Police endorse Octagon closure

Mel Aitken.
Mel Aitken.
Dunedin is lucky an intoxicated pedestrian has not been seriously injured by a vehicle in the inner city, police say.

Police have backed a proposed pedestrian-only zone in the lower Octagon. 

The endorsement follows the Dunedin City Council confirming this month it would investigate a trial of the concept.

Inspector Mel Aitken, the Dunedin, Clutha and Waitaki area prevention manager, said the move would ''help keep people safe and eliminate some of the risks with vehicles and people''.

''We are probably lucky we haven't [had a serious accident], but it is about eliminating that risk and making the area a feel-good place to be.''

A pedestrian-only zone in the heart of the city, near the majority of licensed premises, made ''good sense in terms of reducing risk with intoxicated people and traffic negotiating the road at the same time''.

Police had rostered officers to the Octagon on Friday and Saturday nights during the past few years, she said.

''Through that process, we have identified some of the issues and risks of vehicles travelling around the lower Octagon - people stepping out on the roads and just the potential for disaster.''

In 2011, police investigated the concept of a pedestrian-only zone in the lower Octagon.

''We were very keen on taking it further, but for a number of reasons it did not progress.''

Insp Aitken said police had offered support for the project to council staff.

St John Otago territory manager Doug Third said the ambulance service supported police, with the area ''a very busy place for us on a Friday/Saturday night''.

The idea for the pedestrian zone came from University of Otago students Alexis Belton and Georgina Hampton, who presented their plan backed by a 36-page proposal during a council submissions hearing earlier this month.


Keep Octagon open

I previously commented, and have since read the submission document to close the Octagon on the DCC website. I had hoped to be impressed with this student submission, but with respect, I was left very disappointed in the document and it’s lack of quality insight or direct applicability to our city and its unique challenges, strengths, and weaknesses.

Read the rest of this comment here

Road stopping: public debate

A point or two missed. Sadly, not everyone is engaged with their council's annual plan process through submissions (or as part of an official lobby body or academic exercise) or reads this newspaper (broadsheet and digital) - as news of a re-envisioning for our collectively owned city centre eeks out.

ejkerr (user name) is grateful to the youthful proponents for their warm inclusive reply that avoids being condescending or disrespectful to one's advancing years, frailty and ignorance of council matters/processes.

The question for the community is that the proponents and their circle of young friends fervently seek to stop the lower Octagon and part of lower Stuart St, to create more space for alcohol consumption and public disorder of a night, or not. There are potential compensations for the council to consider.  In batting the idea back and forth, last week I joined the local temperance movement to avoid being picked off. In hindsight, this was overzealous - the writers' olive branch encourages the hunt for a back foot of mine that still works.

Dears, I confess to never using the DCC website except, in solace, to check the cemetery records of friends and six generations of family passed from this world. The rest is too busy.

Individuals, businesses, and organisations affected by the proposal are far from limited to those trading each day in the immediate vicinity of the stopping. Of that, this grey-haired curmudgeon is very sure. Oh, for a plain sense button before the cemeteries database. Thank you.


Have you read the proposal?

EJ Kerr: A suggestion - you could take a moment to read the actual proposal for a pedestrian precinct - there's a link kindly provided for you and it is also readily avaliable on the council website (I even note that one of the authors has offered to e-mail it to you). Then prehaps you could engage in an informed discussion? 

From what I've seen the authors are very open to discussion and constructive comments. 

As someone who has taken the time to read it I can tell you that on the second page of the proposal the authors acknowledge the assistance of Generation Zero (along with others). I'm confused as to how they could have done this in a more public manner. Why exactly you have a problem with Generation Zero is a question for another day.

I believe (once again, as someone who has read it) that the proposal is well researched and timely for our city. Do your research, get informed and then we can talk. [Abridged] 

Dont drink and walk

And, of course, the already well and truly 'smashed' don't get served in the bars, that being against the law.


The comment surrounding people being drunk prior to reaching the Octagon is very valid. They get smashed on their supermarket grog and go to the Octagon around 10pm. The price of drinks is more than likely the reason they preload but they still want to take in the atmosphere and socialise. Students in particular can't afford up to $10.00 per drink at the bar so they are bound to pre load prior to going out.

Perhaps the issue is . . .

Perhaps the issue is that these drunks in the Octagon are fully 'smashed' well and truly before they even reach the Octagon and the bars are all too easily being singled out.

Supermarkets sell very cheap alcohol, yet don't provide entertainment, so there in lies one partcular issue. That said, I have no doubt that more than a few people will try to justify that "why should I be personally penalised because of the idiotic actions of a 'few' "


Octagon drunks

Apparently this notion ''but it is about eliminating that risk and making the area a feel-good place to be.''  is the best we can hope for from the police.

As a community we do not have to put up with this approach to keeping our streets safe. Stopping the drunks from getting drunk should be a higher priority and at least a better way of eliminating the risk to themselves and the motorists who's vehicle the inebriated fool walks in front of.

It seems the police still want the drunks so they can process them after the fact, rather than solve the problem at its root cause. 

Why should we suffer as motorists so a few twits can get so drunk they walk out in front of moving vehicles. And why should anyone have to put up with an Octagon full of drunks looking for a fight. Our family have not gone into town at night for years now due to the very real danger of getting assaulted by a group of drunks. We read about it all the time.

