Brian Kelly: Let's show our civic pride

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This weekend is one of the biggest weekends on the calendar for Tauranga - the flagship event that is the annual Jazz Festival.

It's a wonderful event that has been around for 50 years and has become recognised nationally as one of the biggest and longest running in the country.

Today and tomorrow downtown Tauranga will come alive with some of the top jazz and blues musicians in the country, entertaining on the downtown stages.

As I mentioned in last Friday's column, I would love to see the downtown carnival return to the bars on The Strand, particularly if the forecasted weather turns nasty. Lets hope the forecasters have got it wrong and everything runs according to plan and the weekend goes well.

We need to make our downtown city area a precinct to be proud of and get some good vibes going.

There was an interesting article in the Business Herald last Monday lamenting the loss of Auckland's Golden Mile, referring to Queen St.

It was about the shoebox-sized shops on Queen St selling "rubbish" and how it had raised the ire of some city leaders concerned about the spread of low-grade business up the city's once-premier shopping street.

We do not want that to happen to our city centre.

I can remember as a child visiting Auckland with my mother and it was always a highlight to go shopping on Queen St.

Not any more, and that is so sad.

The Auckland Super City Council wants to spend nearly $500 million on the CBD and waterfront upgrades over the next 10 years. But the big concern in Auckland is that while they are investing in the CBD they are also granting permission to the so-called pocket traders to open up their tiny shoe boxes.

The reason I mention this is that we have to be so careful that we don't let that happen to the pride and joy of Tauranga, which is Devonport Rd, The Strand and around the corner in Grey St. We have a wonderful downtown precinct, but we need to support it.

I have noticed that work has begun on the Strand reclamation, developing it into a walkway along the waterfront. The removal of cars from the waterfront and replacing the carparks with grass and other park-like amenities will go a long way towards turning that area into a destination.

As well, the refurbishment of some of the older buildings on The Strand that have been deemed an earthquake risk will certainly tidy the area.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

I spent last weekend working in Whangarei, based in the Town Basin, which is Whangarei's equivalent of our Strand reclamation.

The city council there has done a wonderful job in developing that old wharf area into a wonderful tourist attraction, with lovely cafes and tourist shops. There's definitely a lesson there for our city fathers.

There is another project that Tracy Rudduck-Gudsell and her team at the Tauranga Arts Centre have started that will really add another dimension to Downtown Tauranga and the waterfront and that's the Hairy Maclary sculpture trail.

This is something very special, not just for Tauranga, but for New Zealand.

The Hairy Maclary books have been read by millions of people worldwide and the wonderful thing is that the author, Dame Lynley Dodd, comes from Tauranga - so it's Hairy's birthplace.

The whole project is going to cost about $800,000, with some funding from Government, as well as donations from local family trusts and hopefully local businesses. I can see this being a real draw card for our area but we need to get behind it.

The Duchess of Cornwall has been invited to open the project in November as part of the Queen's 60th Jubilee visit.

The Duchess heads the Book Trust in the UK and this year that trust celebrates its 20th anniversary. To coincide with that celebration, she has named Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy as her favourite book.

Let's help get the project started so the sculpture trail can be ready for the Duchess to open.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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