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Alternative has not been developed

Editorial

In July 2016 a two-year-long effort to amalgamate the district's economic development and tourism agencies was facilitated by excluding a third leg of the proposal, Heart of Gisborne — with its future to be considered separately as part of a full review of city centre management. Then council CEO Judy Campbell said amalgamating the first two was clear-cut while HofG was “the odd one out”.

The HofG committee had fought the process (just as Tourism Eastland was), in part over concern that a dedicated resource concentrated on the CBD could start going to other purposes and increased administration expenses.

Eighteen months ago HofG, which has been funded by a targeted rate on city-centre properties since 2001, was amalgamated with Activate Tairawhiti and became Gisborne City Centre Vibrancy.

Gisborne District Council is now proposing that it stops collecting the city centre management and promotion rate, while still delivering the City Watch business area patrol and collecting funds to operate the CCTV network via that rate.

Its reasons? The rate is out of date and the activity it funds is unlikely to be meeting the needs of businesses being rated; the rating area is obsolete due to business changes (“the ideal rating method would be agile, and capable of capturing businesses that benefit regardless of location within the city”); it is poorly targeted, with no benefit to some rated businesses while benefiting others outside the rated area; and Trust Tairawhiti, now responsible for the activity, believes the rate provides insufficient funds to effectively achieve its objectives.

Another factor was that removing this rate would benefit business ratepayers at a time of extreme challenges. “It also allows us to consider new and improved ways to support and promote business.”

Disadvantages outlined are the potential for free-riding if a voluntary membership scheme is put in place instead of a rate; and “An alternative improved solution has not been developed, which could lead to a vacuum of support and promotion for the city centre. There may also be a change to the way that the city centre and associated businesses are promoted.”

In brief discussion on this at a meeting last week, in response to a question from Larry Foster about Trust Tairawhiti's position, council CEO Nedine Thatcher Swann said the trust supported the engagement process and “we are discussing with them what services, if any, they would not continue with”.