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Infrastructure underneath Dunedin’s George St needs replacing. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Infrastructure underneath Dunedin’s George St needs replacing. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Everyone should have a view on George St and what its future should look like, writes Dunedin City Councillor Andrew Whiley.

Dunedin has currently got one of the best main streets in the country. However, everyone needs to appreciate that services underneath it require upgrading; ageing infrastructure more than 100 years old.

But the question that everyone is asking is "What is George St going to look like?" Most importantly "What do WE want George St to be and how will it function?"

Between February and April 2019, the design principles were shared with various groups and organisations.

Principles presented included: 1, Putting People First 2, Creating an Otepoti Dunedin Sense of Place 3, Greening the City and 4, Streets as Places.

Artist’s impressions, photos of New Zealand streetscapes were shown, and feedback sought.

The Chamber of Commerce consultation session I attended was well received with lots of comments made. My recollection was that most attendees were keen to see what the detailed plans would look like. Key comments were around traffic flow and parking. Everyone at the session was told there’d be future opportunity for engagement.

The report to council’s planning and environment committee (P&E) on April 16 2019, detailed the 1198 submissions: 554 engaged online via an interactive mapping tool, 293 used the DCC Council survey and 351 responded at workshops.

On May 14, 2020, Brent Weatherall and the Central Dunedin Business Group presented the 6000-plus signature petition to "Keep Two-way Traffic on George Street, Dunedin".

Councillors were asked on June 11, 2019, to endorse the preliminary concepts for the George Street-Central City Plan project. If that was endorsed, staff would progress the design, including further traffic modelling, baseline data collection and an Activity Plan. The project would continue as an integrated and collaborative initiative across council and [consultant to councils] Aukaha.

The report included basic mapping, traffic flow indications and some sketches "George Street Typologies". I noted the report had limited mention of how traffic flow in streets around the CBD would be influenced and about parking.

The report was deemed a "concept design". Like many, I anticipated this would lead to more developed design(s) including technical details, to be presented to councillors and stakeholders. The Activity Plan would be used to engage the community on how the space would work. Feedback would be sought, received, and then reviewed.

At council May 25, 2020 under "Next Steps", it was stated that using the preliminary design work and baseline studies completed since the June 2019 P&E meeting, staff will continue with stakeholder and community engagement. Feedback from engagement would be used to inform the Detailed Design and Detailed Business Case. The "Proposed Design" had graphics showing businesses and the street flow. It stated "Staff will continue with investigations, Detailed Design and traffic modelling work". Meanwhile, this was the first time many could see how George St ‘might’ look.

A council motion proposed: a) Notes the reports and other documents on this matter. b) Endorses the continuation of the George Street Retail Quarter section of the Central City Plan and c) Reconstitutes a Central City Advisory Group to provide feedback throughout the detailed design and business case stages of these proposals. d) Request staff report to the June 8 2020 Council meeting as to the suggested composition of the Central City Advisory Group and the Terms of Reference. I, along with three other councillors voted against this motion. My reasoning: I believed there needed to be greater engagement with those affected in George St.

On June 8, a council motion was tabled for the Central City Advisory Group and Terms of Reference (TOR). The council paper stated its TOR was to provide stakeholder feedback on the George St part of the Central City Plan. For this to happen, it’s vital to have all the right stakeholders at the table.

I don’t believe the membership of the Central City Advisory Group, as it was detailed in the council paper, truly reflects the appropriate mix of stakeholders. Both OUSA and Otago Polytechnic Student bodies were not included and surprisingly, the DCC’s own Youth Council was not asked to participate, yet [youth-led climate organisation] Generation Zero was included. No retailers were listed; only The Retail Subcommittee Chair of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of "Heart of Dunedin". None of the property owners in George St were included and the Automobile Association (AA) was there supposedly to represent ALL transport operators (including taxis, trucking and courier companies). I noted that Emergency Services was excluded as was DCC’s own chair of Economic Development.

Council presenters included former councillor and experienced retailer, Richard Thomson; representatives from Generation Zero; Dougal McGowan, CEO Chamber of Commerce; Malcolm Budd (AA representative) all wanting to be engaged. Susie Staley and Tony Clear provided clear messaging "if you are affected by the change you should be consulted". Include people in the process and be transparent and inclusive. Everyone wants a successful business, retail and hospitality area.

Design expert, Skye Duncan, director of the Global Designing Cities Initiative, commented that it was important to "get the details right and refine design". Chris Wilkinson, managing director of First Retail Group, stated the importance of bringing all the stakeholders together, referencing Wellington’s "Our CBD" project; include everyone and hear their views.

We may not agree at council on how we believe George St should function and look.

