22 Apr 2024

Roadworks, construction have Tauranga businesses fighting for survival

10:42 pm on 22 April 2024

Tauranga businesses are fighting for survival with the CBD littered with roadworks and construction.

The city centre was undergoing a major transformation and while businesses could see what an improvement it would be, they were battling to stay in the game in the meantime.

Empty shop windows with 'for lease' and 'closed for business' signs were dotted down many streets in Tauranga.

One shop owner who spoke to Checkpoint said it was becoming harder to afford his rent.

"When I bought this shop the rent, the outgoing was like $6500 and now it's almost like double."

Tauranga was run by commissioners for now and commission chairperson Anne Tolley said over the last few years the commercial sector had simply moved out of the city.

"That took the foot traffic out, so the next to go was the retailers, now the cost-of-living crisis, the hospitality sector now suffering."

Road cones fill Tauranga CBD.

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

A new library, museum, public meeting house and an exhibition gallery would be built over the next four years.

One local resident told Checkpoint those plans were well overdue.

"I've been here 25 years now when we first moved down here, a friend of ours came down to be the curator for the museum, where is it?"

A new green space, playground and enhanced pathway was also on the way for the waterfront - but that meant the closure of the waterfront car park at the end of last year.

A move that was not popular with everyone.

One resident said: "The 126 [car parks] that we've lost is gonna be rocks and bushes. Water rats are gonna be harboured in there and then other rats and other mice, vermin will also come in there and then they'll have rat poison problems and disease, so why ruin a good car park?"

Oscar and Otto Eatery was directly across from the waterfront.

Co-owner Hamish Carter said there was not enough notice of the car park's closure.

"We had a week or something to to put in submissions, we're all busy business owners and so it didn't seem particularly fair."

Construction - Tauranga CBD

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Carter said the re-build was heading in the right direction but was another blow for business.

"It was in a bad state going into Covid. Coming out the other side, it's certainly not any better. It's like a layer cake, it's all going bad."

More car parks have opened up elsewhere but since the waterfront car park closed, business was down 20 percent on the weekends.

"People have heard that it's difficult, and so are just choosing to go somewhere else, everybody likes convenience and convenience has been lost," Carter said.

Tolley said the city had more car parks than it did 18 months ago and stood by the move.

"The waterfront is the place where people want to be and that was one of the big things that we were told when we first came here was that the best place in town is actually occupied with cars."

Final stages of the Cameron Road works were set to wrap up at the end of the month - after missing the previous goal of December last year.

George Gibson owned the Elizabeth Cafe and Larder on Cameron Road and said instead of working block by block, road works were outside their business for months with barely any nightworks.

"Oh god, where to start there? It was just a disaster from the start to finish."

Tolley admitted things could have been done better.

"It wasn't managed well and businesses did suffer. We watched them out here, actually out the window start digging, find that the services aren't where the plans say they are and so they'd leave that, go away and redesign it, but they'd leave all the traffic management in place."

Gibson said the re-build was a good sign of what was to come - he just hoped his business was still going.

"It will be good in five-to-ten years, but we've just gotta survive to get there."

More offices were set to move into the city centre in the future, hoping to boost the hospitality sector.

Downtown Tauranga chairperson and Miss Gee's Bar and Eatery owner Ashleigh Gee said until then, people needed to support their local.

"There's a lot of people that are so invested in the city centre and the future that we've got coming, but if we don't support the businesses now and kind of give them the helping hand, those are the ones that are wearing all the transformation pain."

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