Crs vote to invest more in CBD, one voices concerns

    The Invercargill City Council building on Esk St, Invercargill. Photo: File

    ALTHOUGH Invercargill City Council unanimously agreed to put more money into the CBD
    development, a councillor believes his council should find a way to get out of the deal.

    At an extraordinary performance, policy and partnerships committee meeting on Tuesday,
    councillors discussed the 79 submissions received as part of its consultation on a proposal to invest a further $7.5 million in the development and provide a $22.5 million short-term loan for the project.

    It has also proposed investing an extra $13.3 million in its streetscape upgrades, aiming to
    create more vibrancy and connection between Don, Kelvin and Esk Sts.

    Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said there was an attitude among the submitters that they just wished to have the job done.

    His comments were supported by mana whenua representative Evelyn Cook who said council would be remissive if it did not hear its own ratepayers.

    ‘‘They wanted it done. We have that good will, we have that energy and we need to honour it.’’

    Cr Rebecca Amundsen agreed council should take in consideration the feedback, but she raised concerns about the risks the project continued to present.

    She said almost all of the risks identified in the beginning of the project came to fruition and she worried this could continue to happen.

    For example, many businesses were moving to the development or to other areas, leaving
    premium spaces vacant.

    ‘‘I see that as potentially quite detrimental to the city, especially if our goal is around the
    community outcome, enhancing the entire CBD and it is not purely focused on the shopping mall.’’

    Chairman Darren Ludlow said there were a lot of things which were not in play when council made the decision, including the Covid-19 pandemic and tensions in the northern hemisphere between Russia and Ukraine.

    However, council was not in position to pay incentives to people to move to buildings owned by private landlords — which Cr Amundsen replied saying ‘‘but we are doing [that] with the city block [development]’’.

    Cr Marcus Lush also raised concerns about the whole situation.

    He said when council made the decision he was not an elected member but he struggled to back up the project as, for him, it was a bad idea from the beginning.

    A tour through the development left him heartbroken because the development seemed a
    ‘‘giant box for a giant Farmers’’.

    Council kept being involved in bad commercial deals, he said.

    ‘‘There is no vision. We seem to go from bad commercial decision to bad commercial decision and I can’t work out when we’re gonna stop.

    ‘‘I think we need to blow the whole thing up, work around what the value is and get ourselves out of the whole deal.’’

    Despite the heated comments, all councillors voted in support of the increase of the investment and the short-term loan for the development in order to have it completed.

    Only Cr Nobby Clark voted against council investing $13.3 million in its streetscape upgrades.