Cameron road works in between Thirteenth and Fourteenth avenues. Photo / Alex Cairns
A business is moving from Tauranga’s Cameron Rd after 30 years and a leading real estate agent says more than a dozen others have approached him about doing the same thing – all because of
the ongoing roadworks.
A financial advisor also says that some affected businesses have sought professional help and one ‘‘pretty much had zero customers for about three months”.
A Tauranga City Council commissioner says it is acutely aware of businesses’ concerns and tries to reduce inconveniences from the roadworks, but balancing disruption is a challenge.
Dwayne Roper, the owner of property development and investment company Zariba Holdings, said moving his business after three decades was a direct result of the council’s Cameron Rd upgrade, which has limited access to his offices between 14th and 15th Ave.
“We are moving because we’ve had a gutsful of council works over the last two years outside our offices,” he told the Bay of Plenty Times.
Commercial real estate agent Philip Hunt says Roper’s is one of many Cameron Rd businesses inundating him with queries to move because of the works. Roper’s relocation comes after the council was sent legal threats by two other Cameron Rd property owners due to the impact of the works.
The council’s Building our Future Cameron Road, Te Papa project is aimed at improving travel, beautification, and updating ageing infrastructure including pipes and utility services. Project leaders have previously said the goal was to make Cameron Rd a destination, not just a commuting corridor.
But Roper was moving to the outskirts of the CBD instead.
“We’ve put up with the roadworks for 18 months in front of our offices,” he said.
The works involve invasive digging up of pavements and reduced thoroughfare.
“They very rarely work nights, very rarely work weekends. They are turning up at 7.30am and they’re gone by 4.30pm.
In his view: “I get what they are doing but the execution of it is abysmal. It hasn’t been thought through.”
Roper said he expressed his concerns with the council but believed he had “just been given lip service”.
Stage one of the project runs from Elizabeth St to 17th Ave, with live sites operating from Elizabeth St to 17th Ave this week.
Roper said the breadth of worksites being operated at once was, in his view, “ridiculous” and affected the whole city, not just Cameron Rd.
The project has been running since 2018 with construction starting in April 2021.
The Bay of Plenty Times last month revealed there were delays between 12th and 13th Ave due to water infrastructure being laid incorrectly. This came after another delay due to “unforeseen changes” and affected businesses such as Shorland Peugeot & Citroen and Minute Man said they were “effectively barricaded” from customers.
The Bay of Plenty Times also revealed Christine Currie, who owns 405 Cameron Rd which houses NZME, was one of two people legally challenging the council, claiming the project caused a $800,000 value drop to the building.
Hunt, a Tauriko-based Property Brokers commercial and industrial specialist, said he received two to three calls a week from Cameron Rd businesses wanting to move.
“But I’d say in the last four weeks, we’ve had probably 12 to 15 discussions with tenants and landlords. It’s quite a major,” he said.
Hunt said a lot of the businesses relied on car parking for customer access.
“For these businesses that need access to vehicles, if they can’t get it, they are moving out into the fringe areas.”
Most were looking to move to Mount Maunganui’s industrial area or Tauriko, he said.
Hunt said one business told him its turnover was down 80 per cent. Roper also referenced a business losing this amount of turnover due to the Cameron Rd project.
“I think a lot of businesses are struggling incredibly and are probably going to lose their shirts – they are going to go out of business.
“They can’t survive.”
Hunt said many businesses also needed staff car parks for staff to go to appointments and jobs throughout the day – duties not necessarily suited for bicycles or public transport.
Great access to more modes of transport has been a key factor in the project’s aspirations, with shared pathways and bus lanes being constructed.
Hunt said, in his view: “While future-proofing is to be applauded, this radical plan lacks the reality of what’s happening to those in the middle of it.”
Hunt said he feared an exodus from Cameron Rd would take “years and years” to recover from.
Loan market business and commercial financial advisor Richard Craven said many of his Cameron Rd business clients were embarrassed to approach him for help but this did not stop them.
“I have a handful of businesses that have been so affected by the closure of the access to their premises, they have to come to me and I’ve gone to their banks for extra financial support.
“Sometimes there’s reductions in business, sometimes there’s zero customer foot traffic.”
Craven said the lack of access and parking to one particular business owner created such a reduction in clientele “they pretty much had zero customers for about three months”.
“He had to ask for a loan repayment holiday, which is just embarrassing for him but his business was so affected he was worried about missing loan repayments.”
Craven said such a request created a black mark on his client’s file which continued to concern him.
Many others were asking Craven what other options they had before seeking financial help from the bank. Some considered short-term loans in the hope they could make good on repayment in 12 months, and others did not necessarily have that confidence, Craven said.
Craven said the situation was “stressful” for many of his clients who believed the council would not listen to their concerns.
“A handful of clients have already gone through the Covid support funding and now they are going to the bank saying, ‘I need more because Tauranga City Council has done this major roading project which has impacted on customers having access’.
“I think there’s a lack of confidence among business owners that there’s a genuine willingness to listen or a commercial awareness as to what the long game looks like.
“That’s probably the single most common message I’m getting from Cameron Rd business owners.”
Council commissioner Bill Wasley said the council was “acutely aware” of the issues Cameron Rd businesses were facing.
The council was working “to ensure that traffic management equipment is well managed”.
“This means reducing the number of orange barriers deployed along the roadworks corridor where possible, to help make it easier for road users, pedestrians, cyclists and businesses to go about their normal activities,” Wasley said.
“We take on board and appreciate the feedback from affected businesses and other stakeholders who rely on access to and from Cameron Rd for themselves or their staff and customers. Where possible we make changes as quickly as we can to reduce the inconvenience caused by the roadworks.”
Wasley said that until the works were completed in December, sections of Cameron Rd would be progressively cleared of traffic management equipment.
“However, there is still a lot of work to be done on some of our major intersections and we appreciate the community’s patience and understanding as we work to complete this as soon as possible.”
Wasley said more work was not carried out at night and at weekends because of the impact on businesses as well as residents.
“Balancing disruption for people affected is an ongoing challenge,” Wasley said.
Major works to begin at Cameron Rd/11th Ave
Drivers are warned to avoid Cameron Rd and 11th Ave if possible from Sunday as major works start.
A stormwater upgrade and work to upgrade the traffic signals will begin on the western side of the intersection on Sunday and the work is expected to take about four months.
Tauranga City Council said most of the work would be during the day with some work at night when needed.
There would be lane closures, noise and vibration, and major traffic delays.
Residents and businesses would still have vehicle access and pedestrian and cyclist access would be maintained at all times.
Kiri Gillespie is an assistant news director and a senior journalist for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post, specialising in local politics and city issues. She was a finalist for the Voyager Media Awards Regional Journalist of the Year in 2021.