A temporary taxi stand on Courtenay Place could have been mistaken for a crime scene with orange cones and people wearing hi-vis turning cars away, a business group says.
Wellington City Council has recently trialled changing 11 parking spaces on the Courtenay Place slip road, near the intersection with Cambridge Terrace, into a revolving taxi stand.
The trial took place over three weekends between 8pm on Friday night and 8am the following morning. On Saturday and Sunday it started from 6pm.
It was undertaken as part of the council’s commitment to address safety concerns in the city through a social contract called the Poneke Promise.
It was thought having a dedicated taxi and ride-share stand on the slip road would allow for safe pick up and drop off locations during peak entertainment hours.
Concerns have been raised about these vehicles waiting for passengers at bus stops, creating a safety risk and congestion.
But some businesses on the slip road claim the first they heard of the trial was when the area was coned off.
Taco Queen owner Lainie Antonio said she was not told the trial was taking place.
“I was bloody offended that nobody had the courtesy to let us know. That’s my income, my family.”
Antonio said people were scared off from the area and her turnover was down during the trial on top of the decline she has seen due to Covid-19.
“I lost money that whole three weeks that the council did that experiment.
“I’m already battling to stay open.”
Antonio attended a meeting yesterday morning at The Tasting Room with other concerned business owners, police, First Retail, and city councillors.
KC Cafe owner Michael Chan said the trial started too early in the evening when customers were using parking to pick up takeaways for dinner.
He argued people didn’t come into the city to party until about 10pm onwards.
Both Chan and Antonio are part of an unincorporated group called SOS Courtenay Place.
Convenor Barry Wilson said the site of the taxi stand trial looked like “some sort of crime scene.”
Council officials reported the trial faced some challenges but feedback throughout
indicated it was supported more than it was opposed.
Economic development portfolio leader councillor Diane Calvert admitted the council could have engaged with businesses “an awful lot better”.
But she said council officers have taken on board feedback following the trial and she expected to see changes in the final proposal.
These could include the parking spaces being transformed into a taxi stand later in the evening, potentially from 10pm instead of 6pm.
Designated P15 pick up and drop off areas were included in the trial for delivery companies or the general public.
These could be extended to P30 areas to allow more time for takeaways to be ordered and prepared.
Calvert said she visited the site of the trial one evening and has spoken with council officers about coming up with a more creative way to cordon the area without scaring people off.
She said the issue was both a matter of central city safety and placemaking.
“The continuing noise and comments about our city safety may well be putting people off from visiting here.
“We want people to come here and enjoy it, but enjoy it safely.”
Another issue raised by businesses at the meeting was the state of Courtenay Place.
Pizzeria Napoli owner Raffaele de Gregorio said he has more than 50 photos of broken glass on the street from when he opens his restaurant.
He said he felt like other areas of the city got more attention, like Oriental Bay.
“I want Courtenay Place to be beautified … people use this space every day of the year but the streets are not clean.”
Istana Malaysia owner Mary Arulandu said “no fancy things happen in Courtenay Place”, like CubaDupa on Cuba St or a Very Welly Christmas on Lambton Quay.
First Retail managing director Chris Wilkinson agreed and hoped events would follow the Capital Creative Arts Trust taking up a permanent space in nearby Allen St.
He said Courtenay Place’s brand was being Wellington’s entertainment district, but it has been dealing with reputational issues due to safety concerns.
“The brand has been damaged and now we need to be working hard to tell our story of how change is happening.
“Whatever solution we arrive at needs to be a balance of what’s going to satisfy the social, welfare, and economic objectives.”
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