Council pushes ahead with pedestrian-only city centre zone plan

A proposal to turn part of Dunedin's Octagon into a pedestrian-only zone has gained momentum, after the Dunedin City Council endorsed plans to investigate a trial of the concept.

Councillors at yesterday's 2014-15 annual plan deliberations voted to ask council staff to report back on options to trial a pedestrian-only zone.

The proposal sought to turn the lower Octagon and lower Stuart St between the Octagon and Moray Pl into a car-free zone temporarily.

That followed a call from University of Otago students Alexis Belton and Georgina Hampton to convert the area into a pedestrian zone, backed by a 36-page proposal, during last week's submissions hearing.

Their pitch, warmly received by councillors at the time, envisaged the area becoming the ''heart'' of Dunedin's CBD and acting as a ''visual showpiece'' for the city.

That prompted Cr Aaron Hawkins to suggest yesterday council staff investigate options for the trial, which won support from councillors including David Benson-Pope.

Cr Benson-Pope said the inquiry would respond to the pair's ''very good'' submission, and it would be a ''timely look at our urban shape''.

Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said staff were already planning to consider rejuvenation work in other parts of the central city, which could include pedestrian zones.

An examination of trial options for the Octagon and lower Stuart St could be included in that work, she said.

That prompted concern from deputy mayor Chris Staynes, worried the Octagon trial could interfere with other work already planned for George St.

Other councillors disagreed and backed Cr Hawkins' resolution, including Cr Richard Thomson, who said the council needed to be realistic and start small.

Any trial in George St would involve ''extremely significant'' changes, making it less likely it would proceed, he said. Instead, he supported the proposed trial in the lower Octagon and lower Stuart St as an easier way to ''socialise'' the idea of pedestrian-only zones.

''If we want to socialise the notion of pedestrian precincts within our central city area, then I think we should do that in a slightly more gradual way and in a way that gets some acceptance,'' Cr Thomson said.

Cr Hawkins also supported a ''softly, softly approach''. He reminded councillors of the vibrancy created by pedestrian-only zones when Dunedin hosted Rugby World Cup matches in 2011.

''How cosmopolitan and worldly we all felt for two weeks ... I firmly believe the amenity values will be profound,'' he said.

Businesses would also benefit from increased foot traffic, he argued, pointing to overseas evidence which highlighted that trend.

Ms Hampton, contacted after yesterday's meeting, said the council's decision was ''pretty humbling to hear''.

''I'm stoked, humbled and proud to be a Dunedin citizen.''

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

Moving forward

It has been interesting to read the varied comments so far. Alas many have been put forward before to no avail. Maybe the time is here when we will see the great god of unnecessary excess, the motor car, sidelined in favour of a safe and vital pedestrian friendly city centre with effective and efficient public transport.

MikeStk: There are so many in Dunedin who will agree with your suggestion. It has been raised many times, in one form or another, as have a number of the other suggestions.
Alas someone, usually a local business or two, has always cried "foul", got what they wanted and then gone away, leaving us with no real progress towards a pedestrian friendly environment.

Will the city councillors and the DCC strive toward this kind of city centre? Unlikely given the current lack of ability to provide good traffic flow at certain intersections at peak times or to effectively seperate cyclists from heavy traffic.

And as to cost, a bit of open discussion would show that it could well be funded within existing budgets.

No half measures

I'd go further, I'd make Moray place one way and remove all of the traffic lights that feed it, replacing them with traffic islands that feed traffic onto the left lane of the new Moray Place and pedestrian crossings, traffic would actually move faster without lights. 

Going further I'd make Filleul and Gt King Streets one way too making a larger loop for buses and through traffic, then we could turn parts of George Street into a pedestrian mall too.

Bar owners benefit?

