Businesses left in dark

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By CAITLIN WAL­LACE

A $ 1.5 mil­lion Leith Place up­grade has the town ex­cited but un­til a de­sign is re­vealed there is no telling what will hap­pen.

The South Waikato District Coun­cil al­lo­cated $1m to the project from the district’s play fund on top of the $500,000 al­ready set aside in the an­nual plan.

But the ex­pen­sive new look is not com­ing any time soon with coun­cil es­ti­mat­ing at least one year un­til a plan can be im­ple­mented.

For now, Vis­i­tor So­lu­tions will be con­duct­ing re­search and work­ing with businesses while the Sports and Events Cen­tre ar­chi­tect Pete Bos­sely will be in part­ner­ship with Wraight and As­so­ciates to de­sign a plan.

Deputy mayor Jenny Shat­tock said it is the right time for an up­grade.

‘‘We re­ally do need it, the sooner the bet­ter.’’

Shat­tock said the last de­vel­op­ment, which was over a decade ago, worked well but they need busi­ness sup­port.

‘‘Coun­cil won’t go ahead with­out con­sult­ing businesses,’’ she said.

The only for­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tion with busi­ness own­ers so far was in the form of a let­ter.

The much needed up­grade will not only be a sigh of re­lief to Toko­roa res­i­dents.

Toko­roa i-site team leader Mary Winikerei has worked at the vis­i­tor cen­tre for 10 years.

Work­ing five days a week at the busy fa­cil­ity, Winikerei said she sees at least 120 bus pas­sen­gers come through Toko­roa each day.

And she hears ev­ery­thing they have to say, most of which is sent back to the coun­cil.

‘‘The toi­lets are not great,’’ she said.

She of­ten hears com­plaints about the un­avail­able nappy chang­ing area and clean­li­ness.

‘‘A lot of people don’t think it’s clean be­cause it’s got that con­crete feel,’’ she said.

Winikerei de­scribed the planned up­grade as ‘‘putting your make up on’’.

‘‘ This is their first taste of Toko­roa, if they think this is grotty they will think the whole town is grotty.’’

Toko­roa and Ti­rau i-site man­ager Garry Brun­ton agreed with Winikerei.

‘‘When people first land on our door, they need a pos­i­tive im­age – it needs to be wel­com­ing and it needs to show a brand,’’ he said.

Brun­ton also hopes for an op­por­tu­nity to up­grade the i-site.

‘‘I’ll be push­ing for a new vis­i­tor cen­tre,’’ he said.

But at this early stage there is no telling what will hap­pen.

‘‘In the mas­ter plan, we don’t know what you can phys­i­cally do.’’

Photo: CAITLIN WAL­LACE

Long awaited: Mary Winikerei has spent the last ten years on Leith Place and is ex­cited for the change. Winikerei has spent the last ten years on Leith Place and is ex­cited for the change.

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