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Running a retail business from a physical address has become a lot tougher for shopkeepers large and small in recent years.

Enticing people away from online shopping is a constant battle and, depressingly, for some retailers many of the prospective customers through their doors might be tyre kickers checking something out before making a decision to buy it online. Shoppers can be a fickle lot, always chasing the supposed bargain, without necessarily thinking about what impact that might be having in their own communities.

It is understandable that any threats to street retailers’ profits are concerning, even if they might be temporary. This was clear recently when some central city retailers expressed their concerns shortly after the beginning of the Octagon Experience, a $150,000 trial to make the Octagon area more pedestrian-friendly. This includes parts of Princes, George and Stuart Sts and extends as far as Moray Pl.

There has been almost complete vehicle prohibition in the area since January 27 and this will continue until Friday. Smaller partial closures will apply after then until March 23. The closures have been timed to coincide with major events such as the Masters Games, Elton John and Queen concerts at Forsyth Barr Stadium, the Thieves Alley market day and the Otago Southland pipe band competition.

The retailers who aired their concerns publicly said after a few days of the trial their takings were dramatically down on what they expected at the time of year. This appeared to be linked to less foot traffic from cruise ship passengers.

There must be ways of encouraging such visitors into shops in the area and hopefully work is being done on this.

It seems unlikely that the sorts of shops there usually depend on shoppers being able to drive up to the door. They are not selling bulky goods which would need to be bundled into a vehicle.

However, some other businesses and services have also been upset at the changes to bus stops and car parks, the impact on traffic flow in the area and the difficulty those with limited mobility would have reaching their services. Concerns about the length of time it took to set up the streets for the trial are justified. It is a pity this could not have been organised over a weekend. As it was, the area looked like a dog’s breakfast for several days, with empty planters dotted about higgledy-piggledy and it was difficult for pedestrians to be sure what was going on.

Whoever decided that white picket fencing should be used to corral drinkers and separate them from foot traffic in the lower Octagon needs to re-think that eyesore, too. While there have been staff circulating in the area to provide information, it would have been good to see a general sign explaining the Octagon Experience. Anyone confronted by the No Entry signs at the entrance points would not have readily understood they were entering a pedestrian-friendly zone.

We can understand the City Council did not want to be accused of wantonly spending taxpayers’ money on this experiment, but we are not sure ensuring it looked more cohesive would have necessarily been more expensive. As part of its analysis of the trial, the council is seeking feedback on the Octagon Experience in a brief online survey on its website. The questions seem limiting: you can only say yes or no to the query about whether you enjoyed the Octagon Experience. Ambivalence is not an option. There is, however, opportunity to record general comments.

It would be unfair to be too critical before the trial has run its course. The point of a trial, after all, is to find out what works and what does not. We remain hopeful, that if the city is blessed by some better weather, that at the end of the trial most shopkeepers’ fears about their revenue downturn will have been allayed.


 

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Like many Dunedin residents I closely follow the DCC, mostly out of morbid curiosity. Everytime I deal with the DCC I can't help but think of what Edward Abbey once said: one man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bonafide stupidity there isn't anything that can beat teamwork. Sums it up pretty good!

Why is it a good thing for drinkers to mingle with the more sensible public?

What gives somebody the right to control or define the rights of others? So only non-drinkers should be allowed to use the Octagon? Are you saying only non-drinkers are sensible? Who gets to define what's sensible? What if my definition of sensible is different from yours? Whose definition prevails? Maybe a sensible person would be less judgmental concerning who can and can not use the octagon.

Society decides.
In social organisation, 'rights' are more collective than individual.

Mate, totally agree and well said. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act guarantees ALL people in New Zealand certain rights. That said, NO; society does not decide what those rights are and there is no mention in the law about "social organizations". So the response is complete rubbish to the points you raise. I'm really disturbed that someone would discriminate against another individual because they drink. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act guarantees ALL people the right of freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Labeling someone "unsensible" and proposing to deny them the ability to utilize the octagon because they drink is discriminatory and denies people of these basic rights. I don't drink but I would never presume to use my PERSONAL CHOICE to refrain from consuming alcohol as a pretense to deny others of their rights which is what is being proposed here. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to uninformed opinion designed to deny other of their rights!

Our rights are individual and derived from law. I am a libertarian, if you want to give your rights away that's your choice. But I don't think you will be successful at limiting the rights of others. I don't drink, but I will vehemently oppose any efforts by people to infringe on the rights of other citizens to peacefully enjoy the public spaces in and near the octagon. I don't view people that drink in a negative way. Unbelievable that someone would segregate people because they had a beer. That doesn't sound very sensible you think?

This article is so poorly written, please define a structure to your points. Why does the ODT publish something which devalues their own content? my 7 year old daughter can write more concisely.
In response to the points raised. I guess it's a trial of the space and things like fencing need to be temporary and function. As for the tourist shops, it's not the councils responsibility to herd tourists into any shops. Business owners should invest in attractive frontage and signage.
As for the cost. The bars would return tax dollars two fold through increased business. Not bad bro

The clowns on the council need locking up and in the real world this would happen, a chimpanzee would have a bigger IQ than all of of them put together.

Surely something can be done to draw people into these pedestrian only areas. Well yes, something very simple can be done. Open the area to cars, re-instate parking and people will come.
You could of course take the DCC course - remove even more parking from Moray Place, remove all the parking from George St and make a meandering semi mall.
This is only the start of the demise of the city shopping precint. Suburban shopping areas will celebrate the return of shoppers. And the mayor and his mates can celebrate a greens victory.

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