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‘Give It A Go’: Plea To Gisborne Residents Over Controversial Grey St Trial

Gisborne residents are being urged to see how it goes when it comes to the Grey St trial, a temporary structure aimed at encouraging locals to cycle and walk more.

The Streets for People initiative received a public backlash when construction started on the trial at the start of May.

An online petition attracted more than 600 signatures opposing the project.

During a council workshop on Thursday, Streets for People presented to the council on the project’s consultation process.

The group said only 4 per cent of the 252 people surveyed wanted the street left alone, while 60 per cent wanted improvements on the road for safety, cycling, walking and skating.

Temporary changes include making the Kahutia Street intersection as a left-hand-turn-only from either side, as well as new courtesy crossings, pedestrian crossings, dual cycleways, and a chicane to provide safer crossings and calmer traffic.

The project is 90 per cent funded by New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and 10 per cent funded through Gisborne District Council.

Volunteer community group Tairāwhiti Adventure Trust is in charge of the project, which was initially estimated at costing $350,000, but is now set at $900,000.

These costs include implementing the trial and monitoring the project through cameras to measure its impact.

After the trial period, estimated between one to two years, a decision will be made to potentially make the structure permanent.

NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi regional relationships director Linda Stewart said these changes and the initial disruption “always feels painful”.

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“It takes people time to adapt [people’s] behaviour and get used to a new environment.

Councillor Tony Robinson said he initially questioned the plan, but after speaking to the project engineer, he believed it was a great idea.

“Communities are always resistant to change . . . I think we should just soldier on and see where it lands,” he said.

Cr Debbie Gregory said at this stage, they could not say it didn’t work.

“I ask that people give it a go and see how it goes.”

Cr Collin Alder said he felt he had not been consulted in the process.

Cr Rob Telfer said he had received emails from affected businesses that were not consulted. Three affected businesses, with 44 staff between them, had lost three or four car parks along the street.

Tairāwhiti Adventure Trust’s Amy Spence said they met with all of the businesses owners to share the plans, but the owners had not communicated the plans with their staff.

“In regards to consultation, we also hosted two big street parties on Grey St with thousands of people at both of them.”

There had been consultations at a pizzeria, it had been on the radio, on social media, in the newspaper, and surveys had been done, she said.

She did not know what more they could have done.

Cr Andy Cranston and deputy mayor Josh Wharehinga expressed support for the vision and project, but addressed the need to get the process right.

Councillors Telfer and Cranston questioned how the structure was temporary when concrete had been used.

“There’s no way you’re going to remove the concrete and say ‘oh it was just temporary anyway’.

“That’s a massive misspend of money,” Cranston said.

Council infrastructure manager Dave Hadfield said adjustments could be made straight away if was about safety.

However, “if it’s an ‘I don’t like it thing’, that’s different.”

Mayor Rehette Stoltz said this was the first time the council had done a project this way.

“It’s the first time a community group, who has built the skate park and pump track and has done a lot of work for free, has taken this over, so there will definitely be lessons learned,” she said.

People can continue to submit their feedback for any potential changes to be made, Stoltz said.

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