Call for support of businesses

A Dunedin city councillor is calling on her colleagues to stump up financial support for businesses affected by what she calls "a perfect storm".

The city council is undertaking major upgrades to Dunedin’s main shopping centre, which will eventually result in George St becoming a one-way street.

The first part started last month, parts of Frederick, Filleul and London Sts being closed to vehicles and not due to reopen until April.

With Omicron also having a "massive" impact on the businesses, Cr Carmen Houlahan wants the council to provide financial support to those affected.

One retailer told the Otago Daily Times earlier this week the roadworks were making a bad situation worse as businesses struggled with the Red setting of the Government’s traffic light system.

Cr Houlahan was trying to make her point during the council’s virtual planning and environment committee earlier this week before she was asked to leave by chairman David Benson-Pope after accusing him of chairing the meeting as though he was running a dictatorship after he muted her.

She voted against the one-way proposal last year but supported the infrastructure upgrade, saying it needed to be done.

Speaking yesterday, Cr Houlahan said while the work was necessary, the council’s timing of the upgrades was "way off", particularly as Omicron began to spread.

"It’s too tough and it’s a perfect storm they are getting."

With the project going ahead, councillors needed to put "hands in our pockets" and offer financial support, Cr Houlahan said.

"Otherwise, shops will be closing left, right and centre," she said.

In Auckland, development of one of its main shopping streets, Queen St, had caused anger among businesses as construction had diverted traffic away from local shops.

That resulted in a group of retailers taking the Auckland City Council to court.

Cr Carmen Houlahan stands in a now blocked-off Filleul St. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Cr Carmen Houlahan stands in a now blocked-off Filleul St. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
The development in Dunedin risked doing the same thing, if the council was not careful, Cr Houlahan said.

The council hoped that people would shop normally during the development.

"But in reality it is not going to be like that and it is going to be very, very tough," Cr Houlahan said.

Mayor Aaron Hawkins is standing by the work, saying it was always going to be disruptive for businesses but had to be done.

That was why the council had taken the opportunity it presented to build a more "attractive and inviting" city centre, he said.

The council had formed a construction reference group, to help to mitigate the impacts of the disruption.

That was focused on helping businesses boost their online capability, and art installations that would encourage people to visit the city centre during the period.

Mr Hawkins admitted there was far greater disruption going on due to the current Covid-19 environment.

Business South chief executive Mike Collins supported Cr Houlahan’s calls to provide financial assistance, saying that it would acknowledge the strain those businesses were under.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the Red setting had had a significant impact on sales and foot traffic for retailers.

The organisation, which represents retailers throughout New Zealand, recently released the results of a survey which found 59% of respondents indicated they might not survive the next 12 months.

Mr Harford encouraged local governments throughout the country, such as Dunedin’s, to look at the steps they could take to support the retail sector in its recovery.


The city is in a lot of trouble as some councillors have been saying for quite along time. To do what the DCC is doing now to the centre of the city is too disruptive, too silly and too expensive.

It won't be from 'Council's' pockets.