But we all agree that the work needs to be done, and for me, community engagement is key. However, most importantly we want an outcome which maintains George St as the best "main street" in the country. Let’s ensure this is our result.

 

Comments

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Good to hear someone is sticking up for the bleeding obvious, Andrew.
When looking at the proposed reduction of the one way system to a two way street which is being done at the same time but separately from George St, my concern is that the whole CBD will become a dead hole only accessible by bus, bike or foot.
Considering the age of the permanent Dunedin and surrounding districts population this is madness.
Where is the representation from senior citizens and the ratepayers that will be required to pay for this 'vision' ????
This stacking of key committees is the hallmark of Cull, Hawkins et al and that is why Dunedin is loaded with debt, dysfunctional enterprises and over paid executives.
We have the opportunity to make a great little city better but we must keep the ideologies at bay to do that.
This committee is no place for a small activist group to dump their utopia on us.

I think it is pointless for anyone to comment on the planned destruction of George St.
The greens and DCC management (largely greens aligned anyway) are determined to turn George st into a virtual mall. Stacking the advisory group with like minded people simply reinforces their desire to exclude any contrary opinion.

No, George St may well be one of NZ's best main streets, but it won't be when the greens are voted out at the next election.
None of the current council seem to remember the retail strip ran from near the Oval to its current end of George St. Steady decentralisation of shopping has meant the main st shopping area has steadily shrunk over the years. Turning George St into a dark dank mall will only hasten the reduction of retail in the area. Maybe the greens haven't noticed the facts that H&J Smith are leaving and Kmart are looking at moving to the exchange area.

The death of George St shopping will be slow and painful for business owners, but by then the greens will be long gone, presumably sitting watching the ships depart forever from Pt Chalmers. Another long yearned for target.

Brent Weatherall has claimed $53,407.20 of taxer payer money for 8 staff members during lockdown. This information is available online. Business must be booming no wonder he has a petition

The CBD will be interesting when The Meridian mall shuts down for a refurbishment and seismic strengthening for two years . and the closure of its carpark .
I agree George street and the city center need to move forward and become more attractive to everyone . Roading , parking, bus routes require a serious rethink . vehicles are getting bigger . NZ biggest selling vehicle . Ford Ranger can only get in wall street mall car park and the one behind the town hall . Rotorua has managed a reasonable balance , CHCH has done very well , but they had a cleanish sheet .

Are numbers 2, 3 and 4 principles, design or otherwise? "Principles presented included: 1, Putting People First 2, Creating an Otepoti Dunedin Sense of Place 3, Greening the City and 4, Streets as Places." Or are they concept-speak, meaningless but good for putting another 0 onto the consultation price?
What about Make the area work for all who pay to use it: retailers and hospo, shoppers, drinkers and diners, tradies who service the buildings. Hangers-about and time-fillers won't be excluded but there is no need for an indebted city to pay to provide them with seats and amusements in a *working* business district. The main street used to have a purpose. It was what it is still called, the "Central Business District". Access has been made steadily more difficult and expensive, from the removal of trams and trolley buses, through gouging charges for parking, to removal of parking spaces. Customers and businesses have reacted predictably by abandoning this unworkable area one after another. More cloudy "concepts" in place of a return to concentration on what the area is for, then making it work, will finish the job. Finally change the street name. What's te reo for ghost?

Well done Councillor Whiley and ODT for this article. It is great to see a councillor make an effort to communicate with the wider public in a open unguarded manner. It also highlights the madness of how a council operates with huge amounts of time and money already spent on the project while being no closer to making a decision that the majority want.
I hope such opinion articles become a more regular feature from our councillors and the ODT.

Good effort - but have you spoken to Cull and his supporters, I skimmed the article and picked up an obvious mistake 'everyone needs to appreciate that services underneath it require upgrading; ageing infrastructure more than 100 years old'- this must have really deteriorated in the last 3 years, I was in country road Dunedin when it rained heavenly for approximately 10 minutes a few years ago, it flooded the street, Cull and his merry men on council said it was global warming / climate and nothing to do with drains or services under ground not being maintained - just more proof Hawkins, Cull, Bidrose and Benson Pope are nothing but story tellers to fit what they want.

Walk down main street and count the number of empty shops. Walk down main street and count the number of redundant shops, how many ANZ? Subways? Night and Days? Go the whole length of the street. Then go to the meridian and count the number of empty shops. Add the loss of H&J and potential loss of Kmart. What do you have? It's not the best main street in New Zealand. Your dillusional if you think so. DCC is going to waste that money on this project no matter what we say. That's a fact. I'm sure the contractors all know who is building what and how much they are going to make. It isn't going to influence our economy, create jobs or improve the astetics of the CBD. It's just going to line the pockets of the same scum bags running the city. All we can do is pinch our noses and vote these losers out next election.

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