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For the Oamaru Harbour master plan to be successful it must include the development of lower Thames St, the newly established Oamaru Business Collective says.

The Oamaru Business Collective – a group of 56 members representing businesses in Oamaru’s CBD – was formed after a meeting about the future of retail and Oamaru’s CBD earlier this month.

Its aim is to provide a united voice for the Oamaru business community, to strategise joint promotions and marketing and to offer support services in the business community.

For now, its strategic objective is to ensure lower Thames St is included in the Oamaru Harbour master plan and members of the group are meeting Waitaki District Council representatives today to discuss that – as well as their vision for the town and ideas for revitalisation.

“We are a small town and I would like to see us looking at the town as a whole rather than in bites, because what happens in the harbour affects town and vice versa,” Oamaru Business Collective founder Annabel Berry said.

“We want to see work in the town being a priority.”

Earlier this month, Mrs Berry revealed a town centre concept in a bid to start discussions about revitalising Oamaru’s CBD.

Designed by Anna Hopkins, it included green space outside the Waitaki District Council building, from Itchen St to Meek St, with outdoor seating, art installations, an area for concerts and events and a walkway to the Victorian precinct.

Mrs Berry has recently met council roading and planning staff to discuss the concept and the collective met last week to discuss and set priorities.

“The big thing we changed, in terms of our priority with the green space, is that we want it to be a town square now,” Mrs Berry said.

“We also recognised it would be better on the east side of the street for a number of reasons – for the sun factor, for the fact it links directly to the precinct, and it also works better from a roading perspective because it tidies up that Tees St-Itchen St corner .. it just makes sense.”

Another focus for the group was designing new entrances to the town – signs that draw people off State Highway 1 and into Oamaru.

“As part of the harbour master plan, we not only want to see the lower Thames St development, we also think town entrances are critical – it’s part of bringing the town together and it also directs traffic.”

Mrs Berry said support for a town centre and other ideas to revitalise retail in Oamaru had been overwhelming.

“Everyone has been really on board with what we’re trying to achieve and just pleased that something’s happening,” she said.

Next month, the collective is also inviting members to discuss marketing and promotions at a meeting at the Brydone Hotel.

“We want to look at a calendar of events in the lead up to Christmas, a shop-local campaign and promotions,” she said.

Anyone interested in joining the Oamaru Business Collective can email Mrs Berry at annabel@designfederation.co.nz.