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Checking the health of our town centres – Marlborough District Council

A spot check of the health of our town centres is the focus of Council’s ‘Marlborough Town Centre Health Check’, the findings from which were presented at this week’s Economic, Finance and Community committee meeting.

Every two years since 2011 for Blenheim, and from 2013 for Picton, a summer student has been engaged to assist Council – this year Freya Thompson – with a statistical report which takes the temperature of the health of both town centres. Statistics such as the composition of the town centre, state of the environment, and the results of a pedestrian survey are all included.

Economic Development manager Neil Henry says Council now has a good body of evidence collected over that time which covers a whole range of factors in the two CBDs and provides a comparative study to identify trends and changes. “This is one of the benefits of doing this survey regularly so we can see over time how our CBDs have changed.”

“Since the first survey in 2011 there has been a noticeable change with many more cafes and restaurants and less retail. This does show the changing nature of how people are spending with more online shopping and people using town centres for leisure, coming into town for non-shopping reasons,” Mr Henry said.

Data for the most recent study was collected in December 2023 from 297 respondents. Some of the key findings are as follows:


  • Total CBD spend $296.8M ($10M more than in 2022)
  • Street vitality improved in Queen Street with fewer vacancies
  • Improvement noted around the new library and Quays area
  • Reduction in retail shops from 92 to 84 units
  • Increase in vacancies from 20 to 27
  • Sixty four percent visit the CBD for cafes/restaurants

Mr Henry says the increase in spend, although likely due in part to inflation, did also indicate a return to pre-Covid spending levels which is positive, however the spend in the CBD is now lower than in the rest of Marlborough.

“The reduction in retail shops likely shows the impact of online shopping and e-commerce on shopping habits. This is in part a national and international trend as well as some local influences around how our town is growing in the periphery,” he said. “The town centre continues to perform well across most measured categories including transport, pedestrian route quality, state of the environment and street vitality.”


  • Total CBD spend $94.3M ($15M more than in 2022)
  • Strong return of visitors, both domestic and international
  • Vacancies similar to 2022 at 7 per cent
  • Food and entertainment the most common drawcard (23 per cent)
  • Street vitality levels and pedestrian route quality remained similar
  • Seventy five per cent visit the CBD for cafes/restaurants

“Overall, Picton CBD is performing well and is consistent with previous surveys. The state of the environment, street vitality, pedestrian routes and transport options all continue to be maintained at a level desirable by the public. There is a strong return of international visitors and transactions rates have gone up – 400,000 more than in the previous survey,” Mr Henry said.

The full report will be published on Council’s website soon.


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