“Wellsford has a window of about five years if it wants to stay alive. It needs to find an identity, like Waipu did with its Scottish heritage.” – Marilyn Shepherd.
For better or worse, Wellsford’s identity as a town has been formed around its position on State Highway 1, but that could soon change. From next year, the new motorway will bypass Warkworth and it is only a matter of time before the same happens to Wellsford. Without passing highway traffic, Wellsford will need a new identity to make it a destination in its own right. Mahurangi Matters asked shopkeepers for their views on how the town should be developed. Common themes included getting the basics right such as a safe footpath, clean toilets and well-marked car parking. Here are some of the views locals expressed:
Tania says Wellsford’s community is its greatest advantage. “It’s a great town to live in, because the people are great.” Her main concern is the heavy traffic through Wellsford, which poses a danger to pedestrians. She believes a second crossing is needed at the northern end of the town. “People often want to cross to the Lime Tree Café, and they take their lives in their hands.”
According to Jan-Marie, Wellsford’s advantage is having one main retail strip that offers convenient shopping, compared to Warkworth, where retail sites are spread out. “The bus from Warkworth is the only good thing that has happened to Wellsford. We get customers from Snells Beach and Point Wells coming up to visit.” She says the town just needs quality retailers to set up shop. “No more takeaways or alcohol.”
Jill Free and Marilyn Shepherd,
Jill and Marilyn look forward to a time when large trucks no longer travel through Wellsford. The Hospice Shop has a crack in the window where it was hit by a stone, and made worse by the vibrations of trucks. However, they say Wellsford will need to find a new identity before it loses the highway traffic, just as Waipu and Pokeno did when they were bypassed. Jill suggests the old school in Wellsford could be turned into a market, similar to the former Victoria Park markets in Auckland.
Shanae says the town has already suffered from the loss of international tourists, providing a hint at what might happen when highway traffic no longer passes through. Three stores on the main street have closed in the last year. She says there are clear opportunities for new businesses in Wellsford, such as a gym. She thinks that Wellsford needs an attraction to put it on the map and it ought to reflect the town’s rural heritage. Asked for a blue-sky idea, she suggests miniature horse carts running people up and down the town would be a quirky attraction.
Shelly believes the loss of a full-time bank has negatively affected the town. She says the BNZ was an anchor business and gave people a reason to visit and browse shops. She says landlords need to lift their game and properly maintain their buildings. “The shops are empty and the rents are high. Lower the rent and allow the town to grow.” In her view, what Wellsford needs is a good function venue that would attract live acts, similar to the Mangawhai Tavern or Leigh Sawmill Café. “If people came here for events, the shops could open until later.”