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Popular topic . . . Proposed upgrades to Timaru's Theatre Royal got a strong response from the public during Timaru District Council's Long Term Plan submission period. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

Timaru’s long-term plan reached the next step when the Timaru District Council considered submissions and various speakers’ views at a meeting this week.

The council received more than 1000 submissions in total on the long-term plan on a variety of topics, some submissions relating to more than one topic.

Public feedback on the four main topics – a proposed heritage facility, a proposed upgrade of the Theatre Royal and stormwater and water management – varied, but the proposed heritage facility attracted the most submissions.

Data released at the meeting showed plenty of public support for a heritage facility in Timaru, 56% of respondents supporting the proposal. Of this, 74% suggested a mixture of fundraising and council rates to pay for the cost of the building.

The proposed facility would be connected to the Theatre Royal and include a new museum. The existing South Canterbury Museum building would be turned into collections storage, research and archival space.

Additional exhibition space would be provided by the Aigantighe Art Gallery.

Upgrading the Theatre Royal’s front-of-house and behind-the-scenes areas was the most popular option for the Timaru building.

Of the 534 submissions received on the theatre options, 57% supported upgrading both areas, while 19% wanted only the behind-the-scenes area to be upgraded and 17% wanted the building to be left as it was.

Timaru’s water management also attracted more than 540 submissions from the public, 44% of them supporting the introduction of urban water meters.

Among submitters’ comments recommending a meter scheme was that it would “make users aware of water usage” and be a “sustainable” option for the district’s water.

Those opposed suggested it would be “unfair to poor big families” and was also “wrong” given “rural folk have had unlimited water for personal profit”.

Further development of the infrastructure to increase water extraction from the Opihi River attracted a 14% endorsement rate, while 16% of respondents backed the development of new groundwater bores and 10% did not know what option they liked.

The future of the district’s stormwater system received 518 submissions all up, 63% of them in favour of an upgrade of the system spread over 10-15 years to ease the burden on ratepayers.

This compared with 23% who supported an upgrade by 2025, and 12% who wanted it rolled out over more than 20 years.

The final long-term plan is expected to be adopted by June 26.