Dylan Thorne

Dylan is the deputy editor of the Bay of Plenty Times.

Editorial: Showing support for our town

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It's been a challenging few years for city retailers but it looks like some assistance is heading their way.

Downtown shop owners, often small business owners who take immense pride in the products and services they offer, have had to grapple with a drop in spending due to the recession and a general move to online shopping.

To their credit, they have not suffered in silence. They have been open about the impact the internet has had on their bottom line. They have also been vocal in their calls for the council to help improve the shopping experience in the area.

They say parking restrictions, specifically the odds of getting a parking ticket in the CBD, has put them at a distinct disadvantage to other shopping areas in the Bay that provide free parking.

The council, they argue, can no longer use the CBD as a cash cow.

They have a point and it was good to see the council responding this week by outlining some options to make Tauranga's downtown more shopper-friendly.

One of the biggest headaches for shoppers, the one-hour and two-hour limits, look likely to be axed.

But, despite calls from some retailers to put the CBD on to an equal footing with the city's other shopping centres, the proposed changes stopped short of free parking.

Free parking would no doubt create its own problems. The most obvious fish hook would be dissuading office workers from taking up the parks all day.

Of course, many will say the options put forward will not reverse the growth of online shopping but it will hopefully boost the number of people deciding to do their shopping in the town centre.

I'm sure, at this point, retailers will be grateful for any and all help they receive.

As one retailer put it: "It's tough out there. We need initiatives. We can't just sit back and take it anymore".

As I have said in the past, many things make up a community, but a vibrant town centre is a key component.

Town centres provide a focal point and an identity. They also provide an environment where small boutique stores and food outlets can carve out a place in the market.

Town centres provide variety and atmosphere in contrast to the uniformity often seen in malls dominated by chain stores and fast-food outlets.

Given its important role in our community, any impediments to downtown shopping should be removed.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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