Disability advocates concerned

    Neighbouring Retailing Group and Shoe Clinic owner Ben Fokkens is urging the community to keep supporting local businesses as the Invercargill City Council takes almost two years to complete streetscape works in Esk and Don Sts.

    ROADWORKS and construction in Invercargill’s CBD are causing residents with disabilities to stay away.

    The two main CBD projects, ILT’s Langlands Hotel and the Invercargill Central Ltd development, had already caused disruption.

    The Invercargill City Council’s masterplan, including its streetscape project, and the Government’s Three Waters work, which started in Don St this month, were now also affecting disabled members of the community and their ability to navigate the town.

    Blind advocate Carolyn Weston, who had been consulted by council staff about the streetscape design, said she had been avoiding the CBD area since construction work began.

    “Honestly, I’m trying to keep out of that area as much as possible.

    “But I guess in the end it might be OK as they make that block more pedestrian focused.”

    One of her main concerns was the new bus hub, as it was further from the public library where many people with disabilities liked to go.

    “They will have to walk that area [where the roadworks are] to get to the library and this could be potentially dangerous.”

    The Don St work was expected to be completed by April 2022.

    Work would begin in Esk St in August and was expected to be completed by October next year.

    Disabilities advocate Tracy Peters said she had a frightening experience when crossing near the roadworks from Wachner Pl to Esk St last week.

    She counted 13 cars drive through the red light at Dee St, she said.

    “It was absolutely terrifying.

    “I called the council who was absolutely fantastic but the problem wasn’t them or the traffic lights – it was the idiot drivers.”

    She urged people to be even more careful and aware of the roadworks in town for the safety of all.

    “It is getting more and more difficult to get around and I’m actually having to think and plan really, really hard if I need to go to town.”

    Neighbouring Retailing Group and Shoe Clinic owner Ben Fokkens said there would be some hurdles for businesses while roadworks were in place.

    It was important to have some detailed information as soon as possible so businesses could plan for the rest of the year, he said.

    However, he believed the council would minimise road closures as much as possible.

    One of his main concerns was the reduction in car parking spaces while the development was under construction.

    “What you need to be successful in retail hasn’t changed: you need to have accessibility, a good product and good customer service.

    “If this accessibility is taken from you, then it becomes hard for customers to come.”

    Council roading manager Russell Pearson said traffic management designs, details, and possible impacts on retailers and the public would be “better understood once the final design was fully understood”.

    “We do acknowledge that these works will require the closure of roads at times,” Mr Pearson said.

    “We will be ensuring pedestrian access can be maintained during these periods.”

    The council was committed to working closely with contractors, retailers, stakeholders and the community to identify ways to reduce disruption where possible, he said.