Empty shops a red flag for Tauranga residents

Empty shops line Devonport Road.

Tauranga residents are concerned the CBD is becoming a “suburb of the Mount” amid a growing number of vacant shops in the city centre.

There are currently 51 empty shops between Devonport, Grey Street and the strand with 30 vacant spaces on Devonport Road alone.

Retired school principal and Tauranga resident Ross Bishop says the CBD is basically a ghost town because nothing’s happening.

“Of the shops that are open nobody’s in them, there’s no vibrancy. There’s no life, it’s dead. Why would you want to come here when there’s so many other alternatives? Where’s the music? Where’s the vibrant sounds?”

He says when he counted the vacant shops only two years ago, there were only about 20.

Deidre, another resident, says it’s pretty demoralising to see the shops get less and less.

She says the city’s all a bit disconnected because the council haven’t thought about traffic control.

“You can’t drive through Red Square and do a loop around town.”

She says thanks to the malls, there are no people in the city centre.

“There needs to be vibrancy otherwise Tauranga loses its identity and risks becoming a suburb of the Mount.”

Downtown Tauranga chair Brian Berry says the empty shops are thanks to a number of reasons- including buildings being earthquake prone, a lack of vision from the city council, Covid, the cancellation of the cruise ship season, and the lack of an international scale hotel and convention centre.

“A clear council-led Vision for the CBD is required and that Vision needs to be committed to, so that the private sector (both commercial property owners, developers, and businesses) can make investment decisions without the risk of the rug being pulled out from under their feet.”

“Prior to Covid-19, due to council indecision and flip flopping on decision-making, retailers in the CBD have been reluctant to invest in their businesses and several (especially major retail chains) have withdrawn from the CBD.

“Covid-19 gave some national retail chains an easy out to withdraw.”

Additionally, the cancellation of the cruise ship season (partial in the 2019/20 shoulder and total in the 2020/21 shoulder) has meant that circa 21,000 cruise ship passengers were not transported from the Port into the CBD.

He says unfortunately the fiasco of the Harington Street Transport Hub has further reinforced the community’s perception of the CBD and, by association, has further tarnished the council’s reputation.

“The plan for the intensification of the Te Papa Peninsula is very encouraging and already we have seen developments such as the Latitude Apartments completed and the Farmers site redevelopment started and well underway.”

He says the CBD deserves better support from the community as what it really needs, is more people living in or very near to the CBD.

“The community perception is stay away from the CBD as it’s a ghost town, you can’t get a car park and so on.

“We have currently got over the issue of paid roadside parking in the CBD, but we still face the hurdle of shoppers wanting to park beside where they want to shop. That is a small-town mentality.”

Tauranga City Council strategy and growth general manager Christine Jones says there are a number of strategies council are in the process of implementing in order to revitalise the CBD.

These include the Te Papa Spatial Plan (actions to encourage residential development, more people and discretionary spending and improved transport options), the City Centre Strategy (strategic investment in community spaces, such as the Wharf Street precinct, the Durham Street University precinct and the forthcoming Elizabeth Street upgrade) and the Transport Systems Plan (improved multi-modal access).

She says there are a number of factors contributing to this situation, including the availability of alternative retail facilities like Tauranga Crossing and Bayfair; the growth of online shopping; the absence of a major retail anchor in the CBD (until the new Farmers store opens) and the impacts of Covid.

“Despite this, we are continuing to see investment in and around the city centre, providing for both more residents and employees in the coming years, which will add positively to the local economy.”

Christine says it’s important we see our city centre as a destination, with pedestrian-friendly streets that encourage people to move around on foot and enjoy public spaces such as Red Square, the new Wharf Street precinct and the waterfront.

“Typically, within a central business district, the focus is on providing connections and space for pedestrian movement and place making.”

She says vehicle movement to the city centre remains important too and how this can be supported while prioritising pedestrians and place making will be further considered through ongoing city centre planning work.

She says funding priorities specifically include supporting events in the city centre, as a way to encourage visitation and add vibrancy to the heart of Tauranga.

“Music events are also eligible to apply for financial support, providing they meet the fund specific criteria.

“We are very happy to guide any organisation that wants to deliver an outdoor music event in the CBD on Council-owned land, through the event approval process and provide any specialist support required to ensure a safe and successful event.”

Christine says council envisages the city centre continuing its transition from a traditional, low-density retail and service centre to a multi-use, high-density commercial, civic, cultural and residential centre.

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Tom Ranger

Posted on 11-03-2021 12:52 | By

As others have stated. (Sorry forgot your name) This will more than likely raise prices for consumer purchases in the CBD. Some businesses may be able to pay the extra amount without raising prices. But most will pass these costs on. So who pays Anne? ...who really pays? Stop wasting our money plz. There’s your solution. Keep on cutting staff and nice to have projects that take multiple attempts to finally...still get it wrong.


Posted on 10-03-2021 18:44 | By Mallyg

Now they want to put business rates up 22% so let’s just close the CBD altogether cheers mally

Offices deserted CBD

Posted on 10-03-2021 16:57 | By Johnney

For the last 25years offices have deserted CBD and set up in residential properties on main arterial roads. This killed CBD and added to the shortage of residential rentals.

