Business owner calls public meeting as council closes Clyde street

by Kim Bowden - Jun 12, 2024

Council staff and contractors will front to Clyde business owners and residents frustrated at a perceived glacial pace to infrastructure upgrades that have limited access to some of the township's main streets.

A section of Sunderland Street - between Naylor Street and the Masonic Lodge - was closed to vehicular traffic last week and will remain so for the winter.

Council engineer Dan Kirkman, who is leading the project, says he understands no time is a good time for a town centre to face these sorts of disruptions, but the council wanted to target what are generally the quieter months of the year, "because that's the least painful".

The street closure will enable new footpaths to be built and the old, underground water pipe to be replaced.

An additional water pipe will also be installed that will act as a back-up supply should the main pipe need repairing or new connections added in the future - it also means in the coming months water will be off in the area for just one day of work, rather than several weeks otherwise.

Mr Kirkman says he's been fielding calls from affected businesses and working through concerns as they have arisen, but he feels "90 percent of them" are saying, "We know it's a pain, but get on and do it, thanks".

He says he has been sending at least monthly email updates to as many as 100 people impacted by the works.

However Gareth Watt, the owner of Recharge Bar and Cafe, has called a public meeting, to be held at 6pm on Wednesday at his premises a block back from the road closure on Sunderland Street.

He says he wants the opportunity for people involved in the project, and people affected by it, to get together in one room - to allow any concerns to be worked through in a public forum.

It is his view that while many of the local businesses have been kept in the loop of planned works, mostly on a one-to-one basis, other residents, particularly older residents, are not in the-know, and they're feeling bewildered by what's going on around them.

"I have had a lot of customers asking me what's going on - and, a lot of them are retirees. They're sitting outside, watching nothing going on and getting quite upset about it."

The Old Clyde Bank cafe owner Wendy Hecht-Wendt shares some of their frustration: "We don't understand how the contractors operate".

"They just sort of come, and do a little bit, and go away, and then they reappear again several days later."

In her line of work, that sort of approach wouldn't stick.

"If you come to dine with us, and we start your meal at six o'clock, and you don't actually get it 'til ten to nine, because we're just sort of mooching around, it's not okay."

She says there may be valid reasons for why the contractors in Clyde are working the way they are and she hopes they may be explained at the meeting.

Mr Watt also wants to see the contractors "get in there and get the job done and then get out".

He says he wants to know whether weekend or night work has been considered and thinks the different players could better coordinate their work.

"I don't want this to drag on 'til summertime."

Mr Kirkman says the council is halfway through the required work and "come start of summer, we will be finished" and all cordons and cones will be gone.

Before then, spring will see a return to one lane and a traffic light system on Clyde's main drag.

Ms Hecht-Wendt is holding out for works to end.

Holloway Street's new kerbs and channelling (Supplied/CODC/Dan Kirkman).

She took over the Clyde hospitality business a few years back and says she had "ten weeks of normal trade before Covid".

"And, then, every single year, now, we've had some kind of disruption."

Last year, neighbouring Holloway Street was closed, and footpaths were widened to make them more pedestrian friendly.

"We are just going with that as being our norm, as we don't know any different. We haven't really had a fair shot at it. But we just try and take the positive from it."

She is welcoming the removal of the old water pipe and its future-proofed replacement set up.

"We've had two floods in our building when that pipe has burst over the last couple of years on different occasions. We want that job done.

"They're going to protect us by putting in a rider main, so that if the main pipe does go the businesses can still operate, so there are some positive things happening there.

"We're super-excited about those water works."

Mr Watt says because the works are not happening directly outside his premises, he feels like there has been less focus from the council on the potential impact for his business - and less information flow because of that.

It was one of his motivations for organising the 'come one, come all' meeting.

"I thought...why don't we all sit down together, and then we can all get on the same page, and then we can come up with a plan and move forward."

Mr Kirkman says he'll be at the public meeting, along with other council staff, and representatives of contractors Fulton Hogan and Aspiring Traffic.

"So, the people who can answer specific questions will be available."

Meanwhile Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan has passed on his apologies, as he is out of town and unable to attend.

Main image (Supplied/CODC/Dan Kirkman): Works underway on Sunderland Street in Clyde.


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