by Chris Tobin
Large Timaru CBD property owner Gaire Thompson believes Timaru should consider seeking money from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund for its Theatre Royal upgrade project.
“I think they would have a case since it would be quite expensive developing.
“The Theatre Royal is a community asset and it could be added to for the advantage of bringing things to Timaru.”
Mr Thompson owned property in Invercargill’s CBD. He has spoken against a private development in the city’s CBD being subsidised by the local council with the assistance of a Provincial Growth Fund loan of $19.5million.
He did not agree with a council subsidising a private property development and was angered that he would be losing a major tenant to the new development.
“I’m upset that the Invercargill council is involved because it is going to cost ratepayers quite a lot and ratepayers will be subsidising it.”
Among properties Mr Thompson owns in Timaru are the railway station and Timaru’s tallest building, the nine-storey Cantec House in George St.
The MP for Rangitata, Andrew Falloon, said he had supported the one Timaru project that had received assistance from the Provincial Growth Fund.
This was $90,000 for a case study to be made into PrimePort’s proposal to build a $100million wharf.
“I’m happy to do the same if there’s a pitch for heritage development in Timaru.”
However, he said the criteria for the Provincial Growth Fund was vague.
“It’s hard to understand the rationale for some of the decisions Shane Jones has made.
“It doesn’t strike me as fair to fund a CBD retail development in one city and not in others.
“The vast bulk of Shane Jones’ slush fund has gone into the top half of the North Island and very little in other regions like ours.”
Shane Jones’ ministerial adviser Georgina Stylianou said Mr Jones would not comment on “regional aspirations” only on formal applications which had been made to the Provincial Growth Fund.
The Timaru Courier has asked Timaru’s mayoral candidates whether they think Timaru should follow Invercargill’s lead and make a similar application to the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for the development of the Timaru CBD and perhaps for the heritage hub. The candidates were asked also for their view on this latter development.
I think that if there’s any Government money we can access for our major capital projects, including the new PrimePort wharf, we should take every opportunity to do so.
I would like to review all of our capital projects to make sure we prioritise and can complete them on time and within budget.
My understanding is that our strategic master planning for our district’s CBDs is in the very early stages.
We should be looking at getting Government support for the community-led creation of a master plan for our district’s towns.
Then we would be in a strong position to attract significant support in the future.
Yes, I definitely believe the PGF is a mechanism by which we could apply for funding for many things, from cycle tracks through to CBD renewals etc.
I fully support investment in our district’s CBDs as it is important for a vibrant district to have vibrant CBDs where people can exchange and interact.
However, I do think we would be getting ahead of ourselves around the PGF in the fact that council first needs to consult with the community on the features and benefits of council-led CBD investments and the potential costs around this as the community have to be on board.
It’s hard to ask for money when you don’t have a plan.
The other downfall of the PGF is it appears to be moving largely to loans which, of course, have to be repaid.
In regard to the Theatre Royal and heritage developments, the council consulted heavily through the long-term plan and residents were in favour of these developments going ahead.
To attract and maintain people of all ages we need not only critical infrastructure but also sporting and cultural infrastructural assets where people can have leisure time.
Over the past few years a group of very passionate and forward-thinking people formed a committee to workshop the development of our CBD.
This group was formed from members of the community, CBD-owners, Chamber of Commerce and Aoraki Development to name a few.
They developed some very good ideas only to be told that the council wanted to form its own CBD group and they were including a heritage centre.
This was very disappointing for all those people who had worked very hard and spent considerable time on this project.
I believe these people were making good progress because when we combine this work with earthquake . . . building regulations and all the compliance required for these buildings it’s a massive undertaking.
The uncertainty around the required strengthening work and associated costs for these buildings puts a complete new dynamic on to the CBD.
I believe that we need to apply to the Provincial Growth Fund for assistance in this work as my fear is that in some cases it might be uneconomic and unsafe to carry out this work on some of these buildings, in which case perhaps we should be looking at the Invercargill model.
Until we know the actual costs that our landowners will have to meet to make these buildings comply with these Government standards, we need to pause the proposed heritage centre and re-engage with all affected and interested parties.
We must all work together on this if we want to save and develop our CBDs in our district.
Invercargill has led the way in its innovative leadership for many years.
I think it would be wise to look at what they are doing in terms of their regional development and to ensure we carefully weigh up all of our options especially those that reduce the pressure on ratepayers.
(Timaru’s fifth mayoral candidate, Shane Wilson, did not respond.)