Mayoral candidates get grilled
‘‘Some landlords prefer to have empty shops than think outside the square.’’
Senior citizens grilled Central Otago’s three mayoral candidates about everything from building consents and water to rates, roading and jobs at their first public face-off.
About 100 people turned out to the Grey Power-hosted debate in Alexandra on Wednesday to hear candidates - incumbent mayor Tony Lepper, district councillor Martin McPherson and lawyer Tim Cadogan.
A new resident to Alexandra raised issue with the decline of business in the Alexandra’s town centre with empty buildings and dusty shop windows.
‘‘I realise council’s core business is rubbish, roads and rates but I’d like to ask if you guys see that as a problem. I understand absentee landlords have control of a lot of the properties in Cromwell and also Alexandra.’’
McPherson said he would like to lock landlords into a room and ‘‘bang their heads together’’.
‘‘I’m tired of people who have empty shops and don’t even clean the windows and complain to me as a councillor it is somehow my fault that he can’t get a tenant. When they had a $124,000 investment in a property in 1982 and they are still expecting a nine per cent return on it in 2016...well sorry, don’t be so bloody greedy.’’
There were good landlords, including a man who made a major investment and developed a block down Centennial Avenue and was offering retail space on a week-by-week basis and dropped rent down.
‘‘He’s not got an empty shop. Some landlords prefer to have empty shops than think outside the square,’’ McPherson said.
Cadogan said absentee landlords were not necessarily the problem - online shopping was a problem for communities worldwide. He wanted to see ‘‘pop-up fashion shops’’ in downtown Alexandra where the likes of the Eden Hore fashion collection could be displayed.
‘‘Something could go in for a month. You aren’t going to get the long-term leasees. Those are the sorts of things that need to be happening and the mayor should be encouraging that.’’
Lepper said retail was a hard gig to be in currently, and down-
town centres throughout the world were emptying out.
‘‘We are always looking for ideas. One of those is love notes. You put something in there for a wee while just to fill up the space.’’
When asked if council was going to provide more employment opportunities Lepper said, ‘‘Not everyone will agree it is council’s job to find jobs...how you do that is some silver bullet that has never invented.’’