by Chris Tobin
Fears that Timaru’s CBD could die if a proposed development at the former A&P showgrounds goes ahead are justified, a Tindall Foundation former manager says.
“You can’t add such a huge development on the edge of town and not think it won’t impact Timaru’s economy,” Warren Snow said.
“I estimate that the development will take over $120million per annum mostly straight out of the local economy.
“Where’s that money going to come from?
“People aren’t going to spend an extra $120million to prop up the development, so it will have to come from existing businesses.
“It will probably attract customers from surrounding towns, but that will cause those towns to decline also.”
Mr Snow will be the guest speaker at a public meeting in Timaru next week hosted by the Timaru CBD Group.
The group is calling for a halt to Timaru District Holdings Ltd’s sale of the former A&P showgrounds for a large big-box retail development by Tony Gapes and his Auckland company Redwood QT.
Mr Snow established a community-owned company, CBEC (The Community Business and Environment Centre) in Kaitaia to create businesses that would employ local people.
“We gradually started to win contracts that might otherwise have been won by large outside companies, who take their profit straight out of town,” he said.
CBEC established a nursery, home insulation business, a bus company and got involved in forestry training, general contracting and also operated swimming pools for the Far North District Council.
“It now employs over 60 people full-time and has annual revenues of around $5million.”
Mr Snow was approached by Stephen Tindall to head The Tindall Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The Warehouse retail giant, but Mr Snow later resigned.
“After developing and trying to help The Warehouse implement a sustainability strategy and also suggesting ways it could have less impact on local economies, I realised that The Warehouse was a juggernaut that depended on endless growth to please shareholders’ demand for dividends.
“Sustainability and advantages to local economies of having Warehouse stores in their communities were simply high-sounding ideas that meant nothing. Growth was all that mattered.”
Mr Snow considered this was a pivotal moment for Timaru “to think long and hard about what sort of community they want for the future”.
“Many towns in New Zealand partly recovered after The Warehouse and others came to town because of the tourist boom, but that is no longer such a reliable mainstay for the local economy.
“Now it’s time to look hard at what can be done to regrow a vibrant, strong and healthy town centre. I don’t believe this development will assist in that process.”