• Jill Herron


Updated: May 25, 2021

Plant more natives...Nita Smith(top) addresses the Cromwell Community Board at Tuesday's hearing.

*Story updated 21 May: Board Respond to Submissions

Expert town planners should be bought in to design a more suitable concept for revamping the Cromwell Mall before a council-proposed concept is taken further, according to business owners and residents.

They were speaking to the Cromwell Community Board at a public hearing on Tuesday, to give feedback on the council’s district-wide 10-year Long Term Plan proposals.

Ian Begg felt the council’s plan to demolish the building currently occupied by Harcourts, part of the neighbouring premises and others would not solve the Mall’s issues.

“Removing those buildings is just making it easier to get to somewhere that nobody wants to go.”

Mr Begg(below) favoured removal of buildings at the western end to create a U-shaped shopping precinct that would connect the heart of Mall to the “outside world”.

“You can’t see the hills, it’s disorientating for visitors. You don’t know where you left your car.”

He and others objected to the proposed demolition and rebuild of the library and out-grown service centre, Alister Stuart saying this would achieve nothing.

“The current buildings are too good to be demolished they could be sold or leased.”

Many felt carparking was already inadequate and provision for more parks had been overlooked. The Big Fruit reserve parks were often full all day with cars belonging to workers being picked up from there, Shona Rae told the hearing.

Co-owner of Central Fitness Gym, Alex Offen, said the business attracted lots of foot traffic but would likely have to leave the Mall under the council’s plan. She suggested a holistic health hub incorporating many services could combine with the service centre, resource centre and library plan to make it easier for people seeking help.

Pharmacy owner Jackie Hamilton felt parts of town were “scruffy, rough and unsafe”. Outdated signage, left-over curbing and a lack of safe passage for pedestrians trying to navigate the Mall and supermarket areas was a concern. She aligned with business-owner and landlord Gary Anderson in expressing frustration at delays in updating the Mall, which was built in 1985.

“It’s like Groundhog Day here,” Gary Anderson(right) said, “You’ve spent half a million dollars in 10 years and the best you’ve come up with is spending 70% of the money on a new council building. That doesn’t attract visitors. Council buildings don’t need to be in town there is ample land elsewhere. It’s not economic to rebuild on the same spot.”

The council’s proposal, outlined in a LTP consultation document, included a plan to demolish the library, service centre, ex-Vapebox premises, Harcourts and part of an adjoining gym, plus trimming some frontages, to create a more open and inviting space(below). No design work had been done, the report stated, and the plan was only at ‘concept’ stage.

Tom Pinckney, a Mall building owner, presented an alternative concept plan designed by Peebles Group Ltd. This incorporated the creation of parking, a street food eatery and new town-square-style central outdoors space with hospitality uses spilling out into it.

“Just get on with it,” he told the board, “It is vital to get the Mall sexed-up and get people in. We all have our theories but why not go with what’s worked elsewhere.”

Ninety-five of Cromwell’s 502 submitters had indicated they would speak at the hearing and although only 65 appeared this was a successful turn-out, council staff said.

Recommendations on how to proceed would be made by the Board to the CODC in early June.

Left: Estimated costs for the council’s town redevelopment plan from the Framing Our Future consultation document.

Under the proposal the Cromwell Museum could move to a lakeside arts, cultural and heritage development adjacent to the existing Cromwell Hall, at a cost of $6M.

Museum Trust chairperson Martin Anderson and Director Jennifer Hay(above centre) presented updates on its current activities including a plan to create interactive digital displays. They thanked the Board for its on going financial support.

Update: Board Responds to Submitters Input

On Wednesday evening the Board resolved to recommend to the CODC that the service centre and library in the Mall not be demolished and that further design work be undertaken. This was in response to submitters concerns around costs, practicalities and design considerations, regarding the proposal to demolish and rebuild on the same site. Members said some Mall design ideas presented by submitters had considerable merit and would be considered when work got underway.

Cultural Centre Progress

Council would also be recommended to start progressing both the town centre and arts, culture and heritage projects(including a new hall of at least 2000sqm) simultaneously. The planning phase for the hall was expected to be shorter than that of the town centre due to work already undertaken for the former.

Dozens of submitters voiced their desire for a large new hall at the Long Term Plan hearing last week and in an earlier survey, many repeating similar concerns over delays in building and a desire for CCCT to lead the project.

Board chair Anna Harrison noted the community clearly wanted the hall as big as possible and that many comments regarding the hall feedback were very similar.

"There's a fair bit of cut and paste," she said.

At Tuesday's hearing Jess Anderson, a Mall business owner, expressed frustration at both Mall and Hall debates dragging on. She felt people had been asked to vote but the results had not been acted on.

“I got married in the hall 10 years ago and was told we were lucky to get in as it was just about to be rebuilt. It’s still round and round now.”

Carolyn Murray was one of many extolling the benefits of having a multi-purpose Cultural Centre as well as the urgency to get on with it.

As chairperson of the Cromwell and Districts Promotion Group, a mainly voluntary organisation which organises large events, she said the lack of a wet weather facility for indoors events was costing the group and causing inconvenience and disappointment for locals and visitors alike.

Much planning and funds had gone into the group’s Spring market which had to be cancelled at the last minute due to bad weather, as there was no indoor option.

“I urge you to plan to the future. Our community needs this space now.”

Megan Huffadine, artist and teacher, said Cromwell was missing out on artist opportunities.

"There is no lack of interest in this area, just a lack of a facility."

Kate Borrie(above) expressed concern at inadequate facilities at the existing hall.

"I've worked in that kitchen, you had to bring your own plug and tea towels, there was no dishwasher, then there was a leak in the supper room."

She felt the hall decision being "in limbo" was a significant issue effecting the community and working with the CCCT could be a good solution.

"People are very impatient for action. It could be a triple-win for the Trust, the council and community."

Above: Cost estimate from CODC's Framing Our Future consultation document.

The board are recommending to council that funding be approved for a new lakeside hall/events centre and that options for its construction, operation and ownership are able to be explored.

The CODC meet in early June to consider their recommendations.

Among requests and ideas also discussed at the board's Wednesday deliberations were Nita Smith's submission for more biodiversity to be included in council planting policies, David Stark's suggestion for the purchase of land for informal recreation, the Museum Trust's request for increased funding for museum operations(an additional $4000 to be recommended), requests for the development of a multi-purpose sports centre, repaint for the Big Fruit Sculpture, help for Kotuku Funerals to establish a crematorium in Cromwell and the Cromwell Bike Park's request for toilets at its Achil Street facility. Council staff would be asked to investigate needs and costings for the latter to be considered under a future annual plan, the Board said.

One Nomination for By-Election

Throughout the district 852 people responded to the council's survey, 502 of those from Cromwell.

Five community board members attended Wednesday's deliberations - chairperson Anna Harrison, Neil Gillespie, Nigel McKinlay, Werner Murray and Cheryl Laws. Robin Dicey resigned from the board in April and Tony Buchanan was unable to attend.

One nomination has been received for the vacant seat left by Mr Dicey - Robert(Bob) Scott is listed on the CODC's website as being nominated for the seat by Robert McArthur and Ken Ludemann. Nominations close at midday, Thursday, May 27.

* This report was independently compiled as part of Connect Cromwell’s Public-Interest Journalism project.

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