Tauranga City Council has voted overwhelmingly to give itself an "exit strategy" to appease a growing public backlash to the plan to convert Mount Maunganui Shopping Centre's Phoenix Carpark into a chill-out zone for shoppers.

The council voted 8-3 yesterday to introduce another step into the decision making process following retailer and community reaction to losing 55 carparks from the middle of the Mount shops.

It means that the new council will be asked to approve the design of the park and the location of the replacement carparks prior to the development proceeding.

Axing the plan risked the council being forced to hand back $1.27 million in development contributions to developers if no other location could be found in central Mount Maunganui for a new park. The latest design brief was for a mixture of open spaces and an area for events and markets.


Councillor Catherine Stewart introduced the new decision-making step, arguing that councillors had not been in communication with staff as much as they could have on the project. Things had changed in the two years since the project was initially raised.

''Carparking is problematic, we have to have the right things for the community.''

The monitoring committee's recommendation followed city development project adviser Setareh Masoud-Ansari advising that there was no record of a decision that the council needed to approve the design.

A staff report to the meeting outlined progress on the project, including that LandLAB Landscape Architects and Urban Designers have been contracted to complete a revised concept plan.

Staff were today due to meet with Mount Mainstreet representatives to show where the 58 replacement carparks would go. Two areas had been selected at the northern and southern end of the shopping precinct, including Nikau Crescent.

A total of $2 million has been budgeted over the next two years to redevelop Phoenix Carpark, with $750,000 this year and $1.25 million for the construction phase due to start next winter.

Councillor Matt Cowley advocated an exit strategy, saying that unless the gains from the redevelopment were significantly greater than the loss of carparks, he would need to reconsider the project.

''Approval of the design was critical.''

Councillor Leanne Brown said a lot of people would like to see the carparks retained, with more design compromises for Phoenix Carpark.

''We have not got it right yet.

Mayor Stuart Crosby was worried that the committee recommendation was a ''smoke and mirrors'' way of saying no to the redevelopment.

''Don't waste staff time, be open and honest and front up about your concerns.''

Committee chairman Kelvin Clout said that to revisit the project now was a waste of the past two years, with the potential to refund the development contributions. Also opposing the decision were councillors Gail McIntosh and Bev Edlin.

Supporting were Mayor Stuart Crosby and councillors Leanne Brown, Matt Cowley, Rick Curach, Bill Grainger, Steve Morris, John Robson and Catherine Stewart.