Views aired on harbour plan

September 15, 2020

Oamaru is going to have "the best little harbour in New Zealand", the Waitaki District Council says.

And about 30 community members signed up yesterday to give the council their steer on just how to get there.

The council’s Oamaru Harbour Plan 2020 and Beyond drew more than 100 submissions and the council scheduled more than four hours for hearings in council chambers yesterday.

A range of voices weighed in on the issues the master plan posed, but the renovation of the 1884 Sumpter Wharf and the possible realignment of the southern end of Lower Thames St drew the biggest reaction from the community.

Steam Cafe owner Tracie Meechan said business owners in the area were concerned about plans to reduce Lower Thames St to one-way traffic and incorporate a plaza at the street’s southern end.

While the aims of a better connection between the Thames St retail area and the harbour were welcomed by business owners, the possibility of losing parking was a major concern, Ms Meechan said.

"Urbanising the town, though, is something that is good," she said.

"We understand that [the plans] can modernise where we are going to.

"We understand that could connect that harbour part to the lower part of Thames St, and what you’re after is that ‘wayfaring’: getting tourists to look down that end of town, to wander down that end of town, to see things down that end of town, and to give us options of areas where we can use that space for other things other than just retail."

Infused Vape Shop owner Tracy Pile told councillors she would fight the proposed changes.

And former Waitaki district councillor Peter Garvan asked who was "driving the proposal".

"This is a hugely significant area of real estate and of streetscape," he said.

He was one of a chorus of submitters who said the George Jones park at the street’s Itchen St intersection was underutilised if the council was looking for public space.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the council had heard parking was an issue and taken it on board.

He confirmed as well that parking in the harbour area itself was being given proper consideration.

The challenge presented by Sumpter Wharf — habitat for the endemic Otago shag — could cost the council up to $1.8million.

Retired ornithologist Chris Lalas told councillors he believed the colony, the largest of the species, could form the basis for a successful ecotourism venture.

Heritage stalwart John Baster, of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, said he understood the wharf’s structural foundations were not as dire as the image of the dilapidated wharf would suggest.

Mr Baster said the wharf had "a very good landing" and would serve as a good place for pontoons to be placed in the harbour "to create
a second destination in the

"You can’t just be romantic about heritage — it’s got to actually have a purpose," he said.