I just don't get it. First I see a bunch of new retail shops being built at Central Mall.



Then I read of a plan to build a Mitre 10 Mega store on a site in Amohau St, and already the building is in progress and the store is to open on December 6.



Then came a proposal to build a new shopping centre on the corner of Te Ngae Rd and Tarawera Rd, and Rotorua District Council consent has been given for it to proceed.



And the other day we are told in this newspaper of a plan to redevelop a large chunk of lakeshore, to include more retail space.

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What really puzzles me about all this is that there are more than 50 retail premises vacant in the central business district and a lot more in almost every suburban shopping centre.



How then can the entrepreneurs justify the building of a whole heap of new shops in the city and suburbs?



The Mitre 10 Mega store, for instance, is within a couple of kilometres of Bunnings Warehouse, which supplies pretty much the same range of products as Mitre 10 Mega and has built up a fine public image.



But that's not all there will be on the Amohau St site, to be known as Trade Central. A second stage will provide retail space for a number of allied home trade businesses.



The developers say that they are hoping to attract new businesses to Rotorua and that they don't think the new development will take trade away from the Central Mall and the CBD.



But in the next breath they tell us they are eyeing home trade businesses in Old Taupo, Fairy Springs and Lake Rds. And that seems a perfect application of the principle of robbing Peter to pay Paul.



The other thing that puzzles me is that these major projects are taking place in a time of continuing economic recession and in a city which is stagnating, if not going backwards.



There is good reason to believe that the population of this city is declining. For instance, there are more than 1000 residential properties in Rotorua advertised for sale on Trade Me alone, yet the average number of house sales each month varies between 70 and 80-odd.

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(My immaculate, warm, dry and comfortable character three-bedroom home in Owhata has been on the market for several months and interest in it has been negligible in spite of extensive marketing by the estate agency and a drop in price.)



Add that to the fact that there are scores of vacant shops in and around the city, that tourist numbers are declining, that unemployment and poverty are increasing among many of our citizens, and you have to come to the conclusion that this city is slowly going down the drain.



Yet the Rotorua District Council, which is central to all of this, seems to live in a world of its own, ignoring all the negatives that are staring councillors in the face.



It's all very well for the chief executive, Peter Guerin, to blather on every week about what a great job the council is doing when, the evidence shows, it seems to be living in cloud cuckoo land.



In fact, the council and its executives seem to be so out of their depth that it's a wonder they haven't all drowned.



If you don't believe me, just look at the $4 million "error" in the council's predictions for airport income that were so optimistic as to be laughable. And who has to pay? The long-suffering ratepayers, who had been assured the airport development would cost them nothing.

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If the CEO of a private firm made that sort of misjudgment, he'd have been down the road before he could clear out his desk.

garth.george@hotmail.com