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For Sue Todd the "Octagon Experience" has been a failure, summed up by a lost old man who could not find a taxi.
"He was about 92. He came in the door and I asked him if he was OK because he looked very bewildered and he said he was looking for a taxi," the Sue Todd Antiques owner said.
The store sits in Stuart St, next to where the full Octagon closure begins.
The road is littered with orange signs declaring that only pedestrians and certain vehicles may come through.
"I rang a taxi for him and the taxi driver rang and he said ‘I can’t get outside your shop’ so he parked way around back of Countdown," Mrs Todd said.
There had also been a case in which a person passed out in Potpourri Vegetarian Cafe — just outside the cordon — and the ambulance was delayed getting to them, Mrs Todd said.
"It’s just been diabolical, really.
"I’ve been here for 10 years in this particular place ... and I would have thought places like myself or Gallery De Novo, we would have been asked our opinion. We weren’t.
"The little pizza shop [Pizzeria Da Francesca] across the road, they were consulted [and] they have been here six months. They don’t have any idea of what closures mean.
"We’ve all been here for many closures and they always drop our totals, 25% to 50%."
"I want it to go back the way it was and I want them to reinstate parking.
"Parking’s been eliminated in this town like you would not believe."
The difficulty of navigating the closed Octagon and its surrounding roads — whether for bus drivers, couriers or delivery people, tourists on foot or those looking for taxis — has been a common complaint among all of the surrounding businesses.
Colin Lim owns I Love Merino in the Octagon and Kiwi Nest in Stuart Street.
He was furious at the way the closure had been carried out and largely blamed moving the carriageway — where tourists were dropped — from the middle of the Octagon for costing his business up to 50% of its usual revenue on some days.
"I just wish they would put the cruise ship buses back in to give us our business back.
"If they just put the buses back in the Octagon ... that’s the reason we’re there. Our businesses have evolved, right down towards the railway station because of tourism, and if we don’t have tourists having those same foot flows as before, half of us are in the wrong place."
The "Octagon Experience" was a totally unfair trial, Ms Irving said.
"If this was a [fair] trial they would do a week and they would do one thing at a time, not three.
"In this case they closed the Octagon, they shifted the cruise ship buses and they paid for events to happen in the Octagon.
"Doing those three things at once completely obscures the effect of pedestrianisation. If they wanted to trial pedestrianisation they would also trial it when they weren’t paying an event, when they weren’t shifting the cruise ship buses and in the middle of winter when there was nothing on when the weather was foul, which it is.
"They loaded these three things together, so they can’t measure one of them."
Ms Irving was not convinced the council was carrying out a good cost-benefit analysis of the trial — something she said did not happen when there was a three-day closure of George St for the Glow event in July last year.
"It’s the feel-good factor that they’re measuring.
"They did the same with Glow ... they said that was good proof that pedestrianisation would work because 55,000 people attended it and they never asked the retailers what was the effect of being closed for a week."
"It’s the retailer that gets left with the empty space on a windy day without even a taxi being allowed to drop a person off to your shop.
"The Octagon looks like a sandpit where the children have left their toys hanging around in it."
Craft Bar & Kitchen owner John MacDonald said his restaurant usually did well from lunch services on cruise ship days, but that had been reduced significantly by the closure.
The two concerts had not brought much relief because it rained incessantly on the day Elton John played and Mr MacDonald said he suspected many people did not feel like going out after the Queen concert because it was a Monday night.
Mark Fraser is one of the owners of Mac’s Brew Bar in Stuart St, Nova Cafe in the upper Octagon and Jizo Japanese Cafe & Bar in Princes St.
He said he was happy with the Octagon closure for the Masters Games, which ran in the city centre from February 1 to February 9.
Mac’s Brew Bar was often very busy during that time and it had been able to extend its outside seating.
However, Mr Fraser said he was aware of the difficulty some of the other businesses were having and was sympathetic to them.
That feeling was the same from The Perc Cafe owner Sarah Hussey, who added that the retail businesses served an important purpose in the Octagon area.
She was concerned the area was approaching its "saturation point" when it came to restaurants, bars and cafes.
There were also now no carparks in front of The Perc Cafe, which dented the amount of business the cafe was getting between 7am and 9am, Mrs Hussey said.
Albar manager Grant Benson said the Octagon closure had worked well for the business.
"Here at Albar it’s gone really well.
"Great to have the extra space for all the extra people for the Masters Games and the concerts."
The one down side he noted was the traffic that came through without permission.
"Unfortunately, the traffic wasn’t policed properly and so here on lower Stuart Street we’ve had lots of vehicles parking and coming in that aren’t authorised.
"They sit out here and park all day. Sometimes it hasn’t felt very pedestrian."
