Cycleway 'hurting business'

By Daniel O'Mahony

Ross Swenson, owner of Vault Bar and Kiwi Spirit, is angry about the loss of car parks on Hinemoa St due to the Green Corridor project. Photo / Stephen Parker
Ross Swenson, owner of Vault Bar and Kiwi Spirit, is angry about the loss of car parks on Hinemoa St due to the Green Corridor project. Photo / Stephen Parker

Some Hinemoa St business owners have claimed the Rotorua Lakes Council's Green Corridor project is strangling trade in the street, and are urging customers to sign a petition to reinstate lost car parks.

Owners also say they were not fully consulted before construction on the new cycle route began in May - despite the council insisting staff made visits and held meetings to keep businesses informed.

According to the petition's creator Ross Swenson more than 350 people have signed it to support reinstating 29 car parks that have been lost in Hinemoa St between Fenton St and City Focus.

Mr Swenson, who owns Kiwi Spirit and Vault Bar, was furious about the project he said was losing him $7000 a week in turnover. "People are moaning there is no parking ... [so] they will go to a bar up or down the road," he said.

Amy Ngyeun, owner of the Lotus Cafe, said her turnover had been cut in half since the car parks were removed.

Mr Swenson claimed the council had provided no information to business owners for months after the project was approved in December 2014. "They never sent me a letter, no correspondence - I never received anything."

He was still unsure about when he would present the petition to the council, although he did suggest he would be seeking legal advice because of the Green Corridor's effect on his business.

The claim business owners were not consulted was flatly rejected by the council's Strategy and Partnerships group manager Jean-Paul Gaston. Mr Gaston listed examples of public meetings and media releases on the project prior to the December vote, and insisted affected businesses were kept in the loop once it had been approved. Some businesses had been visited several times.

Mr Swenson said he had received a visit, but claimed this amounted to "notifying us after the fact".

Less concerned about the loss of car parks was Tak Mutu, owner of Mountain Bike Rotorua on Hinemoa St. While Mr Mutu conceded there had been issues with implementing the cycle way, he welcomed efforts to change Rotorua's "commercial culture".

"The car parks aren't the answer - we have done that for 30 years, and this town has been on a decline for 30 years," Mr Mutu said. He pointed to a 2008 University of Melbourne study which suggested converting car parks to bike racks increased average retail spend.

Mr Gaston suggested the loss of 29 parks would not be a major blow to car users in the street; according to the council, 35 per cent of the remaining parks were vacant during business hours.

The number of car parks lost on Hinemoa St represents more than half the total being removed in the inner city as part of the Green Corridor project. Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Darrin Walsh seemed sympathetic to complaints from businesses about the Green Corridor.

"I have said all along that the idea is great ... I just think they got the route wrong," he said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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