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Ōtāhuhu Business Owners Fight Council Plans To Slash Funding For Town Centre Upgrade

A south Auckland business association is fighting council plans to delay the final stages of its town centre upgrade as part of budget cutbacks.

Ōtāhuhu Business Association claims it now has over 2000 signatures on a petition it launched this week.

The council announced the $16 million Ōtāhuhu town centre upgrade in September last year and said the project would make the town centre safer and more connected. It would see pathways widened, native trees planted and the installation of new street lighting.

The upgrade focuses on the main street of Ōtāhuhu, along Great South Road, from Princes Street to Atkinson Avenue and Station Road.

But Auckland Council announced last month that a number of major projects in south Auckland were now facing cuts as part of it's latest emergency budget, needed to bridge a $525 million gap caused by the effects of Covid-19.

This includes deferring stage four of the Ōtāhuhu town centre upgrade, which was due to start in July, for at least 12 months. It would have included the installation of new pavements, street lighting, furniture and trees, as well as new stormwater drains along Great South Road from Criterion Square to Memorial Square.

However, Ōtāhuhu Business Association manager Richette Rodger said it planned to fight the council's plans.

“The last town centre upgrade we had was in 1992, so it’s been a long time coming.”

She said it’s not just about the cosmetics of the project, but also the fact it involves upgrading the town centre’s infrastructure.

“We’ve made a submission on the council’s budget on behalf of the business association. We are also encouraging the local businesses and community to put in submissions," Rodger said.

"It’s not just the businesses that want this upgrade, it’s the entire community.”

Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board chair Lemauga Lydia Sosene said whether the Ōtāhuhu town centre upgrade is funded by the Government, or out of the council’s emergency budget, it has to go ahead as originally planned.

“From our perspective it needs to be completed as promised by a number of councillors.”

Auckland Council submitted a list of 73 key shovel-ready projects to the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group in April. The taskforce was established by the Government to seek out infrastructure works that are ready to start and can be used to stimulate the economy and reduce the economic impact of Covid-19.

The Ōtāhuhu town centre project was included in the council’s wishlist and was also recommended by the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board.

“The town centre upgrade is really important considering the connection with the rail network and other important projects by the NZTA in the area. It meets all the objectives.”

Auckland councillor Efeso Collins said he shared Sosene’s concerns.

“The community has waited a long time for this upgrade and to pause this development now would be gut-wrenching,” Collins said. “The upgrade is a priority for me, irrespective of whether it is funded from council resources, or the Government’s shovel-ready pot.

“The challenge before council right now is the huge loss of income we anticipate post Covid-19," he said. "The emergency budget outlines some gruelling options we need to make decisions on, which is why we are exhorting the community to provide their feedback.”

Auckland councillor Alf Filipaina said the council's 2020/2021 budget hadn't yet been signed off and it was important people make submissions to ensure it could take into account residents' views on such plans.

Aucklanders have until 19 June to have their say on the council's budget.

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