Businesses wary of proposed Marguerita St changes

A concept plan for one of the options for Marguerita. Image: Rotorua Lakes Council.

A key connector street in Rotorua could close to through-traffic, and some say it’s a “completely absurd” proposal that will negatively affect nearby businesses.

Three options for Marguerita Street opened for public consultation with Rotorua Lakes Council on June 29.

The first option is to maintain the status quo, while option two would introduce chicanes and street narrowing at one end.

Option three would see closing the road and installing back-to-back cul-de-sacs near White Street.

In January, residents from Arvida Glenbrae, a retirement village on the street, petitioned the council to address issues on the mixed residential and industrially-zoned street, which includes high speeds and an increase in heavy traffic.

At the time, Glenbrae resident Molly Campbell said it had left some retirement village residents “extremely stressed” due to the shaking and noise from heavy vehicles.

Peter Baars owns Farm Source on Marguerita Street, as well as several other businesses in the area, and on Monday launched a petition calling for maintenance of the status quo - option one.

He is “dismayed” the council had not notified commercial property owners in the area before announcing the options for public feedback..

"I only found out through chance. They never made any effort at all to approach commercial property owners, which is disconcerting."

However, a council spokesman said letters were hand-delivered to those "most affected, being residents and businesses on Marguerita and White streets" on June 29.

He says, in his view, options two and three could "force" vehicles on to alternate routes and add kilometres to prospective customers' journeys.

"It's not very green to be forcing vehicles to travel more than they need to."

Baars says any proposal that could negatively affect local business in the aftermath of COVID-19 is "completely absurd".

He is "always wary" when three options are presented, as it means the likely result will be the middle option - in this case, option two.

"The middle ground is not good enough.

"The business community has been there a lot longer [than residents]. [Residents] knew what the street was like when they moved in."

Baars says the feeling among the business owners he has spoken to is "very strong" and in favour of maintaining the status quo.

"They cannot believe the council has let it get that far. It has no merit and would be very detrimental to businesses."

Baars believes the situation on the street has been “exacerbated” by the nearby VTNZ no longer offering appointment booking for heavy vehicle testing, resulting in trucks lining up on the side of the road near the retirement village.

VTNZ operations manager Gavin McNaught says the Rotorua branch had offered a weekday no bookings required service for heavy vehicles for “many years now” and the process is not uncommon across the network.

“[It] is used to manage ongoing issues with customers booking heavy vehicle inspections and not turning up for their appointments. No-shows have a significant impact on the efficiency of a branch’s inspection procedures and the ability for other customers to have their vehicles inspected.”

He says bookings are available for heavy vehicles on Saturdays and there has been a spike in testing following Alert Level 4.

“We continue to work with the Rotorua Lakes Council and local authorities and apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers and nearby residents and business owners.”

Council infrastructure manager Stavros Michael says it's important to note no decisions have been made on the issue yet.

“Council staff will take the community’s feedback and provide that, along with a report and recommendation to [the] council for their consideration.

“It is part of [the] council’s role to assess the use and functionality of our local road network.

“[The] council has heard concerns from residents of Marguerita Street for a number of years and, last year received a petition from a number of residents requesting that [the] council look at options to reduce the impact of vehicle movements through that corridor.”

He says that process has led elected members to instruct council staff to engage with the community about “potential traffic management and safety improvement options”.

Rotorua Rural Community Board representatives had also recommended that the rural sector be considered as key stakeholders, he says.

Letters are hand-delivered to those “most affected, being residents and businesses on Marguerita and White Streets” on June 29, he says.

The council has also held a drop-in session on Tuesday night at the racecourse.

“We heard many views, from the commercial operators in particular.”

Rotorua Rural Community Board chairwoman Shirley Trumper says the rural community has not been considered a stakeholder in preparing options for Marguerita Street.

“There is big industry on this road for the rural community.”

She says chicanes are “no good” as horse floats, utes and trailers needed to use the street.

“I just think of the farming sector that uses Marguerita St.”

She says the cul-de-sac idea is a “non-starter” and she doesn’t think the council has realised the potential impact on the local economy.

“We need a workable solution. This has been an industrial area for a very long time.

“I can empathise with [nearby residents] but my role as Rural Community Board chair is to speak for rural residents.”

She urges people to provide feedback to the council on the issue - “good, bad or indifferent”.

On Tuesday, Glenbrae resident Graham Winters says speed and the volume of heavy vehicles was still an issue for the retirement home residents.

“We’re just waiting now, and we’re hopeful that a decision will be made sooner rather than later.”

His personal preference is for cul-de-sacs as he is concerned some drivers will see chicanes as a “challenge” to navigate at speed, and trucks may “just drive over them”.

“It’s going to inconvenience some people, it’s even going to inconvenience me as I like to go to the Redwoods. But I’m more than happy to go the other way.”

Farmlands Co-operative operations manager Mal Scrymgeour says the company is supportive of any option that balanced “safety with making it easy for our shareholders to do business with us”.

Design Upholstery owner Mike Sperry has operated out of White Street for about 30 years.

He doesn’t understand why the council is considering any changes and doesn’t think they are necessary.

He has “no problems” with the introduction of chicanes but in his time in the area, he has seen very few people “hooning” down Marguerita Street.

The introduction of cul-de-sacs would be less convenient for his customers, he says.

The feedback period will finish on July 31 and can be found online at letstalk.rotorualakescouncil.nz.

MARGUERITA ST OPTIONS

Status quo – keep the road as it is. The council would continue to monitor and enforce parking issues.

Installing traffic management features to reduce traffic speed, volume of traffic and vehicle movements e.g. chicanes or narrowing the road at the residential end of Marguerita St.

Remove the ability to travel through Marguerita Street. This would mean closing the road by installing back-to-back cul-de-sacs at a midway point (approximately the location of Vetora).

Source: Rotorua Lakes Council

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