Tom Ranger

Posted on 10-03-2021 14:02 | By

@Informed. I am aware of the public transport vision regarding the public transport network and multi-travel modes etc from NZTA - It’s been saying that for years now. What you have made obvious for others here and managed to highlight. Money IS the driver of this decision. Not what people need/want. A balanced approach is always going to be required. But a logical approach is first and foremost. We have more cars than anything and that will remain to be the truth in the future. So accommodating for them is prudent. Plan for public transport sure. But the majority of attention and money should go towards towards majority of users. Cars. NZTA needs to change policy to accommodate the short/Med/long term reality. Not everyone will be using busses in the future. A small % of us will. Nowhere near a majority. Let’s make the solution fit the problem.

City rot.

Posted on 10-03-2021 13:29 | By

Contributory to this situation would also be all the road works and construction works that blocked off roads in the city centre. These hindered traffic flow, used up parking and prevented access to shops along these roads. If the work had been undertaken quickly and timeously, its impact would have been minimised. Unfortunately, the domination of the road cone was allowed to drag on for far too long.


Posted on 10-03-2021 13:01 | By morepork

"...deserves better support from the community." No, it doesn’t. Why would I go to an unpleasant environment (accosted by vagrants and drunks), pay to park (if I can find a space remotely near where I want to be), and pay higher prices for anything I might actually purchase? How has the CBD earned my loyalty? It hasn’t and it isn’t. I have lived in Tauranga since 1959. (I was overseas for about 30 years but my residence was here and I came home for visits.) I love our City and it breaks my heart to see the state it is in. Hopefully, some of the new developments will improve things, but I have my doubts. Why aren’t we playing to the strengths? The waterfront is world-class and we are well served by the restaurants there. Perhaps a new plan can work on expanding facilities from there.


Posted on 10-03-2021 11:48 | By

It might be worth reading the national transport policy statement of transport. Even if people in Tauranga didn’t want cycling and public transport (which they do). NZTA still require strategies, policys and projects that include a massive focus on multi-modal travel. If those are not included then NZTA won’t offer you any subsidies (which pay for a large part of all transport investments). So here is an opportunity to understand why things are happening, rather than just point the finger. PS the city isn’t just made up of boomers that don’t want to cycle.


Posted on 10-03-2021 11:45 | By Accountable

That the Council spokeswoman in this article has to revert to a standard Council answer when discussing the CBD. She and her colleagues know exactly what is needed to get the revitalisation of the CBD started and it has nothing to do with her statement to this article. Her comments are a fob off of the highest order and I hope the commissioners have the skills and intelligence to see past this sort of dribble. Cars are and will be the main source of transport in New Zealand for many years to come and the Council needs to invest in that direction now. Parking will always be the most important part of the CBD. We have now got Trustpower, the University, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and many other new buildings in the CBD but because of the shortage of parking we still have continually falling foot traffic.

Free parking is no secret

Posted on 10-03-2021 10:36 | By

Free and plentiful parking has always been the problem. Cruise ship passengers were never going back to their ships loaded down with vast quantities of shopping. In fact, most of those that visited the city were extremely upset with the extortionate fare charged for the bus ride from the ships into a disappointing city centre that they were asked to pay by the retail organisation "Downtown Tauranga". Word of mouth and social media resulted in ever decreasing numbers. We have far too much "Blue Sky thinking" and not enough honesty and commonsense. Downtown is a dump, populated by vagrants, undesirables and eateries that don’t open during the day. The idea that music, the arts or vibrancy is going to change anything is lunacy.

The future

Posted on 10-03-2021 10:04 | By

Maybe the downtown shopping precinct is a thing of the past time . Invest in the waterfront bars and clubs and eateries and maybe look at Apartments on Devonport Road .Times are changing

The simple fact is

Posted on 10-03-2021 09:02 | By The Caveman

NZ’ers have changed their shopping habits from CDB’s were councils have rip-off parking charges, too shopping malls where there are no parking charges and all shops /stores are under one roof!

Tom Ranger

Posted on 10-03-2021 08:37 | By

"council haven’t thought about traffic control".......They have yunno. Congestion is key to the city-wide long-term plan as far as I can tell. In theory. Encourages bus use and justifies the decision of bus-lanes taking over the streets. But this is not what most want. It’s just not suitable for the large majority. So we have congestion...a stand-off between TCC pushing busses down our throats VS cars and the populace. No wonder we wanted them gone.

How can it be?

Posted on 10-03-2021 08:14 | By waiknot

It always confuses me how the CBD can have a shortage of parking and be a ghost town all at the same time.

Who Cares

Posted on 10-03-2021 08:05 | By gincat

Do you see any hitching rails in the CBD? Society changes, clearly evident in the CBD. Private money has taken people away from the CBD by developing satellite shopping centres. Private money needs to attract punters back, such as the Farmer’s development.People no longer to need to leave their home to purchase items, all done by a click. Council future proofing Cameron road will make access to the CBD more of a hassle discouraging people to travel. Just saying

Completely missed the point

Posted on 10-03-2021 08:04 | By Kaimai

Inner city commercial rents are too high - grandiose plans from council are irrelevant if rents are too high