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New signage and branding will be used to help attract visitors to Thames. File photo: GORDON PREECE

SH25A closure provides ‘opportunity’ for Thames

With the Thames business community “hurting” amid the after-effects of a pandemic, cyclone, and the closure of a major arterial route, the district mayor says an opportunity has arisen to make the town a destination and drawcard. KELLEY TANTAU reports

Concerns are rife within Thames’ business community that with the closure of the Kōpū-Hikuai Rd, travellers will bypass the town.
They’ve already witnessed the quiet of the Covid-19 pandemic and a January that came with significant rainfall, now, business owners fear another stagnant spell.
But the district’s mayor believes there lies an opportunity instead.
“We’ve got the Thames Coast Rd,” he said, “which means that instead of coming to Kōpū, turning right, and going up [state highway] 25A, people are going to turn left and come through Thames.”

The mayor spoke at a public meeting last week that was full to the brim with business owners wanting to know what to expect after their peak summer season was plagued with bad weather, road closures, and event cancellations.
Mayor Salt told them his council had to take State Highway 25A, “out of the picture”, in order to provide Thames with an advantage.
“As long as we can keep that access open, as long as we can get some resilience into the Coast Rd and we don’t keep getting interrupted by weather events, we’ve got an opportunity here and I think we should be grabbing it with both hands.”
Organised by the Thames Business Association and with guests including TCDC chief executive Aileen Lawrie and Destination Hauraki Coromandel general manager Hadley Dryden, an aim of the forum was to offer suggestions as to “what Thames needs”.
Most business owners felt that without an information centre manned by staff, those who did visit the town wouldn’t know “where to go and what to do”.
They suggested reestablishing an i-Site, reopening Mary St to traffic, and lobbying central government to make the roads more resilient to weather events.
Jenny McLeod, whose glass art gallery and shop is located along Pollen St, said she opted for “the basics”.
“So, signage, I reckon, and the information centre. I think those are two key things that could happen quickly,” she told The Profile at the February 20 meeting.
“I think we need them now more than ever because of the roading crisis. The biggest thing is we don’t want people to miss Thames out. We are still up and running and have been the whole time.”