Street closure proposal stirs up Victorian Precinct

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A topic which is dividiing business owners in the Victorian Precinct will be discussed at a public meeting this evening in Oamaru.

The topic is the possible closure of historic Harbour St to all vehicular traffic.

The meeting has been called by artist Donna Demente and will be held at her Grainstore Gallery in Harbour St, from 5.30pm-7.30pm.

“In my utopian, romantic vision I’d like to see it (the road) closed and landscaped like Cuba St in Wellington,” Ms Demente said yesterday.

“They could trial it. Out of the 40 to 50 people I’ve spoken to they’d like to see it.”

Harbour St business owners spoken to by the Oamaru Mail had mixed views on the subject, with the major concern being closing the street to traffic would impact negatively on their businesses.

Purple Taylor, of Studio Realm, agreed with Ms Demente that the idea should be trialled.

“It’s up for discussion and I think we should have some trial over the peak of the season to see if it would be effective with a time frame, say from 10 to four so delivery vehicles can come and go,” she said.

“It could be treated like a courtyard rather than a street.”

Vaughan Tessier-Varlet, of the Lazy Cat Pottery and Art Gallery, said he would reserve his judgment.

“I don’t know the advantages or disadvantages. I’m very circumspect because it’s a political minefield. I won’t be attending the meeting.”

Another Harbour St business owner Greg Waite, of Oasis, said he would not be attending the meeting either and it would be inappropriate for him to comment.

“It’s a matter for our landlord.”

The landlord of the Harbour St buildings is the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust. Chairman Marcus Brown said some people were in favour of the proposal, others opposed and it would not be easily resolved.

“We are the landlords but we are not the owners of the street. We’ll be happy to work with the Waitaki District Council to come to a solution for everyone’s needs.”

Waitaki District Council roading manager Michael Voss said he had not been notified of the meeting but any proposal to close the road would have to go through council.

“It would have to be a full public process and open to public submissions like closing any other road.”

Ms Demente said the meeting would be the first in a monthly soapbox series in which Oamaru issues would be freely discussed.

“My feeling is the the precinct is lacking communication; a lot don’t know each other and there are a lot of different opinions,” she said.

“The whole point is to encourage opinions without the fear of disrespect. I think it will help the trust to get feedback too.”

Ms Demente said she was aware of other business owners’ concerns but she believed the street closure would work.

“I need to attract people to my business as well.”

By CHRIS TOBIN

PHOTO: Chris Tobin

CLOSURE ADVOCATE: Harbour St business owner Donna Demente says she wants the street’s future openly discussed.