Sunday, February 21, 2016

No, No, No?

ON the face of it, it seems pretty disappointing to hear that three good ideas failed to gain approval at last week's council meeting. There are many who agree that a temporary mall in High St, food vans in our central business district and major parks, and a council presence on social media are no-brainers, but none gained a majority vote at the council table.

I voted against all three and I know that has disappointed some people. Others appreciate that I have applied my usual scrutiny and consideration to each motion. Having a good idea is only the start of reaching a good decision of council. To my mind, you also need to know who it will affect and what it will cost.

Proposal, that:
1. A temporary mall be introduced in High Street, New Norfolk (between Burnett and Charles Street) each Sunday from 10am until 6pm for a trial period of three months;
2. The views of  retail traders in New Norfolk, together with the views of  members of the public be sought in relation to the merit of continuing such a concept following the conclusion of the trial period above;
3. A report be prepared summarising the views received and the cost implications of continuing the concept for the 2016/2017 financial year.

My comments at the meeting:
A temporary mall in High St is not a bad idea. It has been done before, on Christmas Parade days, special markets and retail promotions, and at least one Targa Tasmania lunch break. But there are a couple of problems with this proposal. The first is that it seems to be a mall without a purpose.
The suggestion is to close High St between Burnett and Charles St, for eight hours every Sunday for three months. What for? What will happen in those hours? Who will organise it? How will it be promoted? My feeling is that some of the traders in High St will not welcome the proposed temporary mall and they will be even less impressed if they find that the street is closed for no reason.
The general manager in his advice has pointed out that there will be a cost involved in closing and reopening the street. He estimates this to be $2000. The general manager also suggests that the council may need to take direct responsibility for providing entertainment and activities - and that will cost money. None of this has been budgeted for.
The other problem is the absence of formal consultation with the people this will affect most - the traders in High St. I do not doubt that the mayor has spoken with some of the businesses, as I have, and I believe some other councillors have too. The suggestion that the views of the traders and the general public be sought AFTER the three month trial is unacceptable.

A temporary mall in High St is not a bad idea but it needs a better plan than the one put before us tonight.
  • The vote: Lost 5/3

Proposal, that:
1. The council encourage itinerant food vendors to trade in specific locations in High Street, the Esplanade and Tynwald Park by providing a licence at no cost for a trial period of three months;
2. The locations, times and vendors permitted to trade for the trial period above be determined by the General Manager;
3. A report be prepared following the trial period, to include feedback from the itinerant traders, retail food providers in New Norfolk and the general public.

My comments at the meeting:
I appreciate the idea behind this proposal but it has the same fundamental flaw as the motion for the temporary mall. It suggests taking action that will directly impact on some of our local businesses without seeking their opinion until after the fact.
Since last month this motion has expanded from a trial in High St on Sundays, to now encompass the area in or near High St, plus the Esplanade and Tynwald Park, on any day of the week and at times to be approved by the general manager.
Supporting the existing shops in High St and helping to fill the empty ones should be our priority, not bringing in itinerant vendors who don't pay any rates, probably don't employ local people, and under this version of the proposal, will not pay any site fees either.
Most of our traders are family businesses and nearly all of the local cafes have tried extending their hours into the evening and on weekends but have not found the level of support needed to continue. They also need a day off now and then.
It is a shame that the Esplanade and Tynwald Park have been bundled in with High St in this motion, as I would have had no problem supporting a trial in those locations, with an appropriate site fee, and perhaps including Willow Court too.
  • The vote: Lost 5/3

Proposal: That the council introduce a Facebook and Twitter page.
My comments at the meeting:
I am all for improving council communications and have been doing so in my own way since my election. Facebook is not necessarily better communication. In fact, if it is not done well, it could be worse than not having Facebook at all.
If we are going to use Facebook we have to be serious about it and that involves staffing it. Unless we can be sure that an answer can be provided to a person asking at 11pm on a Saturday if the tip is open the next day, we are better sticking by the council's existing position of not having Facebook.

Our priority should be to launch the new council website which as far as I am aware is paid for and practically ready to go.
  • The vote: Tied and lost 4/4

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