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The Dunedin City Council’s proposal is touted in council documents as an effort to encourage people to return to shopping areas and includes a temporary 10kmh speed limit in George and Princes Sts, the installation of temporary speed bumps, and increasing the frequency of Barnes dance crossings.
The proposal was called ‘‘disgusting’’, ‘‘pedestrianisation jammed down people’s throats’’, and an ideologically driven change that ‘‘could be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many businesses’’ by a series of business representatives yesterday.
The ‘‘Safer CBD Streets - Covid-19 response’’ plan, which will be considered at tomorrow’s planning and environment committee, was mooted by Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins at the May 4 council meeting.
Yesterday he rejected the notion that the plan represented a major change to the area; that there was only one viewpoint representative of the entire business community; and that the proposal was an example of pedestrianisation.
‘‘Yes, it’s about bringing people to the city centre but it’s about making people feel comfortable that they can return to that part of town and be able to maintain safe physical distance from one another,’’ he said.
‘‘This is about trying to support both customers and retailers to operate in an unusual environment for however long — we don’t know.’’
Mr Hawkins called writing off plans as ideologically driven ‘‘intellectually lazy’’ and said there was nothing proposed that could not be ‘‘turned off overnight’’.
He conceded there had been a trade-off between bringing a plan forward in time for the move to Level 2 and a higher level of consultation, but said another survey was sent out last night to seek views of businesses and building owners in the city centre.
Cr Jules Radich said the plan lacked ‘‘inclusive participation’’ and represented instead ‘‘an ideological drive’’ towards the goals of a car-free city centre.
He was opposed to an autocratic approach driven by thinking that did not recognise ‘‘car-driving culture’’ exists in New Zealand, the appeal of the ‘‘big box store’’ in suburbs, which offered convenient parking, and the need to ‘‘ease people in’’ to the idea of pedestrianisation of retail areas.
‘‘If you’ve got lots of convenient parking all around the periphery then people will use that — then you will have pedestrianisation as a natural progression, and a desirable thing,’’ he said.
‘‘I want an organic, natural, positive progress, so that we’re taking people on a journey where they want to go.
‘‘And instead what we’re having is pedestrianisation jammed down people’s throats and sold that this is the ‘wonderful idea of how you’d want it to be’.’’
The Otago Chamber of Commerce had not been consulted on the proposal and chief executive Dougal McGowan said he had not seen the details until Monday night.
The details had surprised members, and concerns the business community had not had the opportunity to be consulted ‘‘in a timely and effective way’’ in order to have changes ready for the first day out of lockdown was a theme in the feedback he received yesterday.
Heart of Dunedin spokeswoman Nina Rivett said the central business district advocacy group opposed reducing traffic flow and called for at least 12 months for businesses to regain resilience and try to attract people back into the city centre.
Radical change now ‘‘could be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many businesses’’.
George St jeweller Brent Weatherall, who is due to present a petition of more than 6000 signatures opposing the one-way traffic flow and pedestrianisation of George St earlier at the same meeting, said he was astounded a vote could be held on the new proposal moments later.
‘‘I think it’s disgusting,’’ he said.
‘‘It is a slap in the face of everybody that has gone out of their way to stand up and be counted against this council.
‘‘Business has spoken and they are opposed to this.’’