There was plenty of interest from locals in the Foxton Futures sessions, where ideas were mooted on how to increase business and tourism opportunities for Foxton and Foxton Beach. Input came from locals involved in organiations and clubs, longtime residents as well as newcomers to the area. Some fear what has been achieved in the last few years will be lost due to lack of a plan, not to mention a vision.
Council staff said the engagement on the day was much appreciated and it would take them some time to collate that feedback that together with other information collected in the past, should result in a community plan.
The council has spent quite a bit of money on rejuvenating Foxton, building Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom(TANS), redoing the waterfront walk and park behind the building for example, but some believe this momentum is about to be lost for lack of someone in charge of a plan.
Two well known locals, Arjan van der Boon and Jim Harper have put some of their own thoughts on paper and shared that with the Foxton Futures team and the Horowhenua Chronicle.
Van der Boon who was Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom’s marketing manager for almost five years (a role that was disestablished earlier this year) and was such involved in past Foxton Futures discussions as well as the Horowhenua Destination Plan, is calling for a planned approach. As co-chair of one of the museums in Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, de Oranjehof, he has on ongoing interest in Foxton’s future.
The plan once was for the town to become the tourism centre of the region and as such was part of the longterm plan strategy.
He said depending on the direction the council takes from now on the town can flourish, like Greytown, languish, like Ashhurst, or deteriorate like Bulls.
“The plan once was for the town to become the tourism centre of the region and as such was part of the long-term plan strategy. It is no longer in the long-term plan and in order to capitalise on what has been achieved so far there must be a concrete plan.”
He said both council and private investors have spend a lot of money to turn Foxton into a vibrant town. He said he still remembers the many empty shops in Main Street of a few years ago.
Bird watchers come to the esturary, De Molen attracts 40,000 visitors each year and TANS 120,000. “The expressway will bring more people into town.”
He said he feared for the survival of De Molen, MAVTech and the Flaxstripper museum, who all rely on volunteers to keep going. He calls for an integrated approach promoting regenerative tourism. “Development will happen, but will be disjointed without a plan. It needs a project lead to develop that vision and a plan.”
Harper has an interest in history, heritage issues and evironmental planning. He said family history is a major drawcard bringing people to Foxton. “Foxton has a wealth of Māori, colonial, industrial and other cultural history (for example Chinese settlers). The built environment of Main St is genuine Kiwiana, but it cannot be frozen in time.
“Heritage related issues have not been prioritised by the council in recent years, but economic, population pressures and the pending arrival of Ō2NL would justify planning action.”
He would like to see the north end of Main St to be designated a historic precinct given the plethora of heritage sites including urupā, colonial cemetery, cenotaph,an ancient kāinga site and a few museums, and calls on the council to update its 2012 district heritage strategy, much of which was never completed and will now be out of date.