Rotorua inner city revitalisation commended

RotoruaRotorua Lakes Council’s inner city revitalisation strategy has been highly commended in the 2015 Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Excellence Awards.

The announcement was made at an awards dinner as part of LGNZ’s national conference.

Rotorua Lakes Council was one of two local authorities to be highly commended in this year’s Excellence Awards in the MartinJenkins sponsored category for local economic contribution. Waikato Regional Council‘s “Waikato Means Business” strategy was the other highly commended council.

Rotorua’s innovative inner city revitalisation program, led by district councillor Karen Hunt, is aimed at “bringing the heart and soul back to the city” and is one of the priority goals in the council’s Rotorua 2030 vision.

Judges praised the scheme for its great commitment and partnership with business. They also hailed Rotorua Lakes Council’s recognition of the importance of urban design and breathing new life into the inner city.

The inner city revitalisation project was launched in 2013, partly in response to changing retail trends such as the advent of online shopping and increasing numbers of vacant shops in the CBD.

Focus groups were formed and a program of initiatives launched to explore the community’s ideas for revitalising the CBD, including opening a community “Ideas Store” in an empty shop in the main street.

Other initiatives that developed from the project ranged from introducing free parking, weekly competitions, an “I love Rotorua” wall and a community scrub day for cleaning up the CBD through to pop-up galleries, an annual Tulip Festival and the Light Rotorua campaign to decorate the city.

A hallmark of the work undertaken to date has been collaborative partnerships between the council and local businesses, retailers, community organisations and other agencies.

Rotorua mayor, Steve Chadwick, says Rotorua is changing and refreshing itself.

“And where else would you start but in the heart of the city. It’s been so successful, with the whole community saying ‘gosh, it’s looking lovely’. And they’re feeling part of it.

“It’s restoring a sense of energy, a sense of pride and a sense of place.”

LGNZ president, Lawrence Yule, said the project has been an important venture with interesting new initiatives achieving excellent community buy-in and providing real opportunities to improve the economic wellbeing of the area.

While the full potential economic impact of the ongoing inner city revitalisation program is yet to be realised, positive trends are already surfacing such as increased foot traffic in key areas and improved retail patterns.

In its new long-term plan, Rotorua Lakes Council has committed $1.2 million a year for the next three years for inner city revitalisation work, and $800,000 a year for the subsequent seven years of the plan.

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