The owner of the Craic Irish Tavern and the Thistle Cafe and Bar, Claire Grenfell, said she would rather wait until all of the different trials of the Octagon had been carried out before she gave any opinion on it.
A NUMBER of amenities have been set out for visitors in the Octagon, including table tennis tables, extra seating and tables with the odd umbrella, as well as plants and small trees.
A stage had been set up for entertainment and to cater for the 5000 competitors who took part in the Masters Games, which were declared a resounding success by the organiser.
On Thursday, Australians Ann and Ken London were loving their time in Dunedin, despite the relentless rain.
The pair were enjoying the shelter of the London plane trees and the bus stop covers.
"It’s lovely to look around and take it all in," Mrs London said.
"This morning was great and there were people playing table tennis down there, which was lovely.
"We’ve been walking since about 9.30, we’ve seen the train station and bought some souvenirs.’’
By then Mr London was desperate for some fish and chips and they were on their way to Best Cafe, in lower Stuart St.
The couple had been left confused when they arrived in the city and their bus driver did not know where to drop them off.
"This morning the bus driver wasn’t aware of the closure and so he had to take another street and ended up dropping us down three streets away.
"He was totally confused about what was going on. He said ‘I’m sorry I don’t know why I’m not supposed to drop you here, I’ll have to drop you’.
"So we just found our way up here."
British tourists John and Annette Richardson drove into the central city and parked their car there.
They were confused by all the signage and the closure.
"A lot of roadworks ... for whatever reason, I don’t know why they’ve got the roadworks," Mr Richardson said.
"The roadworks coming through messed me up a bit, driving in and my satnav didn’t recognise it so I had to revert."
However, the Richardsons were supportive of the closure.
"If you’re going to go touristy, it’s a great thing to do.
"Most European cities where there are very touristy bits they ban cars and it works and it makes it more accessible.’’
"To be honest it’s still early days,’’ he said.
"We are in the process of gathering a lot of data as you would with a trial and I just have to emphasise the fact the whole purpose of the trial is for us to be able to analyse the positive effects and the negative effects, if there are any, on any kind of treatment for the Octagon."
He said the trials came about from the council’s consideration of the Octagon’s long-term future.
"It wasn’t done with the intent to ... disadvantage any business.
"We don’t come to work each day trying to find out ways we can make people’s lives more difficult. We’re there to try to make these a positive experience for all concerned, including the retailers."
Mr Christie said discussions at a working group including Dunedin Host, the Otago Chamber of Commerce and others had led to a change in a plan to have cruise ship buses land at the railway station.
"As a result of that we put those cruise bus shuttles into Princes St.
"As I’m sure you can appreciate ... it’s not far from where they’re being dropped on Princes St to the central carriageway.
"In terms of getting close to those retailers ... we couldn’t have got any closer without compromising the closure that was the trial for that three week period."
Paramount to any plan was the safety of pedestrians "which meant the central carriageway was just not an option ... we couldn’t get them any closer to those retailers."
Mr Christie said the council was taking in Paymark data and "other research, which will give us the facts around what has actually been sold in and around the Octagon and Moray Pl during this trial.
"So that we have an evidence base that isn’t just the comments we’re getting from one or two retailers that believe it [the central carriageway] should be closer to their particular business."
He was aware some businesses had lost confidence in the council.
"We’ve had numerous discussions with many businesses and a lot of them have been very favourable.
"We do have some that we know have been in regular contact with us with concerns. We’ve done our best to try to mitigate things by putting options up for how we can improve that as best we can for those retailers.
"To be quite honest, unless we went back to what was originally there with central carriageway dropoff we weren’t going to satisfy them unless we got that."
He said they did still manage to drop a "significant amount" of people in the middle of the Octagon.
Mr Christie admitted the appearance of the Octagon was not helped by large orange signs that made it look like a construction site.
"This is a trial so any treatment’s going to be of a temporary nature.
"Criticism around orange cones, picket fences, whatever, they’re probably valid.
"If we had a budget that would allow for greater enhancement of that experiment, we would have. In an ideal world you wouldn’t have orange cones and you would have much better signage but I’m sure we’d have been criticised for the spend on that."
Mr Christie added the weather had not been helpful for promoting the pedestrian area.
- January 27 to February 16: Octagon closed completely for Masters Games, Elton John and Queen concerts and a Highlanders rugby game. The first part of the trial will end with the Thieves’ Alley Market Day today and a performance by the Royal NZ Pipe Bands Association’s annual competition tomorrow .
- February 17 until March 23: The Dunedin City Council will trial ‘‘different levels of activation’’ with parts of the Octagon closing while other parts open.
- March 10: The central carriageway reopens to buses and vehicles.