Councillor calls for unity in Victorian Precinct

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“We’re all in this together.”

This was the comment made by Waitaki District councillor and Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust board member Peter Garvan at the second ‘soapbox’ meeting held at artist Donna Demente’s Grainstore Gallery in Harbour St on Wednesday evening.

The topic for discussion was the future direction of the Victorian Precinct – either as a co-operative community, a competitive precinct of self-interest, or somewhere in between.

Mr Garvan spoke of the gains that had been made and added “we’re getting there”.

“Obviously, there is a huge debate regarding tenancies – we have a long winter and short summer and enthusiasm will only get you so far,” he said.

“People have got to make a dollar.”

He referred to the commercialisation of Arrowtown and assured the meeting the trust would not be going down that route.

“Some businesses are not popular but if we didn’t have those businesses, we couldn’t keep going forward and couldn’t keep Victorian niche businesses,” he said.

“We’ve got huge buildings to maintain. Let’s have some economic reality. We might have a different way, but we’ll all get there.”

Soapbox convenor Ms Demente said the meeting had been really positive.

“Most people go away and think about what people have said,” she said.

In regards to Mr Garvan’s comments she said: “I still think we’ve got to be careful.”

She considered the Civic Trust needed to be more transparent since the precinct embraced more than just the Civic Trust.

Ms Demente said three to four business owners in the precinct refused to attend the meeting which disappointed her since the purpose was to try to break down barriers.

About 50 people attended the meeting. Ms Demente said the next meeting would be held in five to six weeks’ time.

By CHRIS TOBIN