Whangarei district restaurants, cafes and bars offering alfresco dining on the footpaths outside their premises will have to leave a 1.2m space clear for pedestrians and take out $1 million public liability insurance to cover any claims for damage or injury.
The Whangarei District Council district living committee yesterday decided to replace the district's 12-year-old rules on alfresco dining with a new policy drawn up after discussion with business owners.
Council environmental trends analyst Sonya Seutter said in a report that, under the old rules, the council's general approach when dealing with alfresco dining in public places was to prepare ad hoc site agreements with applicants.
On payment of a single fee, a permit would be issued allowing alfresco dining in an identified location.
But no arrangements were made for managing outdoor furniture, resulting in issues around "walkability" and public safety, leading to complaints.
Under the new policy, business owners would need a council licence to occupy footpaths and be made aware of their obligations on the use of public space. The council would determine licensing fees. Street furniture would be removed at the end of each trading day unless licences stated otherwise.
Cr Jerone Jongejans said he was happy some restrictive measures had been removed from the old rules and congratulated council staff for producing a policy making Whangarei a better place in which to live.
Crs Aaron Edwards, Sue Glen and Merv Williams also supported the new policy. Cr Warwick Syers said he hoped an annual compliance charge would suffice and the new policy would not become a "money grab".
Larger fees would have to be considered for bigger premises otherwise they could have an unfair advantage over smaller rivals, he said: "We need balance. I hope we don't go overboard as this [policy] will add ambience to the environment we need."
The policy was adopted with an unanimous vote.