For eight months, Whitianga residents have become all too familiar with a construction zone for a town centre.

"We didn't have proper footpaths to walk through," cafe owner Bev Calder said.

"We had high fences, big trucks, all sorts outside. You couldn't even see the cafe really... yeah it was hard."

That lack of visibility has affected her bottom line.


"It was about three and a half months for us, so business was down about 70 to 75 per cent during that time," Calder said.

"And probably everybody was the same. Everybody noticed the huge difference - people just didn't come into town."

But three months on and phase one of the upgrade is almost completed, bringing with it huge improvements.

"This used to be just car parks," said Gary Fitzsimons from the Mercury Bay Business Association. "Now we've turned it around into outdoor seating."

"We don't need a motorway. We need a pedestrian area so people can shop till they drop basically."

The $4.7 million project hasn't all been above ground, Thames Coromandel District Council Project Manager, Andrew Scobie said.

"Half of that was infrastructure under the ground," he said. "We are tracking well with our costs too. Other things we added was broadband, as it's coming to Whitianga soon, so we have put in ducts for Chorus so they don't have to rip up the new paving in the future."

Most business owners said despite the disruption, the end result had been positive for the community.


Calder admits she was initially sceptical but now that the area outside her shop is finished, she's started to see the benefits with more seating and space for dining customers.

"I've seen what it's done to the town and more people are coming into town and wandering around and that's got to be good for the retailers."

As the popular Coromandel town prepares for the summer influx, its completion can't come soon enough.

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