Developing a plan suitable for everybody

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The Oamaru Harbour master plan took another step closer to completion this week, although it was a somewhat backwards one as far as timing goes.

However, that is not a problem if it results in a plan that has greater acceptance, and a plan our public feels better represents their vision for the area.

In an effort to be more public and transparent, the Waitaki District Council decided to have an open meeting to discuss the relatively rough draft images and options we want to take out to the public. In hindsight, our communication to the public of this step could have been better.

We should have been clearer that the options still needed further work before they went out for full public consultation.

This has been an important lesson for us all.

At the harbour area committee meeting on Tuesday there was a good turnout from the public, and eight people took the opportunity to speak in the public forum at the commencement of the meeting.

Their comments were useful and some ideas were expressed which will improve elements of the document which is created for that consultation.

Overall, one thing is very clear – the great majority of us want to ensure our great little harbour remains as a vibrant space which people of all ages can enjoy and that has the right mix of activity, tranquillity, beauty, recreation, heritage, wildlife and more.

The past 15 years has seen a significant change in that area, and further improvement should build on that.

Another area getting more attention is the Oamaru central business district.

As the Oamaru Harbour master plan progresses, the council wants to fine-tune the area around that, ensuring the connections between the harbour and surrounding area work well – roads, footpaths, bike trails and so on.

That then leads us into Lower Thames St where council staff have already carried out some work on how that space can be better used, and become more attractive for the public to spend time there.

From there, we have the opportunity to work on the rest of the CBD, creating a shopping area that encourages people to be there.

This is not something the council can do alone, and I personally think that the best way to progress a project like this is to create a working group of interested business and property owners, councillors and council staff.

Ideally, we should develop a plan together that the council can then include in the annual plan for consideration by the wider public. Any financial implications would also be considered at that point.

This is my last column before the election in three months’ time, so I wish you all the best.

And please ensure you have your say when the voting papers arrive in your letterbox.