Fashion designer slams proposed billboard ban

By Wayne Thompson

The proposed ban on billboards in Auckland City is a farce, says fashion designer Denise L'Estrange-Corbet.

She says she will not take down the one on the roof of her inner-city workroom.

"When I bought my building it had a billboard which the city council gave permission for many years ago ... here's the registration plate ... No 479 and the rent from this contributes largely to the mortgage," the World label chief executive told commissioners hearing views on the draft billboards and signs bylaw.

"Suddenly, I find a group of city councillors want to put an end to the CBD having billboards ... without any good reason and any plans to reimburse us for loss of revenue."

Ms L'Estrange-Corbet said she could not find any benefits in banning billboards.

"Billboards are informative and colourful and are part of every city in the world.

"Let's not kid ourselves. We are not New York, Paris, London, Tokyo or even Sydney. We may think we are or even want to be, but we are not.

"We are Auckland ... a tiny city by international standards and we are trying to make our way, play up there with the big boys and we have a council that is making decisions that will hinder our growth.

"Visitors will think we are a laughing stock.

"We will no longer have billboards to inform us of what's happening in our city; no adverts telling us of products and what new series is on the TV.

"Nothing to make us laugh. Just nothing. Just plain, boring nothing."

Ms L'Estrange-Corbet challenged councillors on the hearings panel - Glenda Fryer, Penny Sefuiva, Faye Storer and Richard Northey - to "put your money where your mouth is" by offering compensation or listening to the majority of citizens who want billboards to stay.

She said losing the billboard revenue could force her to sell her building - a former church she has renovated - to a developer and take her business overseas.

"I refuse to take my legal billboard down.

"You are meddling with people's livelihoods and that is not part of your job description ... [which is] ensuring Auckland is a great place to live instead of trying to destroy it with mediocrity."

Mrs Sefuiva replied: "We are here to listen. We have not made a decision."

A supporter of the intent of the draft bylaws, former Western Bays Community Board member Catherine Hawley, told commissioners that signage had increased in location, size and type.

It created visual clutter and confusion and dominated the public domain.

And it detracted from architectural and streetscape quality.

Mrs Hawley said the draft bylaw should greatly improve visual amenity by achieving a more appropriate level of signage complementary to and compatible with the scale and character of parts of the city.

A council officers' report suggesting a three-year grace period for removing non-complying signs seemed generous.

However, Mrs Hawley agreed the 18-month grace period for billboard removal could be extended except for those on scheduled buildings or in areas under centre plan or character overlays.

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