Social distancing measures for central Nelson, including widened footpaths, will take effect when lockdown restrictions are lifted next week .
At a meeting on Thursday, Nelson city councillors agreed to a range of temporary measures that would widen the footpaths and lower the speed limit in the CBD.
From Tuesday 28 April when the country moves to alert level 3, the footpaths along Trafalgar Street, between Halifax St and Hardy St, will be extended in width to 6 metres each side using temporary markers, signage and line marking.
The same measures will be applied to Hardy St and Bridge St, although only to the footpaths on the south sides of those streets. The council will seek public feedback on using such measures in the longer term, including an option to make central Trafalgar St pedestrian only.
Mayor Rachel Reese said the temporary changes would allow pedestrians to maintain physical distancing requirements safely, and give businesses confidence that their staff and customers could interact in a way that minimised risk.
She said council needed to "start thinking quite differently" about how to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, and had to be nimble and innovative.
"We are looking at multiple ways to support our economy and our community as we move through the alert levels. We need to ensure our people can move around our city centre and safely access the services that are able to resume operations now, and in the near future, and we need to do it in a timely manner that delivers results."
The cost of the temporary measures would be $205,000, paid for out of the transport budget currently unspent due to the Covid-19 shutdown.
These measures are to be followed by a more permanent medium-term response, which could cost up to $5 million. Council is applying for an NZTA subsidy which could subsidise up to 51 per cent of the balance work, and the NZTA Innovative Streets fund which could account for up to $1m.
Public feedback will be sought on four options to be considered by council.
- Widening the footpath to 6 metres on both sides of Trafalgar St in the area stretching from Halifax to Hardy Sts, and on the south side only of Hardy and Bridge Sts. Parking would become parallel on Trafalgar St, and existing parallel parking on Hardy and Bridge Sts restricted to one side.
- Widening the footpath to 8.5 metres on both sides of Trafalgar St in the area stretching from Halifax to Hardy Sts, and 6m on the south side only of Hardy and Bridge Sts. Trafalgar Street parking would be removed and existing parallel parking on Hardy and Bridge Streets restricted to one side.
- Making Trafalgar St between Halifax and Hardy St a pedestrian thoroughfare, and widening the footpath to 6m on the south side only of Hardy and Bridge Sts. Existing parallel parking on Hardy and Bridge Sts would be restricted to one side.
- Making no further changes and retaining the temporary measures.
The proposal was passed unanimously at the meeting.
Councillor Gail Noonan said while she was uncomfortable with the size of the budget being put forward, she supported the measure.
"The next bit is going to be the interesting part - the public will let us know which option they are keen on."
Councillor Pete Rainey said it was "a great move", and hoped a decision could be made as soon as possible so work could begin. He said it was important to note the changes were temporary, and included materials that could be removed and reused by council.
Councillor Matt Lawrey said while there may be calls to return to a "business as usual" approach from the public, now was not the appropriate time.
"I think we need to hang on to how we're all feeling today about the direction we're heading in, and we keep that in mind at the next stage of the decision-making process."
The options are expected to go out for public feedback in the next few weeks.