I really don't get the mentality of those moaning because bars, cafes, retaurants and shops will benefit from a car free Octagon? Isn't it all about jobs, commerce, bringing something new to our city? Has anyone seen the vast numbers of empty shops in Princes, George Street and the side streets running off them? Has anyone noticed the dozens of commercial properties for lease above shops and around the town? The only way to kick start the city is to get people visiting, create a vibe, make it a happening vibrant space to be in. As it is now Dunedin is dying by degrees, if anyone has a better idea then let's hear it. Wellington should be our template, it too was dead 15 years ago, now look at it. We cannot sit back and do nothing, we have mortgaged our future on a stadium, so for goodness sake lets find ways to get Dunedin moving again so we can get back in the black. This is at least a start and I applaud it.

Half measures ...

Either make the entirety of the Octagon from the Burns monument down a predestrian precinct or, as it's been mentioned, it merely goes to serve the interests of the bar owners in the lower Octagon.  

The traffic from Upper Stuart Street to Lower Stuart Street will have to travel down Moray Place anyway.  Why not make Moray Place a huge one way roundabout?  Remove the parking at the top of the Octagon, and there will be enough room for taxis/buses to go both ways.  

Octagon

I am sorry, but I must have missed the vast consultation process in regards to this stupid waste of money. Then again why bother? This council just pushes ahead for the minority groups regardless of the majority opinion. What businesses will benefit seriously? A few bars at best. How can this be of use to us? And the 'walk around the Octagon point! Please, I have lived here many years and have never gone to town for a quick walk around it.
If they truly want to create a positive vibe then, as said before, block off the road near the Malls that are always busy with people shopping and enjoying a mix of retail outlets, not just a few bars.
And let's not forget now that Stuart Street will no longer lead to a direct route towards the one way system and how the already small side roads will see a huge increase in traffic leading to further delays - all so a few bars can increase their profits. It's a shame we can't get pedestrians to frequent the empty stadium.

Pleasant walk for some

"Every time there is an event that blocks traffic there, Dunedin gains a CENTRE- place that is a pleasure to walk around" according to lovedunedin.  And it loses the people who have other things to do with their time.  Not all of us feel like ambling around looking in shops and perhaps having a coffee or an alcoholic drink, many of us have things to do and if our time is wasted we find other ways to get these things done, in other places where not only can we drive, but we can then walk around without dodging aimless straggles of people who have time to kill.  For me, that creates "a pleasure to walk around", so don't assume that we all have the same priorities.  My own preference were I asked to recommend a pleasant place to walk around is the Gardens, botanic not shopping centre.  

A low cost positive development

Slowly but surely we will finally get a town centre that many of us have called for for many years. Well done! 

My only concern is the mix of pedestrians and idiot Dunedin drivers exiting Bath Street.

Brilliant!

Best proposal for Dunedin in years!

and initiated by two students with vision, way to go! 

pedestrian only why

Sorry but this is a total waste of time and money and will only benefit a very few bars during the evenings. Instead of wasting money on this why not make the stretch of road outside the Meridian and Wall street Malls pedestrian only. I am sick of crazy bus and car drivers ignoring the 30kph limit and any courtesy crossings watching countless near misses as pedestrians dodge the idiot speeders. Making this stretch pedestrian only makes far more sense than doing so at the Octagon. If not then put in speed humps and slow the idiots down. This council has lost the what we really need plot big time.

 

pedestrian precinct

Can't wait....... In fact I would prefer it was the whole of the Octagon.

Every time there is an event that blocks traffic there, Dunedin gains a CENTRE- place that is a pleasure to walk around.

Pedestrian precinct

After posting this to a Facebook page and asking members to vote, I am pleased they are listening.

What was the result of the online poll?

Editor - 73% in favour of the lower Octagon and lower Stuart St becoming a pedestrian-only zone.

Stuart St

How much is this latest act of non required insanity going to cost, there are more important things to in this city, this is not one of them at the moment, it will be a great day when these clowns figure out they were not voted in for personal agendas but voted in to run the city properly this is clearly not happening at the moment, they should remember to be careful with other people's money.

Fantastic idea

I am looking forward to this happening, giving us more space for chilaxing and enjoying the fantastic cafe bars in the area. Well done DCC

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