The relocation of Thames’ information centre, plus it’s transformation into un-manned kiosks, has upset residents, with one saying it reinforces the need to re-establish a link between the town’s two main streets.
At it’s October 26 meeting, Thames-Coromandel District Council approved the visitor information centre on Mary St being replaced by digital kiosks at Goldfields Shopping Centre.
The i-Site, run by Destination Coromandel, closed its doors on October 31, with two staff being made redundant.
Council said the i-Site service had become unviable since the Covid-19 pandemic, with visitor numbers and revenue both down significantly.
But Pollen St businessman Greg Hampton, who spoke in the public forum of the Thames Community Board’s meeting on November 3, said the relocation of the site provided “commercial advantage” to Goldfields Mall. He urged council to reconsider.
“To me, the decision to move visitor services away… that reinforces the need to reopen Mary St to reconnect Goldfields Mall and Pak’nSave to the town centre.
“The Vibe has failed to generate additional activity. It has removed 10 car parks and it has closed the road and yet, as a result of that, we have more vacant car parks around our business that we’ve ever had before.”
Mary St was partially closed back in March, as part of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s Innovating Streets pilot programme. Dubbed Create the Vibe, it was a temporary project, council said, but one which could see Mary St closed to through traffic for up to two years.
Thames Business Association chief executive Sue Lewis O’Halloran shared similar concerns, and wondered how council could go about encouraging tourists to the main drag.
“Do we put a kiosk in front of the existing i-Site as part of the deal? Do we put a kiosk in the [Create the Vibe] container? Do we open up Mary St and only close it for events?
“The reason they put Create the Vibe on Mary St was because it was near the i-Site, it was near cafes,” she said. “We were trying to find a heart for our town, and I’m just not sure it’s achieved that.”
The sole expression of interest for a Thames information centre to replace the current i-Site came from Goldfields Shopping Centre Manager John Freer.
He said the kiosks would be very “user-friendly”, and would provide visitors and locals with detailed, up to date information for both Thames and the wider Coromandel.
“Located just inside the main Goldfields entrance, the kiosks and tourism display will include categories covering the likes of accommodation, tours, points of interest, activities, and eateries, right through to bus timetables. And there is no cost for operators to have their listing on the site,” he said. Access to the kiosks will be available 12-hours a day and up to 14-hours a day during peak periods. They should be up and running before the peak summer season, council said. By KELLEY TANTAU