Banners telling us that we are the “coolest little capital in the world” are on display throughout the CBD. But if we’re so cool, then why are Manners Street retailers so unhappy?
In the DomPost yesterday, one of them was saying that his shop income had been halved since work started on converting the mall into two bus lanes. Another said: “I don’t know that we will be here in a year.” A third (his clothing shop has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars) said people could no longer be bothered walking through the former Manners Mall. Yet it used to have the second highest pedestrian count in the city – second only to Lambton Quay.
The Council’s spokesperson knows better than the retailers. “We do disagree with the contention that the number of people walking through the Manners Mall has tailed off significantly,” says Richard MacLean.
Councilors knew better than the retailers too. When they voted to rip up the pleasant pedestrian street (above: a reminder of what we’ve lost), they ignored the wishes of a majority of people who made submissions. They were ignoring the local businesspeople too. Of 26 businesses in the Manners Mall, 24 told the council that they didn’t want buses to replace pedestrians. For the last five months they’ve been paying the price of the council’s decision.
Some are being specially disadvantaged by the new road design. Here’s the footpath outside the big Arty Bees bookshop – its window displays used to be visible from across the street. But now most of them are blocked by a newly-installed row of bus shelters, the same unfriendly design that created a no-stopping corridor when they were outside the James Smith building on lower Cuba Street.
While Manners Street people are worried, the rest of us are being distracted by the message about our potential as a tourist destination. But street banners are usually a reminder of events which we could attend. These ones aren’t offering anything. Shouldn’t any promotion be targeted at people who aren’t here yet, rather than those of us who are here already?
You could say they’re a waste of money. Many people would could say the same about the $11m that’s been spent destroying the Manners Mall.