9 Aug 2016

Business backlash over Waimate Info Centre move

8:43 am on 9 August 2016

A plan to move Waimate's information centre from the main street is causing a backlash amongst some of the town's business owners, who say it could financially break them.

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About 1500 people have signed a petition against the Information Centre being moved from Queen Street. Photo: Google Maps

The Waimate District Council plans to move the Waimate Information Centre off Queen Street and into the event centre on Paul Street, away from the main street.

A recent public meeting on the decision attracted a large turnout in the town, just south of Timaru, and a petition calling for the decision to be reversed has attracted about 1500 signatures, from the town's population of 3000.

Business Waimate chairperson Beverley Knowles said because of the decision, people believed the council was not doing enough for the town or district.

"People have got frustrated that they see opportunities for tourism and other areas to bring to new businesses, families to the district and it's not happening.''

Ms Knowles said businesses wanted the council to work with them.

She said the town had too many empty shops and the council and businesses needed to work together to promote the district.

"The businesses are losing confidence. This is now the time for us to sit down and make something happen and work together.''

Bridal store owner Mandy Tangney hadn't signed the petition but said she appreciated the impact the move would have on other businesses in town.

She said Waimate businesses need to be responsible for themselves.

"I just think we need to up our game, we've got to keep doing better to attract business. The difference for me is that a bridal shop is a destination shop, people will look beforehand [online] before coming in, it's not one you'd normally walk in off the street to have a look at.''

However Ms Tangney said there should have been better consultation by the council, and the community now needed to pull together to make the town work.

She said people were using their smartphones more and businesses needed to adapt.

"Times are changing, people use their smart phones, they use the internet. I found a downturn when people bought off the internet but the trend is starting to change, people are not happy with what they're getting off the internet so they're coming back into the store.''

Waimate bookstore owner Richard Lane said anything that takes foot traffic from the main street was not a good idea, especially when it was supposed to be the hub of the community.

He said the council was taken aback by the strength of feeling - not just from business owners but from the wider community.

Mr Lane said while the council had said the decision is a financial one, he wanted to see specific figures.

"They need to show us some figures that it is a good financial decision. They're saying that it will save $10,000 but what will it do to the community, what can the community lose by the council saving $10,000?''

RNZ's requests for comment from the Waimate District Council, including the mayor, Craig Rowley, were not returned.