Monday, August 19, 2013

Is this the death knell for New Brighton?

Commercial heart of New Brighton, on a wet Sunday afternoon in June 2011 
- no all weather hub activity here to draw in visitors and customers   Photo NZ in Tranzit

An article in the [Christchurch]  "Star"  on Friday states that the City Council is about to publicly reject plans for a water-based amusement park and indoor swimming complex at New Brighton, on or near the foreshore.

Local advocates, community board members and long time community activists Tim Sintes and David East proposed that $36 million, half the insurance from the earthquake damaged and demolished QEII Pool, earmarked for aquatic facilities on the east be used as the foundation finance.

Council,says the scheme would cost over $100 million but according to Mr Sintes made no attempt to consult with himself, Mr East or project leader Alan Direen.

Before they built Eastgate back in the late seventies I remember a bloke from the developers, G.U.S (Grocers United Stores, I think) saying in the paper that you could draw a circle at 3km radius from the intersection of Linwood Avenue and Buckleys Road, the Eastgate (as it became) site,  and 50,000 people were living in that area. (It probably far more now)

Drawing a circle from the centre of New Brighton  means 50% will be ocean! And even before the earthquakes from the other 50% of land area subtract the land for the sand-hills, Rawhiti Domain and Thompson Park, South New Brighton motorcamp, the Avon River and extensive Estuary area , the four large golf courses, the land at QEII (a former race course site), the wetlands at Travis swamp and Burwood Forest - straight away there is a huge disadvantage for East siders, not enough residential land, not enough population to generate the energy and profits that fosters widespread enterprise -  of any sort.

Now with the loss of Bexley and parts of Southshore, North New Brighton, and Avondale, etc that population is even further diminished. None of the big institutions such the University, Airport, major industrial areas are built in the far east. There are no buildings of any significance east of Linwood Avenue and the few that almost were, or heritage buildings, like the Ozone, are now gone.

Without a major drawcard to bring people into the area, either to live or to visit there is no way New Brighton can even begin to sustain again significant busy community. It is cruising mostly on infrastructure built in busier times and even that is often empty or derelict, or has a constant turnover of unsuccessful tenants.

However the community does have a very strong community spirit and a remarkably simple marketing tool - its name. Brighton in the UK is arguably the most famous day-tripper beach in the English speaking world.

The name New Brighton spells "BEACH" in many parts of the world, and NEW Brighton is a clear indicator that the suburb, town or district so named is indeed a reproduction in some form of the famous Beach resort at Brighton, England. It is also still the biggest reason why people come from outside the immediate area to visit New Brighton - for beach walks, jogging, swimming, surfing, parties, fireworks displays.

Clearly good business practice is based on starting from what works and building upon this. New Brighton is about water activities, but inclement winds can undermine that. Solve that problem and it will boom. It will develop a secondary culture and style in cafes, shops, entertainments etc linked to the central role.

Any other activity is high risk.  An ice skating rink, one council suggestion, for example promotes a cold image (just what New Brighton doesn't want!) and an activity of interest and access to a relatively limited group, with out the democratic appeal of water activities, for every age and culture. How many toddlers and grandparents get on the ice? Who wants to be in an ice rink on a summer's day? Who wants to go into a even colder place in the middle of winter?

Indeed, any other activity immediately splits the focus of the greatest sales pitch and asset - a magnificent beach and related activities.

Logically the big pool should be at Linwood/Eastgate - logically everything of significance should be at Eastgate!! That is the sort of Stalinist soviet thinking typical of politically correct bureaucracies run by ant-like administrators, the sort of thinking that eventually creates a dull and characterless city, no quirks, no colour, no vision. What makes a city attractive is art and the awesome, the unexpected and unique.

Build logical pools elsewhere, built an unique facility at New Brighton and one immediately linked to the beach. One size suits all, suits no one well in the end. Give New Brighton something special and unique or see a whole area, one that should be a gem, decline even further.

Some sort of classy water based facility to me is the only logical, good business step, to avoiding the absolute decline of New Brighton with all the associated financial losses and social behaviour problems typical of such areas.

Or after years of hopes, and hopes dashed again, and again, are we hearing the final death knell of New Brighton as a potentially vibrant commercial, recreational and entertainment centre?

Or just a wake up call for creative instinctive leadership and dynamic governance in the city?


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