Commercial value seen in Featherston land swap

By Vomle Springford

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HERE OR THERE? South Wairarapa District Council candidate David Montgomerie says this area could be an alternative place for a new town square in Featherston.PHOTO/VOMLE SPRINGFORD
HERE OR THERE? South Wairarapa District Council candidate David Montgomerie says this area could be an alternative place for a new town square in Featherston.PHOTO/VOMLE SPRINGFORD

A piece of land in Featherston that may be reserved for a town square is prime commercial real estate, says a candidate for the South Wairarapa District Council.

However, the mayor says changing a reserve's status is "very unlikely" and believes the town needs attractive features.

The council plans to swap land it currently leases to Trust House with adjacent, vacant land that Trust House owns, and use it for a town square.

Trust House would used the swapped land to expand its businesses currently on the site by developing it into a supermarket complex with a cafe, post office and bottle store attached.

Candidate and South Wairarapa real estate salesperson David Montgomerie said the council should sell or lease the vacant land it gets and use the profits to develop a town square somewhere else.

He said the land swap deal is good idea but there is no money to develop a town square.

"It's a win-win situation, but the question is what the council does to make best use of it."

Mr Montgomerie believes that the land could be attractive to a number of businesses. "The current vacant shops are in poor condition, the demand is for land right in the centre."

A lot of the vacant buildings are old and have high maintenance needs, Mr Montgomerie said.

He said selling or leasing this land would finance the revitalisation of the Clifford Square reserve parks in Featherston's main street.

"The parks are under utilised, there's nothing happening there."

He suggested paving half of the currently grassed area on the corner of Fitzherbert St and Lyon St, splitting this park in two diagonally.

"This idea uses an existing park that I think could be used for the purposes of what the mayor is suggesting," said Mr Montgomerie.

He also suggested closing one lane of Fox St between Fitzherbert St and Birdwood St, making a section of Fox St one- way. This land could then be added to the park containing the windgrass sculpture, he said.

"Both options allow for the development of a town square area while retaining commercial land for potential new businesses, allowing Featherston to have its cake and eat it too."

He said a number of people he has talked to have questioned whether Featherston needed such a big town square. "It's not a large community, the number of times that it would be used is low."

However, South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples said the land the council would get under the swap couldn't be sold or used commercially because it would be reserve land. "It's very unlikely as it will be administered under the Reserves Act."

Under the act, the land should be used for the public good but it is possible for reserve land to be turned into commercial land, subject to ministerial approval. Ministerial approval takes the public's views into consideration. "The likelihood of permission to sell or lease it without the support of the town is unlikely," said Mrs Staples.

It would be far nicer to have a town square next to the supermarket complex rather than another commercial site, she said.

"Mr Montgomerie says they [parks] are under-utilised but I think he will find plenty of people that wouldn't agree with him." The council has not set in concrete what the space will look like, she said. "What we have to do is go through public consultation."

Mr Montgomerie, seeking a Greytown ward councillor position, said he took an interest in Featherston because he was based there and it affected the whole of Wairarapa.

The revamp of Featherston will take 12-18 months and the land swap is subject to ministerial approval.

It is estimated to cost Trust House $2.5 million to build the new supermarket complex; funding for the square will be raised by the SWDC.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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