Council cash for Octagon closures

Residents and visitors enjoy the sunshine in the pedestrianised area of the Octagon and lower Stuart St during the recent Ed Sheeran concerts. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Residents and visitors enjoy the sunshine in the pedestrianised area of the Octagon and lower Stuart St during the recent Ed Sheeran concerts. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
The Dunedin City Council is to fund further trial closures of the Octagon to vehicles, as the push for pedestrianisation gathers pace.

Councillors yesterday approved $75,000 a year to pay for further trials of pedestrianisation in the Octagon and lower Stuart St in 2018-19 and 2019-20, despite vocal opposition from Cr Lee Vandervis.

Cr Aaron Hawkins, promoting the move, said the idea of pedestrianisation had been discussed for 50 years or more.

But, despite the success of the temporary closure of the Octagon to vehicles for Ed Sheeran's three massive concerts, there had been little progress in recent years, he said.

And, despite a growing number of public submissions calling for action, the council had allocated nothing in its budget to advance the concept, he said.

The council needed a budget if it was serious about ''giving our city centre back to the people'', he said.

''It's something every successful city in the world has done. I don't think it's anything we need to be afraid of,'' he said.

The move was supported by most councillors, including Cr David Benson-Pope, who said the imminent removal of buses from the area, and the health ''or not'' of the Octagon's plane trees, meant change was coming.

That could include a reorientation of the Octagon away from the central carriageway, to line up with the Municipal Chambers and St Paul's Cathedral, he suggested.

Cr Vandervis disagreed, saying the earliest photos of the Octagon showed carriageways, horses and carts, underscoring the area's traditional role as a crossroads.

Motorists driving through the Octagon were people, too, and talk of pedestrianisation was ''actually a car ban'', he argued.

Mayor Dave Cull said he was not yet sure if he supported complete pedestrianisation of the area, but ''that's what we have a trial for''.

If further trials identified a significant problem, such as a drop in trade for businesses, he was ''pretty sure'' a permanent change would not proceed.

Cr Conrad Stedman also indicated he wanted a similar trial closure to be considered at the Esplanade at St Clair.

Councillors spoke in support of the idea, but Cr Stedman later withdrew his resolution after staff raised concerns about the unbudgeted cost and extra workload in an increasingly busy 2018-19.

He would instead raise the idea during a later round of council committee meetings.

Mr Cull said that did not mean the council was against a change for the Esplanade at St Clair.

If it was up to him, he would pedestrianise the whole place immediately, he said.

Comments

I no longer live in Dunedin, if this is the case then the Council had better have a standard plan to be used every time the Octagon closes to save money with a map of where the items will be placed starting with the items from ED's closure - where are they now. These need to be in storage and accounted for, no taking these home to peoples houses/. The itemised list should include concrete barriers possibly painted by school children. furniture planter boxes and the such like, No wasting tax payers coin buying new stuff each time, the only cost should be upkeep, fork hoists, trucks and peoples wages. the plan should be displayed on the councils website so everybody knows everything is above board.