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Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins holds a new speed limit sign for George St as he celebrates the...
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins holds a new speed limit sign for George St as he celebrates the launch of a Dunedin City Council public health response to allow for physical distancing in potentially crowded city centre streets. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
The Dunedin City Council has "very suddenly" become business friendly - but not everyone is buying it.

After a 9-4 vote yesterday, the council’s planning and environment committee approved temporary measures designed to slow traffic in the city centre.

They include lowering the speed limit in George St to 10kmh to promote physical distancing under Covid-19 Alert Level 2 - the idea being pedestrians could step on to the road if they needed to avoid others - and to encourage people to come back to the city centre to support businesses emerging from lockdown.

The "Safer CBD Streets - Covid-19 response" plan had divided opinions, but the transport-driven public health response allowed for a decision between two different "worst-case scenarios", Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said.

"There are far greater forces at play in terms of what makes a business viable in an environment than what we are doing here," he said after the meeting.

"If you have to choose between people dying and people being made redundant, that doesn’t seem like a difficult choice for me."

While the council’s plan includes the temporary 10kmh speed limit in George and Princes Sts, the installation of temporary speed bumps, and increasing the frequency of Barnes dance crossings, one of the contentious aspects of the plan among opponents was called "pedestrianisation by stealth".

Cr Lee Vandervis said the council had done nothing for the past two months to help businesses - but now, with an opportunity to continue with the type of planning that led to the George St one-way proposal and the recent Octagon trial closure, the council "very suddenly" decided to do something.

It was ultimately "window dressing" and a $40,000 experiment where the councillors’ vote amounted to "retrospective rubber stamping" of a plan already in progress, he said.

"As far as pedestrianisation by stealth - we have a long history of it already," he said.

"There’s a lot of ‘governance’ happening that’s not inclusive of councillors and you’re starting to see some councillors finally actually buck up about that, despite the enormous pressures against them, despite the ringing around that has been absolutely intense on this issue to try and get councillors to make sure that this thing went through.

"It’s not democratic, either - ringing people repeatedly to make sure they vote a certain way on an issue like this is hardly in the interests of democracy, is it?"

Jeweller Brent Weatherall, who presented a petition with 6000-plus signatures on Thursday against a previously proposed one-way traffic flow change in George St, said yesterday he watched pedestrian in the street acting "very compliantly" with respect to social distancing without any added measures.

He said he did not have faith in the claim the measures were a public health response.

"All it is is just disgraceful - it’s just a strategic stealth action by the council to implement their desire of fully pedestrianising the centre of Dunedin," he said.

"I’m not buying it one bit."

AA Otago District Council chairman Malcolm Budd called the decision "unbelievable".

"There’s been no modelling done on it, there’s been no consultation," he said.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan said it was important for the council to get alongside businesses and ensure it knew what the plan meant for them.

"There needs to be a really strong engagement," Mr McGowan said.

"Nobody else has the full details ... They need to be out there making sure those people aren’t worried because there’s enough stress and anxiety at this time already."

Before the vote, Mr Hawkins urged other councillors to recognise "criticism is inevitable" about whatever action the council took.

"This work that we’re doing ... is entirely a public health response, that allows people to return to the city centre confident that they can do that safely," he said later.

"What we eventually do with George St is a separate discussion. But insofar as council is committed to making our central city more people-friendly, there will quite possibly be overlaps between the kinds of things that you see coming out of the George St work and the kind of things we are seeing as a response to the Covid-19 situation.

"Because council has committed to a set of principles and how we manage urban design in our city centre, it seems likely that the eventual outcome of the George St work or any of the central city plan work will support a more people-friendly street."

Cr Jules Radich, as a property owner in George St, tried for a second straight day to delay the decision as he awaited advice from the auditor-general on participating in the vote.

After the vote, he said the original proposal in the agenda had been "diluted thanks to those councillors that pushed back". Car parking would be retained and fewer speed bumps would be installed.

"I don’t want to bag that main street because my fear - just as all the retailers fear - is that people will then stay away ... There has been nothing done to attract people to the main street other than to say that we’re going to make it better for pedestrians."


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Call me cynical if you want but I'm willing to bet that after this "public health" change has been in place for a few months then there will be a revised push by some councillors to permanently pedestrianise George St. Those councillors will, of course, us this "public health" change as proof that it works.

These changes are nothing more than a trial implementation by stealth.

" consultation" DCC. The DCC appears to never let a crises go to waste for their agenda. They sound more dictatorial with every meeting they hold. Maybe a rates strike is in order to change their minds? I would love to see the DCC feel the pain of its ratepayers who have lost huge chunks of income during this year. Instead they seems happy to sponge off those who give them their salary- even at 80% salary they are overpaid vv their worth. If they had to work in the private sector they would know that.

Memo to Mr Hawkins: it's not a choice "between people dying and people being made redundant", it's a choice between people dying now and people dying (and suffering much misery) later.

