Bid to revive struggling village

By John Cousins


A plan to inject new life into Tauranga's run-down Historic Village blasts off tomorrow with the launch of the Friends of the Village.

The volunteers hope to turn around the fortunes of the village which has languished for years as a visitor destination.

Village friend Nigel Barker said they were not expecting to perform overnight miracles and get the village back to where it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

Their short to medium-term goal was to spruce up the village and get it back to a condition where parents would be proud to take their children.

"At the moment it is not a true historic village."

There were currently 16 friends and Mr Barker hoped to see numbers swell at tomorrow's 1.30pm meeting at the village.

A key to reviving the village's fortunes was to encourage people back to enjoy its ambience. The busier atmosphere would in turn encourage more retailers to set up shop, including artists and craftspeople.

"It has to be a more attractive destination. It can't carry on like it is."

Other proposals include the Friends greeting and guiding visitors and actively promoting the village for events.

The revival in the village's fortunes can't come soon enough for Village Radio station manager Bonnie Leonard.

She said the village was one of the top five issues in the 2010 council elections and it was still no further ahead three years later.

"Despite all the brave words, nothing has happened. It is a tragedy really."

Mrs Leonard said that when she was there on Sunday mornings she felt like the last person left on Earth. The last tenant of the cafe had tried hard to make a go of it, including $5 lunches and devonshire teas, but there were not enough customers to keep trading.

"I love the village and I just hate to see it go backwards."

She said it could still be a viable tourist attraction but it needed a dynamic manager to take over. They never heard back on what was happening from the village's advisory committee.

Committee member and city councillor Murray Guy was surprised by her comments, saying the feedback he received from tenants was very positive. "We are well on the road to recovery."

"I can understand where Bonnie is coming from because her perspective as a passenger is quite different to mine as one of the pilots."

He said things had slowed down over the last few months because the council was in the process of employing a new village manager. However, when he looked at the village calender, he was quite amazed at the number of events booked for weekends.

Cr Guy said strategies were being put into place to bring about the council's vision for the village. "The ducks have to be lined up, but it is certainly happening ... things are looking good."

The council's 2012 vision for the Historic Village

  • Make the village an all-week attraction

  • Develop a unique retail flavour

  • Install story boards

  • Establish a character playground

  • Investigate relocating historic items back into the village

  • Incorporate heritage days into the events programme

- Bay of Plenty Times

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