Debate on Showgrounds Hill proposal expected to liven up

Debate on Showgrounds Hill proposal expected to liven up

Nigel Gilkison, Timaru CBD group chairman, is preparing for a big crowd at a public meeting at Caroline Bay Hall to discuss a proposed “big box” retail development in the town. (File)

MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/STUFF

Nigel Gilkison, Timaru CBD group chairman, is preparing for a big crowd at a public meeting at Caroline Bay Hall to discuss a proposed “big box” retail development in the town. (File)

A public meeting is expected to ramp up debate on a proposed “big box” retail centre development at Showgrounds Hill in Timaru.

The interest in Thursday’s meeting, organised by the Timaru CBD Group, is such that it has been moved from the Caroline Bay community lounge to the larger Caroline Bay Hall.

Headlining the presentations is former Tindall Foundation manager Warren Snow along with South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith, developer Shaun Stockman, CBD Group chairman Nigel Gilkison and Timaru District mayor Nigel Bowen. There will also be a question and answer section for the public.

Auckland-based developer Redwood QT is proposing to turn the site alongside State Highway 1 into a 34,000 square metre “retail centre” which has resulted in several members of the CBD Group saying it will suck the life out of the current central business district.

Action Sports Timaru owner Ferg Hazlett, who has been in business in the CBD since 1984, said it would be the “death knell of the CBD”.

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“I’m not against big box development as such, but what they’re proposing at Showgrounds Hill is not just big box but also smaller retail,” Hazlett said.

“Timaru simply isn’t big enough to have two retail centres, and they’re already putting a lot of pressure on CBD owners through the need for us to earthquake strengthen.

Action Sports Timaru owner Ferg Hazlett holds a petition he supports against the proposed “big box” development of Showgrounds Hill.

John Bisset/Stuff

Action Sports Timaru owner Ferg Hazlett holds a petition he supports against the proposed “big box” development of Showgrounds Hill.

“But this sort of thing is not just happening in Timaru, it’s happening in other city centres too.”

Stuff has earlier published similar concerns from other longstanding Stafford St businessmen Grant Shaw, of Mac Shaw Menswear and Stephen Brown of Ron Brown Jewellers.

A decision is yet to be made on whether the project’s consents application will be publicly notified with the decision resting with an independent hearings commissioner.

Gilkison said “at the very least”, the consents should go out for public consultation.

“If it goes out for submissions, and more people submit on it, then that’s just democracy, but so far we are yet to have that debate out in the public,” he said.

The CBD Group has also launched a petition in several businesses urging the council, and its independent holdings company Timaru District Holdings Ltd (TDHL) to stop any development at the site.

Since he started collecting signatures for the petition late last week, Hazlett reckoned they had received “at least 100” from his store alone.

Gilkison said they decided to do a “paper only” petition, as this was a “very local” issue, and they wanted something they could physically hand into the council.

“Regardless, this is all about gathering support. It’s too early to say how many signatures we have received,” he said.

TDHL is still in negotiation with Redwood QT over the conditions of the property’s sale, which the holdings company purchased in April 2017.

“While it’s still in negotiation, then it’s still public land, and therefore it should be up for public debate,” Gilkison said.

He said it was expected that Thursday’s meeting will fill the Caroline Bay Hall to its allowed capacity under Level 2, which is two groups of 100 people.

“We’ll have all the right social distancing measures in place, and we’ll be streaming it online for those who can’t make it,” Gilkison said.

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