated elsewhere and the bus depot will move to Dungarvon Street.
Access to businesses along the lakefront has been retained although the section of Ardmore from Dungarvon to Lakeside will be a one-way, 10kmph shared zone and cars will hypothetically wind their way slowly over cobbled streets lined with picnic tables and planter boxes. The direction of one-way traffic will be east to west; entering Ardmore from Dungarvon then exiting either up Helwick, or through to Lakeside.
Short-term and mobility parking will be provided on this section of Ardmore. Additional angle parking is proposed for Dungarvon, north of Dunmore. Lower Helwick is proposed to be transformed into a one-way street, accessed from Ardmore and will also be created as a shared zone plaza.
So, with the proposed changes now announced, how do local retailers feel about it?
Steve Schikker is the owner of Racer’s Edge, a business that has been there for 30 years says he’s open to change but is skeptical of both the process that has been used to create the plan, and the plan itself. “We haven’t been consulted on it at all,” he said. “I’m on the CBD Property Owners Group and was hoping we would have consultation before they released it to the public because the public might look at this and think this is amazing… but it hasn’t really been thought through with us, and talked about or how economic effects might affect us.”
The Wānaka Sun asked Calum MacLeod whether the impact of Three Parks should be assessed before making changes to retail in the town centre. “I agree that Three Parks ‘will be a major disrupter to retail in the town centre’. This will take quite a long time. It has already been many years and although this pace will accelerate, who can tell how long this will take to come to final fruition?
“I am on record as saying that I firmly believe that rather than wait until we have to react to this disruption—to see what happens—wouldn’t it make more sense that the Wānaka Town Centre needs to be ahead of the game with regard to Three Parks? Yes it will change the parameters but I believe that there is a need for the Wānaka Town Centre to lead the way. It needs to remain THE destination of choice for ALL of our community not just tourists. To do this it needs a wide variety of shops and attractions.”
Ann Louise Stokes from Wools of Wānaka is also acerbic of the economical merits of turning the area into a plaza. “The [March] trial was 50 percent down on takings from same dates last year.” To say Stokes is optimistic of the plan would be disingenuous.
However, Mayor Boult was emphatic in his response: “There is no way in the world we are going to do anything that would rip the guts out of the commercial centre of the town,” he said. “We haven’t done any studies into the effect of what's proposed commercially and that would all need to be done before we went anywhere. This is a discussion document.”
Whilst some retailers referred to this plan as a “final draft”, the language here is critical. All the Councillors spoken to, as well as the communications team at QLDC and the Mayor have gone to great lengths to elaborate that this is just a draft — a beginning for discussion, that will lead into feasibility studies, economic analysis, cost assessment — all of which will be subject to the democratic process.
Boult wanted to be abundantly clear that this now is the time for consultation and discussion. For retailers who are upset they have not been consulted, Boult assures them that consultation is coming and that everyone will have a chance to air their views.
“A number of them [retailers] have spoken to me directly already and I’ve taken that on board, and there will be ample opportunity to put their cases to us. Consultation isn’t about ringing every retailer asking them for their opinion; it’s about a wide discussion and wide input, then feasibility studies done then logical workable solutions found.”
Brian Kreft, owner of Paper Plus
“I confirm that in relation to what is proposed for Ardmore Street and Lower Helwick Street will be an unmitigated disaster in so far as those retailers located in that precinct are concerned. One of the key components of a successful retail precinct is access and parking, both of which will be materially impacted on if the Plan proceeds.
“Property owners in that zone will also be concerned as inevitably the mix of retailers will change materially from general retail with a good mix of tenants to a heavy emphasis on cafes, bars and entertainment facilities interspersed with the occasional high end retailer who will want to be located in that area from a brand recognition perspective.
“Effectively what is proposed is a replica of Queenstown’s main foreshore area and will, without doubt, significantly change the uniqueness of Wānaka.
“I am, to some degree, astonished and surprised that the final draft Master Plan has been tabled at this time when clearly there has been no prior consultation with those who will be most affected: being the Wanaka CBD retailers and landowners. On the other hand, given the Council’s reaction to the submissions on the speed restrictions and the public statement made to the effect that the submitters were ignorant, the consultative process could hardly be deemed to have been ‘in good faith’ given that the overwhelming majority of the submissions were opposed to the restrictions.
“Finally, I believe that the scene is set for significant litigation as the retailers and landowners move to protect their material investment in the Wanaka CBD. The uncertainty that the Plan has created and the inevitable reactions of those most affected will suppress property prices in the Wanaka CBD and any additional investment contemplated by retailers in their businesses, and this will last for some time until the matters are resolved.
“The situation is indeed unfortunate but is indicative of the somewhat high handed culture that exists within the QLDC on this side of the Crown Range.”