It goes without saying that we all want a vibrant city centre that has a vibe people want to be a part of. If we are to achieve my vision of Hastings being the best place to live and do business in New Zealand, we will need to have an energetic CBD.
What we currently lack is a strong vision for the Hastings city centre, something that guides every decision in this space. There needs to be a uniqueness about our CBD to differentiate us from the rest of the country.
My vision for the CBD is for "Hastings to be the most fun CBD in New Zealand". Presently the most fun to be had in the centre of town is to ride the sheep next to the town clock.
I think we can do better than this. Hastings has a reputation of being a fun place: I grew up with Fantasy Land and my kids are growing up with Splash Planet.
Now before you start to get concerned, I do not want to turn our city centre into a theme park!
In 2016 I had the opportunity to listen to Peter Kageyama, world renowned author of the best-sellers For the love of cities and Love your place, and an expert on city revitalisation.
In an inspiring presentation he said one of the first things he asks cities that are struggling is "where is the fun?" If I was to ask this question of Hastings, how would we answer?
If elected mayor, during the first six months I would engage the community around the vision of making our CBD the most fun in New Zealand, particularly including our kids and schools as a source of ideas and innovation. It is important that we have co-creators and that the community drives the innovation.
Last week my wife and I were eating lunch at the only café in the mall, and she commented that our kids would love to see bubbles coming out from the clock tower when it chimed. Now this idea might have some merit or might not. The point is, how many good ideas are sitting out in the community? Nothing is sacrosanct and all ideas would be considered.
We can still meet the late Jeremy Dwyer's landmarks values while ensuring there is a fun factor incorporated into what we do in the CBD. Public art can be fun, engaging and interesting.
Hastings District Council has an important role to play in the layout of our CBD given its town planning function. The city centre as it is currently constituted is not "fit for purpose".
Council needs to be the "curator" of a future-focused, engaging and interesting CBD design. We need to indicate now how we see the CBD fitting together so that landlords and business owners can plan accordingly. Precincts for banks, inner-city living, hospitality, business and a condensed retail footprint are the future.
The heart of the city probably needs the most attention. Having large service offices located smack in the middle of the city centre's paved pedestrian mall was fit for purpose 20-plus years ago before the advent of the internet and online access to such things.
In the same space that these buildings occupy, you could fit several cafes and restaurants with pavement seating that would certainly increase the vibe. Inner-city apartments in the offices upstairs would also shift the mood to something a bit more interesting than what it feels like right now.
It's not just our CBD that needs attention. The Flaxmere shopping centre is abysmal - the community deserves better. If elected mayor I would work with others to put real political and community pressure on the owners to do something, as it has been neglected for too long.
Instead of tinkering around the edges, let's get to the centre of this problem. Let's get our CBD and shopping centres pumping by setting the vision to be the most fun CBD in New Zealand.
Let's engage our community on the ideas and innovation that will achieve this and develop a masterplan for our CBD layout that will meet our current and future requirements as the best place to live and do business in New Zealand.
Bayden Barber is a candidate for Hastings mayor in the upcoming byelection. He is currently a Hastings district councillor and chairman of Health Hawke's Bay. All opinions are the writer's and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.