Consultation over loss of car parks 'not needed'

The planned shifting of a pedestrian crossing further up Beach St in Port Chalmers has yet to...
The planned shifting of a pedestrian crossing further up Beach St in Port Chalmers has yet to occur. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Loss of carparks outside the Port Chalmers Library was flagged as a potential issue for the planned shift of a pedestrian crossing, but consultation was considered unnecessary because of more parking elsewhere, documents suggest.

The subject was mentioned in emails released under the Official Information Act.

Port Otago had pressed the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA) to shift the crossing a few metres along Beach St and away from a busy intersection, citing safety concerns.

This would result in loss of carparks immediately outside the library and lack of consultation about this ended up being controversial, leading to a pause in the project early this year.

An email on July 19 last year from Dunedin City Council transport and road safety adviser Ian Martin showed the issue had been raised.

He did not see a problem with extending an exposed aggregate surface so there would be a consistent footpath.

"On a separate note, has there been any consultation on parking changes? I had a call from the library who are concerned about loss of parking."

A Port Otago representative replied "we have previously discussed that, because there will be a net increase in parking in Beach St, it was not considered necessary to consult on this".

In February 2021, the port referred to some of its development plans, including construction of a new administration building, and laid out its concerns about the existing roading configuration.

The port said shifting the crossing would make it much safer — "trucks won’t drive over the pedestrian crossing island or hit the various pedestrian crossing signs, as they do currently".

"Over the years we have observed many close calls between heavy vehicles coming down George St and cars turning right from Beach St into George St misjudging the distance required to get through the intersection."

Plans were refined, the port volunteered to contribute to costs and in July last year hopes were expressed by both the transport agency and the port that the crossing might be relocated before November that year.

It was then meant to happen last summer but didn’t.

Parking had also come up in an email from the port to the transport agency in September 2022.

"The works being carried out by Port Otago will result in a net increase for both private and public parking in this area, which will allay some concerns about loss of parking directly in front of the library."

About a year later, NZTA said it needed to know what the council’s position was on parking consultation.

One party with reservations was the West Harbour Community Board.

Asked by the Otago Daily Times in January this year about consultation, the transport agency initially said "Port Otago took a lead on early consultation and representatives of the project have met with both community board and Port Chalmers Library representatives during the planning of the proposed changes".

The agency soon struck a different tone, indicating a project review and saying "there is no urgency to progress the proposal until an acceptable outcome is reached, including addressing community concerns".

In an update yesterday, NZTA said it supported key changes proposed by the port, including minor adjustments at a port exit and removing the pedestrian crossing island, if required.