”This has to end here so we can get on and run Boulevard Day.”
That from Bob McDonald, who co-organises Boulevard Day with Sue Cooper, to an Ashburton council hearing to decide which party, McDonald and Cooper, or another applicant, Carol Johns, will be granted the right to the closing for East Street, Ashburton, on September 23.
The hearing panel was chaired by Ashburton deputy mayor Neil Brown.
He said the hearing was unprecedented as never before had the council had two applications to close the same road on the same day, September 23, and at the same time.
The panel heard from Mr McDonald, supported by Ashburton businessman Max Cawte, and Carol Johns.
The parties were asked not to interact with each other – they did not – and no member of the public was allowed to speak.
There were about 20 people in the public gallery and nearly 100 watched the hearing via live-stream on the council’s Facebook page and through its website.
Mr McDonald said he and Mrs Cooper were upset by the opposing applications, and the founder of Boulevard Day, Russell Anstiss, was also upset.
He was in the public gallery.
Mr McDonald said this was the fourth year he and Mrs Cooper had had to justify Boulevard Day to Mrs Johns.
Boulevard Day has been going for 43 years and was originally set up for local retailers.
For more than 30 years it had been run by the Ashburton Business Association (ABA).
Mr McDonald said that when ABA was wound up, ”Sue and I did not want to see Boulevard Day disappear, so along with other former members of the ABA, Sue and Don Cooper, Max Cawte, Stuart and Neroli Cross and myself, we set up a Boulevard Day group to run Boulevard Day and keep the tradition going.
Last year there were 107 sites, including 57 local sites.
He said the group tried hard to make it a success.
”As you all know we are very passionate about Ashburton’s CBD and making it the best it can be, and would support any day that will help and promote our town, but don’t steal a day of a very successful and long running event; there are 300 other days in a year that can be made into another event, pick one and put in the hard work and make it a success, not but at the expense of Boulevard Day.”
Mrs Johns said the event had not kept up.
She planned to have stalls on the East Street Green, in-store specials and extensive advertising, especially on social media.
She said she would start a Facebook page, as she did with Waitangi on East.
She said the day needed reinvention.
Mrs Johns also runs the Ashburton Santa Parade and it had grown to the stage its gear would not fit in a container.
She was asked by panel member Diane Rawlinson how she would feel if someone tried to take over the day for the Santa Parade and she said they were welcome as ”no one wanted to do it in the first place”.
She said if she were granted the right to close the street for her East Street Bazaar, all proceeds would go back to the community.
Full details of the decision, and the evidence, in next week’s Courier.