Tauranga's elected members have voted in favour of canning CBD container village Our Place - by the narrowest of margins.
Tauranga City Council has tonight debated at length the merits and costs behind 11 items listed on a proposed cull list of things that the council could potentially afford to lose in the wake of Covid-19.
The council's executive recommended a package of proposed cuts - also covering staffing and capital costs - that would bring the average rates rise down to 4.9 per cent from the previous drafted 7.6 per cent.
Staff also recommended putting parking machines at boat ramps - at a cost of $50,000-$100,000 - in the hope of collecting an extra $100,000 in revenue next year, and $400,000 a year thereafter.
The final item of the list was the closure of the Our Place site, a hub of live entertainment, food and drink in the heart of the CBD.
Those who voted against removing it were councillors Jako Abrie, Larry Baldock, Andrew Hollis, Heidi Hughes and Dawn Kiddie. Those voted for were Kelvin Clout, Bill Grainger, Steve Morris, Tina Salisbury and mayor Tenby Powell. Councillor John Robson abstained, saying he wanted to hear what the community thought.
Community consultation on tonight's decisions is expected to held within the next few weeks.
As a dead tie, Powell's vote became the casting vote and the motion to include Our Place's closure – subject to consultation - was carried.
Baldock said Our Place had done a lot to bring vibrancy to the CBD and the idea it would become an empty space at this time was concerning.
Hughes said it seemed a shame to close Our Place while the council was keen to retain hanging baskets.
In addition to the potential canning of Our Place, the council voted against the proposed removal of the $61,000 to fund the tropical display house in Robbins Park and the $89,000 budget for hanging flower baskets in the city centre.
Councillors Clout and Abrie were the only two to vote in favour of keeping the items on the cull list.
Councillor Robson said the hanging baskets had a lot of support in Tauranga.
"If we did remove the hanging baskets, I think the community would replace them with hanging councillors."
Mayor Powell said he was in favour of retaining the baskets.
"We are getting to the point of stripping the city bare of all of its beauty and I think there are limits.
Councillor Steve Morris was first to speak of his support, saying "this is for you Catherine Stewart".
Former councillor Catherine Stewart, who stepped down last term, has long been a strong supporter of the baskets.
However, Clout said he felt $89,000 for the baskets seemed to be a huge expense. He shared the same sentiment regarding the tropical house, which he suggested a volunteer group could potentialy be interested in taking over.
"I support removing it. We've put this decision off about three years ago and yes, we did get an army of supporters coming in. I'd be interested to see whaether the level of support was as vigorous as it was then."
Abrie said: "If we are serious about trying to reduce rates, all these small things add up."
Councillors spoke at length about seeking feedback from the community.
Councillor Tina Salisbury said items such as the hanging baskets and tropical display house were there for the community, so it was important to include it.
Other items on the list include the proposed closure of Our Place and the boat ramps parking charges. At time of writing, councillors were still discussing the proposed resolutions.
Meanwhile, Stewart told the Bay of Plenty Times over the phone she was absolutely delighted and thrilled for her community at the outcome of today's meeting.
"This time with the CBD, after Covid-19, and with so many vacant offices, colour is needed more than ever down there.
"In the bigger scheme of the budget, this is rats and mices budget. Flowers are something that give a lot of joy to many people."
Stewart believed it was a win for nature as councilors also decided to keep the Tropical Flower House in Robbins Park - something that Stewart said was part of Tauranga's History.
"That has been there for a long time and is part of our DNA really. It is a tranquil place where you can go and appreciate beauty.
"If ever there was a time to need nature and appreciate flowers it is now."
The meeting was still in progress at the time of publishing.