A 30km/h CBD speed limit, the pedestrianisation of Tutanekai St and the removal of the green corridor cycleway are to be considered as part of Rotorua's inner city revitalisation strategy.

Those ideas - the most comprehensive of which could cost up to $15 million - were part of a review presented to Rotorua Lakes councillors at an Operations and Monitoring committee meeting on Thursday.

The committee agreed for the options to be incorporated into the next steps for the inner city revitalisation strategy, and the council will now move to take the ideas to the community for feedback.

Council infrastructure manager Stavros Michael said the important thing for a "vibrant central city was for it to be a place where people could move freely and safely", as well as for business activity.

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The options were aimed at attracting the Waka Kotahi NZTA National Land Transport Fund, which could subsidise works by 55 per cent, he said.

Designation of spaces for the inner city. Graphic / Rotorua Lakes Council
Designation of spaces for the inner city. Graphic / Rotorua Lakes Council

That fund favoured accessibility and safety.

The work related to Fenton, Tutanekai and Amohia Sts and the streets intersecting them in between.

Michael said the CBD had three or four corridors that were "heavily dominated by vehicle movements".

He said the third option explored in the review was to "embark on the wholesale reconfiguration of the functionality of those corridors in a way that would make the CBD a lot more attractive for the future function of the CBD."

Streets would be redefined as civic spaces, local streets and activity streets, which would dictate the way they functioned.

"In simple terms [civic spaces] means a place where people take dominance over vehicles."

Concept drawing for Fenton St. Graphic / Rotorua Lakes Council
Concept drawing for Fenton St. Graphic / Rotorua Lakes Council

Michael said the plan needed community input to inform what recommendations council staff would ultimately make to the council.

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"We think the emerging view is the CBD needs to evolve more towards residential living, associated recreation and cafes and restaurants and so on."

"Private vehicles will not go away … we need to find the right balance. I don't exactly know what the right balance is, but involving the community and getting their feedback … will help you and us make a more concerted and more realistic decision as to which option we want to follow."

Mayor Steve Chadwick agreed, saying "it should go out" for public feedback.

"I'd rather do it once and do it right.

"I'd even rather wait a year and get something back that the community's excited by."

Concept drawing for Eruera / Hinemoa / Tutanekai Sts. Graphic / Rotorua Lakes Council
Concept drawing for Eruera / Hinemoa / Tutanekai Sts. Graphic / Rotorua Lakes Council

Rotorua Rural Community Board representative Bryce Heard, who was also the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said the city had been "paralysed by the lack of a clear plan for the CBD".

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"This issue of CBD revitalisation has been around for 20 plus years, and whilst we talk, the city continues to degenerate.

"The time is now, with Covid, to take the hard decisions and make that call.

"There's going to be winners and losers, but if we want the investment to come in, people are not going to put it in while they are still doubtful about what our plan is.

"Do we have the courage to make that plan?"

Council chief executive Geoff Williams said he expected feedback to come back from the inner city sector group recommending "a fairly bold plan as to changing the fundamental way our inner-city works, looks and feels."

He said there appeared to be a desire from inner-city building owners for the council to move on inner-city revitalisation, but the challenge was that would mean "significant investment" for the council, and said the decision would ultimately lay with the elected members to decide the best approach.

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Chairing the meeting, councillor Tania Tapsell said the committee was only voting to note the recommendations of the review.

"So no final decisions yet, but it is a wonderful concept."

Concept drawing for Pukuatua / Tutanekai Sts. Graphic / Rotorua Lakes Council
Concept drawing for Pukuatua / Tutanekai Sts. Graphic / Rotorua Lakes Council

The report on the issue in the council agenda stated that if the proposal proceeded to implementation, it would be funded by the council's transport management programme and the National Land Transport Fund. That would likely be part of the council's 2021/31 Long-Term Plan.

THE OPTIONS

Option one:

"Do nothing" - no cost. "Opportunity lost".

Option two: "Low level improvements" - $2m-$4m.
That could include:
• A speed review to reduce speeds in the CBD to below 50km/h.
• Infrastructure changes to support lower speed limit
• Development of policy for the creation of dedicated utility/service lanes
• Changes to intersections or "areas of higher crash risk" - for example, Fenton St and Pukuatua Sts aimed at improving safety, such as pedestrian crossings and mid-block refuges.
• Infrastructure to support safe cycling on CBD streets, including cycle parks
• Loading zones for goods vehicles, could result in fewer parks
• Removal of green corridor
• Elevated platforms for formal crossings with high visibility specifications
• Directional markings for cyclists (sharrow markings)

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Option three: "Desired / target level of service" - $10m-$15m
That could include:
• 30km/h throughout central city
• Possibility of pedestrianising Tutanekai St, changing to one-way traffic, or maintaining dual direction access. One-way traffic could allow for cycling lane and outdoor business activities
• Creation of service lanes and on-street provision for goods vehicles
• Traffic calming within designated "civic spaces"
• Reallocation of road space to allow for varied transport modes
• Extension of footpath space for cafes/restaurants
• Changes to Amohia St to support varied transport modes and possible residential/office development
• Potential removal of green corridor, creating parking spaces
• Elevated platforms to demarcate priority for pedestrian movement on Tutanekai St

Source: Rotorua Lakes Council
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