Harbour St’s trial closure hit a slight speed bump on Sunday as inclement weather forced the Waitaki District Council to keep the street open to vehicle traffic.
In mid-February, the council approved a weekend 10am to 4pm pedestrianisation trial period for the street in the town’s Victorian precinct, for 11 weekends between February 18 and May 1.
However, on Sunday, both pedestrians and vehicles had to share the street in what Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher described as a “trial within the trial” to make the area more comfortable for visitors.
“Because the forecast was for rain all day, we left it open,” Mr Kircher said.
“People were expecting it would be closed and have questioned why it was open, but people have been making use of taking vehicles down there.”
Sunday was the first day since the trial began that vehicle traffic had been allowed access to Harbour St at the weekend.
Mr Kircher believed that aside, the trial had gone well.
“It’s tracking along reasonably well, from the feedback I’ve been getting. It’s always interesting how people see things,” he said.
“Talking to one of the business owners that was certainly not supportive, I asked them if there was anything we could do to improve it and they said keep it closed until 6pm. Their business has been on the up so that’s a really positive thing.”
He hoped to receive feedback from the community and business owners about the street being opened when wet.
Grainstore Gallery owner Donna Demente said the street’s closure had boosted her business.
“It’s actually saved us. We were going to shut on the weekends because we were so quiet, but we’ve raised our income. I’ve had some great comments from people who were against it too, which is great.
“I would have liked to have seen it shut for the whole summer. That would have been great. The benefits of closing fulltime is that we could landscape it and make it look lovely. People are still going to come here.”
However, Oasis Antiques owner Greg Waite, who presented a petition against the closure that was signed by more than a dozen Harbour St business owners to the council several months ago, said the trial was flawed.
“If you’re going to do the test, you should have done it over summer when there were a whole lot of tourists around,” Mr Waite said.
“My attitude is absolutely unchanged – this is a retail disaster and anyone that is in favour of closure doesn’t know their business.”
Despite his takings being “substantially down”, he had tried to “remain positive”.
Mr Waite said further discussions needed to take place before any decisions were made about Harbour St’s future.
“It’s divided the street. We need to get to the heart of the issue and sit down with the key council people and we need to come to a resolution. This is a serious issue.”