Quote: "It’s not democratic, either — ringing people repeatedly to make sure they vote a certain way on an issue like this is hardly in the interests of democracy, is it?"

A previous council I believe, operated in a very similar fashion. The next election will be very interesting, and it should start with a referendum to select the voting system the people of the city are happy with. Too much is rammed down our throats by supposedly democratically elected public 'servants'. The elitism that has ruled over and within the DCC over the past decade or so needs rooting out, starting at the very highest level.

I would like to thank the ODT for the list on how the vote went.
Those that pushed this madness through by stealth.
Hawkins, Barker, Garey, Hall, Laufiso, O’Malley, Staynes, Walker, Benson-Pope.
Their names now sit on my fridge door, as a reminder for the next election.

I'll get the fridge magnet stickers underway :)

I'm sorry Dunedin Businesses, my family and I can no longer support you. Not because we don't want too, but because we cant. That $20-$30 a month we were spending on parking is now going to cover the DCC & ORC rates increase. My spouse lost his job and I'm about to lose mine. Between the cost of parking, street closures, and whatever this speed limit change is, it's just not time or cost-effective to shop downtown. This mayor and council don't represent me or the people so I won't support anything affiliated with DCC. I wish I could say they will all be voted out but that's never going to happen. The adoption of STV has ensured the least qualified are elected and remain in office. Again, I am sorry and wish the businesses here in Dunedin the best of luck because you will need it. This is the most inexperienced and inept group of people the city has ever seen. From the ashes, they will build a new city where they continue to prosper at our expense. Hawkins and Co are firm believers in the adage "Do waste a good crisis". The city is doomed!

The efforts of a 'citizens initiated referendum' could unhinge the current STV system. The first step is to implement the voting system that upholds the wishes of the public of Dunedin via a referendum. Secondly, though equally important, is for everyone to exercise their democratic right to vote. Only then, do you actually have a fairly elected group of local body leaders that genuinely represent the people of Dunedin. The current idealistic elitist thinking of council will not fade away if the public remain sitting on their hands.

No one believes this is a public health move.

It is simple. The Octigan experiment proved removing parking removes shoppers. These smirking councillors are simply speeding up the demise of George St as a shopping destination.

Maybe a couple more $2 a bowl lentil restaurants will open to cater for councillors, town planners and students. The few businesses that do survive will relocate to the suburbs.

Looks more like Hawkins is holding up a target for how many votes he will end up with next election!

10kph seems like a good speed to avoid the tumbleweeds.

Shame on the councillors who capitulated to mayoral bullying and let this stupid idea pass. It's hard to know who runs this shambles of a council. The nutty mayor or a clique of idealistic planners with no interest in the people and businesses of Dunedin. We need a good clean out of the lot of them.

I would have a sneaky suspicion the 'phone calls of pressure' came from further up the food chain.
Quote: Council chief executive Sue Bidrose said there were more than 70 speed limit signs ready to put in place from yesterday afternoon, as well as "many, many, many" circles to be painted on the road with the Dunedin logo on them "that would remind people that the road space is ‘cars and cycles and scooters and pedestrians’."

Aaron is naive and inexperienced, that has become blatantly clear. Strings may well be played from a higher level, and I would suspect, those strings were/are attached to a few others within the current and past council....hence the internal divisions. Some councillors, new to the game would feel intimidated by such moves.
There be many spoon stirs the pot........the meal has become overcooked.....the pot needs a scrub out.

I think the DCC councillors who voted for this change need to ask themselves if it is really their wish or are they just following the will of others. I they think it will help them keep their jobs or that changing the city this way is really about the health of anyone then they need to have a close look at the health of the city. The city is poorly because the businesses are suffering as a result of bad DCC decisions before lockdown and now that tourism is so badly damaged, the very businesses that are the sickest are being kicked in the guts by this ridiculous restriction of the usual flow of traffic and pedestrian movement. None of the comments section in here are for this and some angry ones remind me of what it was like during the Springbok tour.

The idiot has to go along with the clown show of stupidity called the council,hopefully the next council will reverse this deceit.

This is the same Council who just about destroyed these businesses with their idealogical dreams before the lockdown, and who have declared a climate emergency for the City, yet continue to build cycle lanes and a Hospital which will go under water by there own beliefs about sea levels rising !!!!!

"The hitch hikers guide for stealth" is out folks....get your copy...

Quoting Mayor Hawkins: "If you have to choose between people dying and people being made redundant, that doesn’t seem like a difficult choice for me."
Notice the 'if. This might sound good but logically is actually a FALSE false dilemma. A simplistic and spurious argument.

Maybe when aaron hawkins grows up and can pass his drivers licence he might appreciate how fast 10 kms is.

Hilarious walk up George St today. Apart from the visually offensive blue bubbles turning the precinct into some sort of comedic landscape no one was following the Mayoral and Benson Pope directive. The citizens have spoken, the Mayor is now wallowing in a cess pit of regulatory stupidity . It is fun to watch

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