Saturday, 17 November 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Business owners have a positive view of Whitianga town centre upgrade

The Whitianga town centre upgrade was from the beginning a controversial, but unavoidable decision. The infrastructure under Albert Street was old and had to be replaced. That created an opportunity to improve the visual appearance of the town centre, and make Albert Street and The Esplanade more pedestrian friendly.

There are concerns among some members of the public about the loss of car parking along Albert Street and the cost of the upgrade project. Unfortunately that has led to reports of pedestrians verbally abusing the staff and subcontractors of Dempsey Wood Civil, the construction company performing the upgrade.

“The Dempsey Wood staff [and subcontractors] on site are being frequently harangued by members of the public while carrying out their day to day work on the Whitianga town centre upgrade,” says Andrew Boden,” the Thames Coromandel District Council project manager responsible for the project. “Uncomplimentary remarks are being received by the site staff regarding the way that they are carrying out their work and the quality of their workmanship, as well as disparaging remarks about the scope of the project and why it’s happening at all.

“This is very disappointing to hear and is totally against the spirit of the project and the good relationships that the project team has established with the retail and business owners [along Albert Street]. To date, we have received complementary comments in writing from business operators regarding the politeness and friendly nature of the site staff, which is completely in contrast to the unnecessary and unwarranted negative comments from the public.

“I would like to request that the site staff be left alone to do their jobs and complete the project without any further interference. Any comments with regard to the scope of the project and how it is being managed should be directed to the Mercury Bay Community Board and myself, in the first instance.”

A positive aspect of the upgrade project that shouldn’t be overlooked is the number of local subcontractors that are being employed by Dempsey Wood. “I would estimate that of the $4.7 million contract sum that we have with Dempsey Wood, approximately $1.5 million would be spent on local subcontractors,” says Andrew. “That doesn’t include the amount of money spent by Dempsey Wood on local accommodation, the employment of local security services and general day to day consumables purchased from local businesses like petrol, diesel, food and office supply items.”

Mercury Bay resident, Lissa Whiteman is also fulltime employed by Dempsey Wood to manage the relationship between them and the business owners affected by the upgrade.

Among the Mercury Bay businesses that have so far been employed by Dempsey Wood are Peter Yates Contractors, Garth’s Gardens and Landscaping, Donovan & Son Contractors, Roadworx and Coastline Excavations.

Most of the business owners along the section of Albert Street that is at the moment closed off (between the Blacksmith Lane/Lee Street intersection and Monk Street) have a positive view of the upgrade project.

“No doubt our turnover is down compared to last winter, but, on the other hand, we’ve had a better Queen’s Birthday Weekend than last year,” says Leith Simpson of Stirling Sports. “That having been said, the upgrade work has been progressing well and once everything is done, it’s going to look very good, something I’m looking forward to.”

Brent Prisk of Frankies Sports Bar & Grill says the Dempsey Wood staff and subcontractors have all been extremely professional and forthcoming with any information they need. “Also, a lot of the people who work on the project come and have a drink and some food here after work,” he says.

Su Marceau, the owner of Mainly Casual and The Style Makers, says it’s difficult at this stage to determine what the impact of less car parking in Albert Street, but more in the side streets, will be, but she expects more pedestrian traffic to go past her two shops.

Ali Abdul of Mercury Bay Pharmacy says he’s excited to see the finished product. “What they’ve done so far looks great,” he says.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.