Signs Of a Problem
By Andrew Frame
Just when Hastings thought it had all the mindless Council fun with sports park funding, wastelands where sports parks used to be, and problems with pools of stuff that is hard to push up hill, the Napier City Council comes barging along and abducts some retailers’ advertising sandwich boards.
I must say I do not find sandwich boards a menace in my duties about town. I have never been impeded, assaulted or abused by a shop’s sandwich board. Their purpose generally does not allow them to hide from shoppers and spring up to surprise or trip pedestrians caught unawares. They are reasonably hard to miss and I find the easiest solution when confronted by one is to “go around it”.
So it came as a shock when the Dominion and even the Hawke’s Bay Today featured stories and pictures of innocent sandwich boards being heaved onto the back of a Council truck. Fantastic PR!
One of the photos even showed a Kiwibank sign being hoisted onto the truck. This image got to me. Not only was the Napier City Council picking on small local businesses, it was picking on government-run entities too! An uprising of the middlemen – the bourgeoisie are at it again! Quick, hide the guillotines!
This appears to be a tale of two sides of the city too. Upper Tennyson Street’s footpaths were a nightmare for years with café tables and chairs on one side and pot plants on the other. Getting through just by yourself was an effort … with shopping bags or prams, a nightmare. Did the Council sue, or pull up in a truck and take all the furniture and flora away? Hardly, they got rid of six or so car parks, turned them into pavement, and gave the cafés, plants, tables and chairs more room. Wasn’t that nice of the NCC?
Charging eventually $500 per year for the space a sandwich board takes up (roughly a quarter of a square meter) is ludicrous. The CBD has already seen some horrific rent rises as landlords who missed out on the property boom with their last lease agreement try to make up for lost money in a desperate grab for cash. I know of one case where a shop’s new rent was equivalent to that of stores in Newmarket, Auckland. Last time I checked, Napier did not have around a million people living in close proximity. Needless to say, the store’s owner decided enough was enough and closed down. A number of stores have gone the same way and more will follow. Does whoever comes up with all the smart ideas for Napier City Council honestly think that adding these silly fees and laws will attract more businesses?
Inner City Marketing, the Council-funded entity set up to help CBD retailers does not seem to be helping its clients much either. Whose needs are they obliged to look after first? Letters have been circulated and retailers were reminded that the new bylaw is a DRAFT. Doesn’t that mean not compulsory, a plan, an idea, ignorable? Thursday’s incursion would indicate the Council has either made up is mind, or just decided to bully their way along. ICM didn’t stop them.
In a crusade to achieve world heritage status for Napier’s CBD, sandwich boards are one of the first casualties. The styling of shop signage has already been targeted. What will be next?