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The Vibe in Mary St. FILE PHOTO

Mary St petition presented

Which is more important: safe travel, or a pretty street?
That was the question posed to Thames Community Board members as they were presented with a petition signed by more than 600 people calling for the reopening of Mary St.
The Thames road used to connect shoppers in Pollen St to travellers in Queen St through the CBD’s only roundabout, but in 2020, Thames-Coromandel District Council closed the high-traffic thoroughfare to create ‘The Vibe’ – an open space with festoon lighting, tables, and garden planters.
In late February, two residents fed up with the street’s closure took it upon themselves to start a petition, and at the community board meeting on April 6, they presented that petition with 641 signatures attached to it.
“The petition shows that the people of Thames believe the closure of Mary St to vehicles has greatly diminished the benefit of the roundabout,” presenter Sheryl McConnell said.
“Traffic from the side of the township wishing to access the SH25 and Goldfields Mall and vice versa, is now having to detour around the most direct route.
“Does council have any evidence that the closure has benefitted the town beyond the reward for looking pretty?”
The 600-plus signatures were collected over 21 days, with the petition being located at Carson’s Bookshop, Snipz Hair Dressing Salon, Land for Books, and Four Square.
Greg Hampton, co-owner of Carson’s Bookshop, told board members at the Wednesday meeting that ‘The Vibe’ was a well-intentioned initiative, but it was “misguided” and “deeply flawed”.
“The shame is that it could have been a raging success if it were placed in a more suitable location, but again unfortunately, no other options were explored or presented to the community board for consideration.”
He said The Vibe had made the town centre “disconnected and dysfunctional” from a traffic-movement perspective, while its aesthetic had often been described as “tacky”.
“The reality is that The Vibe sits empty on a daily basis… the container has been constantly offered for hire to the community with virtually no takers.”
The closure was said to be a “temporary” project of up to two years, and was 90 per cent funded ($320,125) by the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency through its Innovating Streets pilot.
Thames-Coromandel District Council earlier told The Profile that at the end of March, council would prepare a formal evaluation with input from subject-matter experts including its roading team and police.