City street closures raise concerns

    Invercargill City Council roading manager Russell Pearson, chief executive Clare Hadley and infrastructure group manager Erin Moogan at the intersection of Esk and Kelvin Sts, in Invercargill. Parts of Don St and all of Esk St will be closed to traffic from late August, however pedestrian access will be maintained to all businesses. Photo: Laura Smith

    AN Invercargill businessman has been blindsided by the Invercargill City Council’s plans to close the city’s CBD to vehicles for 14 months.

    The council is set to begin work on its city streets upgrade next month, which would cause disruptions in the main retail area in Don and Esk Sts.

    Neighbouring Retailing Group and Shoe Clinic owner Ben Fokkens raised his concerns to councillors during an extraordinary council infrastructural services committee meeting on Tuesday.

    He said since March 2019, the group had supported the inner-city development and upgrade and he understood there was always going to be road closures in order to complete the project.

    However, he felt “blindsided and in disbelief” when he heard the proposal was to close the block from August 2021 to October 2022.

    “I’m not a roading or infrastructure expert but 14 to 15 months sounds like an extremely long and unreasonable time for us retailers to suck it up,” he said.

    When pipes were upgraded in Tay St in the past, trade was down by 30% during the three months of work, Mr Fokkens said.

    When he asked during which hours the work was expected to be done, he was disappointed to learn it would be only from 8am-5pm, Monday to Friday. He asked the council to increase the wage budget to enable contractors to work longer hours.

    “There is no reason why the working hours can’t be from around 7am till 9pm.”

    Another concern raised was about the crossing. He said the road works had made it hard for people to access the street from nearby car parks.

    A long debate during the meeting canvassed ideas including a drop-off point, rates rebates, and a potential partnership with private car parks.

    Council infrastructure group manager Erin Moogan said a rates rebate would not be recommended as it would add costs for ratepayers.

    Council roading manager Russell Pearson said he would continue to try to mitigate problems but the timeframe of 14 months given by the contractors was the best at the moment.

    He said there was a “seasonal opportunity” to extend the work hours but he also highlighted the council would need to balance that, due to noise and the potential disruption for hotels in the area.