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Thames Community Board chair Adrian Catran and his two beagles in front of the to-be-removed Create the Vibe. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Reports cost $20k more than Vibe installation

Thames ratepayers spent more on surveys about The Vibe than they did to have The Vibe installed.
And while he wouldn’t be drawn on whether he believed the project was money well spent, Thames Community Board chair Adrian Catran said he found the “whole matrix” of the controversial Mary St closure to be “disconcerting”.
In an Official Information Act request, seen by The Profile, Thames-Coromandel District Council confirmed it had spent $54,940 of public money on two evaluation reports about The Vibe.
The first was undertaken in 2022 at a cost of $21,980.
The second was completed this June, ahead of the community board’s verdict to remove The Vibe, and cost $32,870.
It was initially set to cost $29,750, and included survey development, research over three days, analysis of data, and analysis of an open-ended question of up to 600 responses, but because it received more than 1000 responses, another $3120 was spent for the consultants to analyse the additional feedback.
This means the district council spent close to $20,000 more on undertaking evaluations than it did contributing to The Vibe’s construction [$35,569.50].

Thames Community Board chair Adrian Catran said there’s “a bigger situation” than just money spent.
“I was not part of the original community board that made the decision, and I would not like to cast dispersions on the previous board as to why they decided to put The Vibe in place,” he said. “The money’s been spent – and I think Waka Kotahi found this was an experiment in trying to create traffic-calming pedestrian areas throughout towns in New Zealand, and it didn’t work.”
Mr Catran said he supported a review into how council went about installing The Vibe “in the first place”.
He had concerns over the council’s initial consultation, which The Profile earlier reported drew criticism for not having a “status quo” option.
“The most disconcerting thing for me is that they only asked two questions: do you want the street closed, or do you want the street one-way? They didn’t include a third option – do you not want The Vibe at all? And when you get Hobson’s Choice, it’s very awkward for people to make a decision,” Mr Catran said.
“The concept, the idea of an open space – trees and shrubs and seating – is fantastic. But it’s never ever been used in the manner they expected. In other words, it was an under-utilised area and we could’ve done better.”
The Thames Community Board agreed to spend $15,120 to extend the life of The Vibe for one year back in June, 2022.
The council also purchased a section of land in Mary St adjacent to The Vibe for $221,069 before public consultation began on the project. However, the land didn’t form part of the Create the Vibe space and at the time of the purchase in late 2020, it was considered the property could “provide opportunities to be utilised as part of any future redevelopment of the Thames CBD”.
Mr Catran, whose return to the community board in 2022 came after his stint as deputy mayor between 2004 and 2010, said his focus to create a heart for Thames instead lay within the Grahamstown area of Pollen St.
“If we create this type of environment they intended to create here down there – people sitting out in the sunshine, a one-way traffic flow – Grahamstown would be the most fantastic part of Thames,” he said.
He also confirmed that the closing of Mary St would not happen again under his watch, and that he would instead work towards making Grahamstown a “heritage precinct”.