Tauranga CBD retailers have fought back at perceptions of a dying city centre. Retailers met yesterday and are pleading for support from the public and the city council to help bring their customers back. Bay of Plenty Times reporter Zoe Hunter reports.
Dozens of retailers gathered in Tauranga's Red Square yesterday to discuss how to bring vibrancy back into the city centre.
Free car parking, customer-only car parks, parking wardens as city ambassadors, and park and rides were raised as some of the solutions.
Some shop owners were leasing car parks for their own customers and offering discounts to construction workers and daily specials to help encourage people back into the CBD.
Downtown Tauranga's chairman said the negative perception of the city centre needed to change and the city's mayor said it was up to everyone to make it happen.
Jill Briscoe from Breathe Salon and Spa had been on Grey St for 15 years and said she was frustrated with negativity about the CBD.
Customers were there but they just had nowhere to park, she said.
Briscoe said the business had been struggling with the lack of car parking, saying she had leased four car parks for her own client and staff parking.
She suggested a free bus service for employees and free car parking during the construction period.
"It is a beautiful place and it has got so much potential," she said.
"We know it has got to get through a transformation. We need support from the public, our landlords and the city council to help us get through this next phase."
Briscoe said she had been running daily specials to help entice more customers.
The Coffee Club duty manager Tul Rana said the cafe had also been offering discounts to construction workers to help encourage more people through the doors.
Jason Dovey from Bond & Co on Devonport Rd had been in the CBD for 27 years and said the city centre needed help with parking to encourage people back.
Dovey said a carpark solely for customers and a park and ride would help to lift foot traffic.
"You've got to make it user-friendly," he said.
Murray Watts from Murray Watts Mans World on Grey St said parking had always been an issue for the growing city.
"But it is at its peak right now."
Watts suggested a commercial carpark for employees-only to help free up parking space.
"I have faith in this town, it is a great place," he said.
Downtown Tauranga manager Sally Cooke said the mainstreet organisation ran an extensive programme of promotions, events and activities to entice shoppers into the CBD.
That included the Trustpower Photographic Exhibition and this month's Taste Tauranga.
Downtown Tauranga chairman Brian Berry said the public needed to change its perception of the CBD.
"The perception is terrible but the reality is better. It is not dying, it is transitioning from a small city to a thriving city."
Berry said parking was an issue for the CBD and car parking wardens needed to be ambassadors for the city.
Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said the retailers had had enough.
"You can't force people to come here but you can help make it more attractive," he said.
"But it is up to all of us, it is not just the council and it is not just the retailers."
Brownless said dubbing parking wardens as city ambassadors would help, as would the new transport hub to help bring more parking spaces into the CBD.
"The real issue here is there is not enough car parking."
A Tauranga City Council spokeswoman said the council is working with Downtown Tauranga on some of the retailers' ideas, including the use of vacant shops.
Tauranga's car parks
- There are currently 3605 public parking spaces in the CBD
- There were 3706 public parking spaces in the CBD in 2017/2018
- The reduction reflects the loss of parking in Harington St, Hamilton St, Elizabeth St, Durham St and Willow St as a result of building developments, but includes additional spaces constructed at Dive Cres
Source: Tauranga City Council general manager of infrastructure Nic Johansson