‘Man About Taradale’
By Andrew Frame

Even in a city the size of Napier, it is still easy to miss big changes.

I completely missed Mitre Ten Mega being built. After moving from Tamatea to somewhere closer to the town I didn’t need to drive along Prebensen Drive for almost a year. So one day when I was walking through the Onekawa industrial area I got a hell of a shock when I rounded a corner and there was a giant, bright orange, aircraft hanger-sized building that had suddenly materialised out of nowhere.

I hadn’t been for a decent nosey around the Taradale shopping centre for a similar length of time. So when one of my friends said “You haven’t written anything about Taradale” and I heard about its redevelopment, I decided it was about time I paid it a visit. So this weekend M.A.T. stands for “Man about Taradale.”

Growing up, my family did a lot of our shopping in Taradale. I remember when they first developed the town centre to its former scheme of paving stones, gardens and & raised crossings. There was a wide range of shops – takeaways, a toy store, three bookshops, hairdressers, a bakery, library, men’s and women’s clothing stores, a pet store, a sporting goods store, you name it. It was essentially a scaled-down version of Napier’s CBD. They even had late-night Friday shopping hours.

Recent years had not been kind to the Taradale town centre. Like everywhere, the number of empty shops grew and a lot of the established retailers left. The paving stones became loose and worn and the old redevelopment started looking a bit tired. Taradale was having a bit of a midlife crisis. So it was time for a spruce up and reinvention. The results of which were officially celebrated recently.

After having a couple of wanders around the newly refurbished Gloucester Street shopping precinct, I’m not overly sure what sort of new image they are trying to portray, although I have some suspicions.

The range of shops has sadly shrunken dramatically. Like Napier’s CBD in the late 90’s, going cappuccino crazy following the trends of Parnell and Ponsonby, Taradale has now followed after central Napier. There are around twenty cafés, takeaways, restaurants and bars in the town centre … quite a staggering number for such a small area. The only place which out-foods Taradale is neighbouring Greenmeadows shopping centre, whose almost total purpose has become servicing the stomachs of surrounding suburbia.

I have often wondered, considering Taradale’s affluent image, if naming one of its coffee houses “Café Rich” wasn’t a bit of a piss-take. It’s not like you see a “Café DPB” in less well-off shopping areas.

Often viewed as a bit of a retirement village hub, this new fastidious focus on food and frappuccinos makes me think Taradale might be trying to regress into teenage-hood.

Women’s clothing stores, beauty and hair salons are not too far behind Taradale’s massive majority of eateries, making it no longer the most guy-friendly of shopping centres. Once you’ve finished your lunch you will never be short of somewhere to get clipped, waxed, coloured, curled, dressed and varnished. Yes, Taradale is becoming a teenaged girl!

One of the more controversial aspects of Taradale’s redevelopment has been the introduction of parking meters. This is the first time you have ever had to pay for parking in Taradale, but it’s one aspect I don’t mind – as the people who shop and park in Taradale the most will be the ones helping pay for the redevelopment. Where the new meters aren’t ruling the roadside roost, a parking warden has been tasked to the town centre to ticket those who out stay their hour-long parking limit. I’m not sure how effective this will be, though. As unless you’re having an extra-long lunch or marathon makeover, its compact size makes spending more than an hour doing what you need to do in Taradale quite hard to do. Or that could just be a guy thing.

With all the additions and changes that have been made to Taradale, one important, legal, part is missing: There are no longer any marked pedestrian crossings over Gloucester Street in the town centre … only raised ‘courtesy crossings’.

Beloved-in-law, who regularly shops there, rang up the Napier City Council to query the crossing secession and was told that having the combination of (official) pedestrian and (unofficial) ‘courtesy’ crossings, as Taradale’s former layout did, was too confusing and dangerous for drivers and pedestrians alike (can you say ‘Road Code’?) The raised ‘courtesy’ crossings made cars slow down anyway, so the official ‘zebra lines’ and orange light that legally translate to: “Oi! You in the big, wheeled, powered, metal thing – let the soft, easily squished biped go first” were abolished in the town centre. I emailed the council on this matter, hoping they’d reply and refute or confirm these details, but like a Napier pedestrian attempting to cross an official (or otherwise) pedestrian crossing, I’m still waiting.

Considering the large proportion of families with small children and elderly people who daily shop in Taradale and have to cross the road that bisects the shopping precinct, this has become a major safety concern for many. The Taradale retailers I have spoken to are bearing the brunt of some incensed questioning over this issue.

Despite the fact Taradale’s two ward councillors were re-elected without a single vote in their favour (or candidate standing against them), perhaps this is a matter they should put their locality-based positions to good use for … take notice of their constituents and do something before these crossings end up being accompanied by a cross of a different nature.

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2 Comments

  1. As a resident of HB's other much-maligned GRWE (Grumpy Rich White Enclave) I can sympathise with Andrew's consternation at the disappearance of the pedestrian crossings in Taradale.

    Havelock North has one, count them, one pedestrian crossing, outside the library.

    I rang the HDC council traffic department some time ago and chewed an engineering ear.

    Where have they gone I demanded? I was disconcerted to be informed that there was a decision to leave the situation up to common-sense and courtesy.

    The cynic in me snorted, but I have to say it seems to work.

    We actually have to be aware of our environment, realise that these are people about their business, not road obstructions. We have little interchanges between driver and pedestrian. There are little pleasures to be had in pausing and waving the pedestrians across. I have heard that there is even counter-intuitive research to show that removing traffic lights can actually reduce accidents.

    Maybe it slows traffic but who cares. It makes Havelock North a smilier place.

    Now, if we could just get rid of those knife edge signs strategically placed to remove cyclists' kidneys.

    While HDC traffic dept says pedestrian crossings are matter of courtesy and consideration, on another occasion I was told "no-one in their right mind would ride a bike through the middle of Havelock North" and that I certainly can't argue with!

    And no, we don't have parking meters, but that doesn't mean we bludge on the rest of the community, we pay for the privilege by a specific charge on our rates to allow for future purchase of parking space.

    I wonder how much is in that account these days, Wayne?

  2. Dear M. A. T.

    Yesterday I had the unique pleasure of being stuck in a traffic jam for five minutes, Taradale style. It looks a little like;

    two delivery trucks parked same side of road, mid street, one behind the other.

    car reversing out of parking spot on opposite side of road a little further down the road, at the same time another car is reversing out just in front of where the trucks are parked. We are all behind the trucks …

    There is nowhere to go, nowhere to pass and cars back up to the roundabout near the National Bank.

    As finally the vehicular dance begins to unwind, car overtakes trucks and nearly kisses a pedestrian goodbye …

    Collective breath is held, then with a sigh the dance falls apart into gesticular exchanges …

    Is this what they were after when redesigning the Main Street? Break {brake} dancing?

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