07 May 2017

Invercargill future discussed at Chamber of Commerce AGM

The Invercargill City Council needs to stop being a policeman, and start enabling city growth, a director says.

HWR director Scott O’Donnell said good things are happening to make Invercargill special - but not fast enough.

O’Donnell was the guest speaker at the Southland Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

Chamber president Carla Forbes said the chamber was assisting with the development of the Southland Regional Development Strategy’s vision, and now its implementation.

“We applaud our four councils, iwi, business, community and civic leaders for their hard work and vision to create a plan to drive Southland forward.”

Forbes welcomed three new board members for 2017.

Six people were nominated for the board for three available spots. BNZ business partner Kirsty McNeill was re-elected, SBS Bank chief executive Shaun Drylie was elected, and Focus Technology Group founder Rod Sinclair was elected.

Two board members, Dean Addie and James Jubb, stood down.

O’Donnell was invited by the Southland Chamber of Commerce to share his personal opinion on his business and vision for Invercargill.

“I personally have a vision for Invercargill as ‘Transport Inc’,” O’Donnell said.

HWR owns the Classic Motorcycle Mecca and the Bill Richardson Transport World.

“We have car, truck and motorbike - it would be good to have plane and train.”

O’Donnell said city perception needed to change.

“When people ask you where you live, and you say Invercargill, they look at you like you’re weird, don’t they?

“They think you’re profoundly un-gifted.”

Invercargill needed to turn that around, he said.

“It’s Invercargill, we can fix everything except the weather.”

Easy fixes included replacing the current Invercargill welcome sign, lighting for city buildings, and installing electronic display boards for city events, he said.

O’Donnell said he hated the city’s cabbage trees, “the ugliest thing known to mankind”.

Before he and wife Jocelyn O’Donnell had children, they made a will to bequeath money to the city to remove them all, he said.

The city had too much retail, not enough quality retail and the CBD was too big.

Some decay had made historic buildings worthless, he said.

“The CBD is failing at phenomenal rates.”

O’Donnell’s opinion was many CBD buildings needed to be taken away as soon as possible.

The mayoral forum deserved a point for pulling the Southland Regional Development Strategy together, he said.

The team of very energetic people would find solutions, he said. However, it came with responsibility of the councillors and the mayors.

“If they don’t heed what’s been said, they face civil war,” O’Donnell said.

“We can’t let the bureaucrats get in the way of success.”

The town needed something special, and the groundwork was already under way, he said.

The Invercargill Licensing Trust’s announcement for a new hotel was about two weeks away.

“Entertainment, food and people connecting. That’s what Invercargill really needs to move forward.”

O’Donnell said he would like to see the former Invercargill train station become a steam museum.

Kmart was coming to Clyde St, he said. He would have preferred it to be in the CBD.

HWR, who opened the Classic Motorcycle Mecca last year, could not “do everything” because they were a private enterprise, he said.

The Invercargill City Council was acting as a policeman and the speed of change was too slow, he said.

“It’s got to be done. I mean, we’re going to die one day.”