Businesses in the Tauranga CBD are battling road works, road closures and construction works for new developments, all of which are being blamed for keeping customers away. Tauranga councillor Larry Baldock says the council has never before seen this amount of investment in the CBD and there is more in the pipeline. He says the current situation "is what it is" and the council is open to suggestions for how to make things easier.
Tauranga CBD is ''dying'' and a "ghost town'' and ''no one really cares''.
That is the reaction from some businesses in the city centre who say ongoing roading issues, limited parking, and projects with blown budgets and timeframes are causing an exodus of businesses and customers.
But a Tauranga councillor said the council had worked hard to minimise the impact of development, despite it not being "perfect".
Last month the Bay of Plenty Times reported the half-complete Durham St upgrade's budget of $6.9 million was expected to blow out to $10.2m, blamed on unexpected underground issues and deficiencies in planning and design. It was scheduled to be finished in October.
Eastern Hi-Fi is one Durham St business impacted by the road works.
Manager Bruce Devlin said it was tough for businesses and, in his view, the council had bitten off more than it could chew.
''It's the perfect storm and too many things are being done at once so it just clusters. No one really cares.
''They have done too much at once and ruined all the parking. The city is dying and people are struggling to keep their doors open.''
Smiths Sports Shoes has been in the CBD for 18 years and owner Alison Treblico said shop closures had started to make it look like a ''ghost town''.
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She said it was "depressing" as a lack of parking, congestion, road closures and construction kept shoppers away.
Her husband Bruce said Devonport Rd was a disgrace with so many empty shops and homeless people sleeping in doorways.
Downtown Tauranga manager Sally Cooke said the organisation's data showed there were 536 buildings occupied and 165 available for lease or under construction in the CBD.
Urban Form and Transport Development Committee chairman Larry Baldock said the council had worked hard on a response plan to minimise the impact of development on the CBD and ''it hasn't been perfect''.
''[The] council is open to any practical solutions we can do to make things easier but it is what it is and it's very difficult to mitigate the problems. But it is unprecedented really, we have never seen this amount of investment into the CBD ever and there is more in the pipeline.
''People don't think we care, but we really do feel for people going through it . . . sometimes what we send out has got to be positive even though it is tough so we can attract people in.''
Baldock said landlords needed to be part of the solution, knowing that real value would come as rental and property values went up when the city was vibrant and exciting.
Ray White Tauranga commercial and industrial specialist Philip Hunt, a big supporter of the CBD, said he was appalled at the current situation and businesses were wanting out.
''I am an extremely positive person but I am appalled about the delay in the parking building, and I am appalled at the lack of action in Durham St.
"We have worked tirelessly over the last five years to try to fill first-floor office space and we have been extremely successful but now a large number of those tenants are wanting to vacate.
''Parking is the number one issue as customers can't get to their doors.''
Council infrastructure general manager Nic Johansson said the Harrington St Transport Hub would now be completed in autumn 2020, not the first quarter of 2020. It needed additional seismic joints and the council was assessing the full cost. Last year the estimated cost for the building was about $27.1m.
Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said about $370m in developments had been completed, were under way or were planned for the next few years in the CBD.
These included the now open University of Waikato campus and the $130m Farmers development now under way.
She said the CBD was going through an "exciting transition" and although construction activity was causing disruption to retailers, increasingly businesses were seeing the city centre as the place to be to maximise their exposure.
''This is particularly the case for the professional services sector, where we are seeing a trend of firms moving back into the CBD.''
But Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said cash was king and some businesses were already living on small margins.
He said the CBD projects were dragging on and some people who had been in business for 20 years had never previously had these issues.
''It is really putting a knife in their back.''
Downtown Tauranga chairman Brian Berry said the human face of the transformational change in the CBD was something the Mainstreet organisation focused on daily. It helped provide support and advocacy to its members.
But while the end game looked great, in the next two to three years there would continue to be significant disruption due to earthquake strengthening, development or streetscaping.
He also felt public perception was worse than the reality regarding accessibility to and within the CBD.
''Car park turnover has been measured at less than one hour and many do not realise that roadside car parking before 9am and after 3pm is free within the CBD during the week and also free on Saturday and Sunday and on public holidays.''