22 March 2013
Rotorua District Council’s vision for a revitalised CBD is about to move into its next phase with a number of proposals being included in the council’s 2013/14 draft Annual Plan for public consultation.
Mayor Kevin Winters said the latest proposals would follow on from successful projects recently implemented or currently underway, such as the Night Market, covering Eat Street dining precinct, way-finder CBD information display panels, improved streetscapes and free WiFi access throughout the downtown area.
“We’re launching a raft of innovative CBD development proposals for inclusion in our draft Annual Plan and budgets, aimed at boosting the central city’s economic performance. These proposals acknowledge the changing characteristics and trends of retailing and commercial business in inner city areas, and are an emphatic indication of our confidence in Rotorua’s CBD.
“But we’ll be looking to hear what residents think via the Annual Plan consultation process before we make any final decisions.
“These proposals, if ultimately adopted as part of the 2013/14 Annual Plan, are expected to stimulate more vibrancy and activity in the CBD, and contribute to increased foot traffic over the next 12 to 18 months. They should also help reduce the rate of vacant premises, strengthen the Tutanekai Street ‘spine’ between the Lakefront and Central Mall, enhance CBD safety, cut parking costs, improve public toilet facilities, and bring additional council services into the CBD.
“These are the next, and probably some of the most exciting, pieces in the larger CBD revitalisation jigsaw,” said Mr Winters.
The proposals are summarised into six key initiatives:
- Free Parking: Introduction of a time-based free parking regime in the CBD with parking meters and ‘pay & display’ units replaced by ‘Smart Eye’ technology linked direct to parking enforcement staff.
- Integration of CBD services: Consideration of all city service functions including CBD revitalisation programme, city cleaning and maintenance and City Safe Guardians, being consolidated into a single council unit operating under the Inner City Enterprises - or ICE – banner. This unit would also work very closely with parking wardens in a whole-of-council approach to delivering inner city services.
- Relocation of services to ICE Centre: Relocation and centralisation of services to the prime located old Westpac Bank building (1251 Tutanekai St). This would become the base for City Focus and City Services staff, parking wardens, city cleaning and maintenance team, and City Safe Guardians. In addition the ICE Centre would house a new inner city RDC Customer Centre, satellite i-SITE visitor centre, event ticketing outlet and CBD meeting centre, with enhanced City Focus events activities being added.
- New high quality inner city public toilets: The existing City Focus building would be reconfigured and transformed into high quality centrally located and easily accessible public rest rooms, replacing the old Pukuatua and Hinemoa streets public toilets.
- Parking building automation: The Pukuatua Street parking building would become a fully automated 24-hour secure parking operation.
- Enhanced CBD safety: There would be increased visibility of council personnel on the ground, in bright visible uniforms, throughout the CBD, and more effective relationships between inner city service functions, City Safe Guardians activity, parking wardens and the central area’s security surveillance camera network.
RDC economic and regulatory services group manager Mark Rawson said $2.3 million for capital costs had been included in draft budgets for the Inner City Enterprises (ICE) programme, including implementing Smart Eye parking technology, transforming City Focus offices into high quality public restrooms, and securing the old Westpac Bank building as a base for Inner City Enterprises. He said the annual operational cost of all the proposed changes, taking into account loss of revenue from parking meters, was estimated at $400,000 per year.
Mr Winters said he believed that the proposals were vital for maintaining a healthy, vibrant and safe central city, and they would strongly complement the council’s wider focus on boosting Rotorua’s economic performance.
“The important thing is that we believe at this stage we can potentially deliver all of these significant enhancements to the CBD and improved services for our residents and visitors, while at the same time holding next year’s rates increase to less than 1 per cent - and without cutting other services.
“It does mean some very real challenges for our staff particularly as a number of operational costs outside of our control, like fuel and roading materials, have continued to increase substantially and well ahead of inflation.
“However with another year of focussed belt tightening by the council, and savings from our Lean Thinking operational efficiency programme across all council operations, I believe it’s achievable. At less than 1%, Rotorua could, for the fifth year in a row, boast one of the lowest rates increases in the country.”