We "eliminate" the risk by not going near town at night. It's a sad reflection on our society and the police have done little to help, especially now that they want to help make the whole Octagon a drunken playground.

Generation Zero

That says it all - Generation Zero. Nice to have that cleared up in public domain. 

I am the co-author of the proposal

Hi EJ Kerr,

I've changed my name from the ambiguous "informed" to reflect my identity. I'm the co-author of the proposal; a Dunedin citizen just like you. I do not work for the DCC, and nor have I ever in the past. Our proposal and research was self-funded by myself and my co-author; we were non-financially supported by members of Generation Zero in generous donations of time and expertise.

I am bemused to know how one becomes more winningly transparent in tone on an online forum.

I am sure if you emailed the appropriate council staff they would be happy to send you a copy of the proposal; I too would be happy to email you a copy. 

Thanks for your interest.  

DCC urban design, transportation planning

I won't assume 'informed' works for the city council (!) since their reply in a real sense isn't good communication or best practice in considering a seriously helpful request to enhance simple direct public access to the student no-cars proposal for our city centre. A home page link is a twinkle in the webmaster's eye.

Their reply, even if that of an outside proponent, lacks that winning tone of transparency - in the face of potential costs to ratepayers, and genuinely affected individuals, businesses, property owners and organisations.

Indeed, a touch sharp and defensive for enquiring 'stakeholders'. *wink

Submissions available

The submissions are all available on the DCC website, listed alphabetically by name of the submitter. If you had clicked on the links you would realise they take you to the DCC website. You could probably also request hard copies by phoning the DCC. Stop creating issues where they don't exist. 

DCC home page

In clarification, what I requested - for public good - was that the student no-cars proposal is published at the DCC website with a clearly discoverable direct link to the proposal posted at the home page. 

The links provided by informed (??) will get submerged by other comments and news very quickly; not everyone affected by the proposal is likely to be a reader of ODT Online.

Respectfully, the city council's chief executive has been asked, through the auspices of the newspaper, to provide a DCC home page link to the proposal - for reasons of accountability, transparency, and fair warning to genuinely affected individuals, businesses, property owners and organisations. Nothing less will suffice. Now's the time.


All Annual Plan submissions are public

Submission can be found in full here

All submissions are public and can be found here   

Just a few questions

Having not been privy to the full proposal I’m a touch ambivalent to the idea.  Seeing as it seems every other week there is a story being published about the DCC telling the local community boards it has no money to fund any of their proposals (a pool for Mosgiel, a public library for South Dunedin and I can’t remember what other ones there were) where is the money coming from for this project? 

It could actually be really cool, rebuild the band stand, erect a play ground for kids, have seating out around the place or grass some of it for “family picnics” (although the vomit from the intoxicated could kill that idea).  It could potentially be awesome for families during the day and the drunks at night.  Although for crying out loud, give us a turning lane from George Street into lower Moray Place! From either direction, I’m not fussy I don’t even need a green arrow (although it would be nice) I’d just like to be able to turn.

I would like to know how/if this proposal will affect the Octagon markets and what will happen with the tour buses? I think seeing as we are constantly told that the council is broke I’d rather see this idea shelved for the time being, just until it can be designed and executed really well, which of course usually requires money.

Round and round in the Octagon

Let me get this right: Inspector Aitken believes that closing the Octagon to traffic will help protect drunks from stepping out in front of traffic. Does she also believe that these same drunks will just wander drunkenly around this special protected area and not venture further up or down George or Stuart streets? And then the council will install padded pavers and kerbing and foam rubber planters and furniture to prevent these same drunks from hurting themselves when they inevitably stumble into them and fall down in their own wee protected drunk play area.

Student no-cars proposal

Through the auspices of your newspaper I respectfully request that DCC chief executive Sue Bidrose publishes the full 36-page student proposal for the lower Octagon and a section of lower Stuart St at the DCC website, with an easily discoverable pagelink at the home page.

Let's have full transparency and accountability now, not later by LGOIMA request when it's all too late and the genuinely affected have not been fully compensated by the council in accordance with market values.

Keep Octagon road open

I haven’t seen the full proposal, so may be missing something here. But it seems to me that turning this area into a 'hot-spot' for intoxication is less than desirable for the city, and ultimately the businesses in this area.
For a start, there are a number of glaring traffic concerns, in an already difficult to navigate retail and central town zone. George Street is already abysmal with every other side street subject to no right turns allowed. Surely, diverting traffic from Stuart St, a major artery into the city from both directions, would put undue pressure on all the other routes into and through the city.
All the roads into the city are already highly trafficked roads, and already suffer from many bad intersections (lots of 5-way intersections, poorly co-ordinated light timing, odd access points with one-way roads, and narrow streets). Reducing traffic arteries and car access to central city areas would not improve the area, and indeed it risks isolating it from other parts of the city with better car access.
Taxis, buses, and parking are highly used in this area, as well as access through both sides of Stuart Street; this should not be sacrificed to pander to a idea that would benefit very few. Seems like there should be a better means of dealing with the inebriated, rather than punishing the rest of the city who appreciates and uses the car access in this area.

Not sure about that

Seriously, are we to really believe that closing half of the Octagon will protect the intoxicated? Drivers who constantly ignore the 30kmh speed limit and zero enforcement of it are the real problem. And again, closing this will only benifit the bars. Close it all and protect the moviegoers as well, and shut off George Street - to all but cycle riders of course!


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