The arts market in Tauranga's historic Cargo Shed appears to have fallen victim to seawall strengthening and complex negotiations to establish who owned the land under the shed.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby was unable to speculate about what would happen once the strengthening had finished and the council's land ownership agreement with the Otamataha Trust had been signed off by Government.
The council and the trust have agreed to become joint owners of the 1ha of reclaimed land along Dive Crescent, offering a solution to the legal quagmire that developed after it was discovered more than 20 years ago that no one held title to the land.
Mr Crosby was responding to a letter sent by the council to arts market stallholders outlining how strengthening the seawall alongside the Cargo Shed would impact on stallholders occupation of the shed.
"Due to the works, the council requires that all eight stallholders and associated tenants of the arts market vacate the Cargo Shed by August 30 to ensure that any artwork or property stored are not damaged by the proposed works," the letter said.
Stallholders learned the shed would not be available from August 30 to September 17, after which they could only use it during weekends when work on the seawall was not taking place. However they would have to pack in and pack out everything each weekend.
Read more: Cargo Shed stall holders closing up shop
The letter outlined how the stallholders' lease had expired and how the council may enable other entities, including the Otamataha Trust, to use the shed during the time that the seawall was being stabilised.
"The council will use its best endeavours to ensure you may use the premises during the weekends . . . unless another use has been determined to be appropriate on occasions."
Stallholders were offered a weekly arrangement from September 17, with a charge-out rate of $37.90 per hour for the hours of opening.
Mr Crosby said he understood the frustration of the tenants because they had built up quite a nice operation in the Cargo Shed.
The council had offered them space in an empty Willow St shop at the same rent as their old lease, with $15,000 worth of relocation advertising, but the offer had been turned down.
Mr Crosby said going to Willow St meant stallholders would have lost their unique identity, with buses and cars unable to stop outside. He understood that part of the reason they had turned down the weekend option for the Cargo Shed was because of problems with packing everything in and out.
Quizzed about the long-term redevelopment options for Dive Crescent, including demolishing the old sheds beside the railway line and shifting the road to create more room for the proposed Fisherman's Wharf attraction, he said negotiations with the Government over the ownership of the land were "taking forever".
"It is not sensible to put any investment on land that we don't own."
However once the ownership was settled, the council and the trust would look at long-term options for the Cargo Shed that could see a return to permanent stallholders. But as things stood now, the two issues driving the council's letter were stabilising the seawall and finalising negotiations on land ownership.
"We have got to get ownership, and then make long-term decisions."
Des Ferrow, representing the Men's Shed stallholder, understood that the seawall strengthening would begin in October. An engineer's report showed the state of the seawall beside the shed was serious.
Although stallholders were not happy, he said the old arrangement with the council meant they had been paying ''mates rates'' of $8000 to $10,000 a year for the whole 760sq m shed, plus rates.
Mr Ferrow said the weekend-only arrangement did not make sense for the Men's Shed because there was a fair bit of work involved with setting up and taking down their stall.
"I don't know what they will do with the shed in the long term."