Processing of feedback received through the first stage of engagement on the Whakatāne Town Centre and Riverfront Revitalisation programme is well underway. This information is now being analysed to capture key themes, challenges and opportunities that will eventually inform concept plans that will be brought back to the community for further feedback.

A summary of the information and findings will be sent to submitters and made available to the public in the next few weeks.

More than 1400 responses were received during the public engagement period from 19 September to 16 October. Much of this feedback came through Council’s Kōrero Mai website, the engagement hub that was open daily at Wharaurangi for three weeks, and through email and hard copy submissions. There was also considerable feedback generated from a publicly-led Facebook page on the subject.

Engagement with iwi and hapū has also been initiated, with more planned over the coming months.

Julie Gardyne, General Manager Strategy and Transformation, says the level of feedback is substantial, indicating the passion that people have for their town centre and environs and their desire that whatever development occurs is the right thing in the right place, done in the right way.

For these reasons the second stage of engagement, which was due to take place this side of Christmas, has now been postponed until the new year. It is expected that this engagement will feature concept designs and be open for submissions for a four-week period. The final dates for this are yet to be determined, but will be advertised well in advance.

While it’s too early to communicate the results of the first stage of engagement, it was clear to the Councillors and project team members who were in the engagement pod that people are excited about the possibility of better connecting the town to riverfront, expressing the uniqueness of Whakatāne culture and heritage, having more people and entertainment in town and providing more jobs and opportunities for our people.

“But we also heard that this has been a particularly hard year for people and we had feedback from retailers that they didn’t want too much disruption during the busy Christmas and summer season. We’ve taken all this feedback into consideration when making the decision to postpone the next stage of engagement,” says Mrs Gardyne.

Government funding of $9.6 million has been received through the Provincial Growth Fund for this once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalise the town centre and strengthen ties with our awa, with the intention of creating or enabling long lasting social, environmental, cultural and economic benefits for all our community.

The Whakatāne Town Centre and Riverfront Revitalisation can’t achieve all these things on its own, but it is an enabling programme aimed at raising momentum and activity in the town centre and encouraging more private and public investment.

“We remind people that we’re still at the stage of considering all our options. No decisions have been made on design, and there’s certainly no development currently planned for the Kakahoroa Drive carparking area. We’ll be releasing the results of the first round of engagement soon and look forward to bringing back concept designs for consideration early in the new year. In the meantime we’ll be doing whatever we can to assist retailers and other key stakholders to have a very busy and prosperous holiday season.”

The Whakatāne Town Centre and Riverfront Revitalisation programme is part of the Provincial Growth Fund-supported Te Ara Hou suite of projects, which includes the Whakatāne Town Wharf Remediation. This project, to strengthen and futureproof the busy town wharf area, is now well advanced. Work will stop briefly over the Christmas period and is due for completion mid-2021.