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The Octagon Experience evaluation report published yesterday will be considered by Dunedin city councillors next week and "inform planning on George St and other major projects", but it shows the trial was initially unpopular and could have hurt businesses.
The council summary and specialist reports — by consultants Aitken Taylor, First Retail and DCC Chair in Entrepreneurship University of Otago economist Professor Nathan Berg — were published by the Dunedin City Council yesterday.
Mayor Aaron Hawkins said there were "no real surprises" in the 224-page report, but said there was value in trialling ideas.
"Some parts of the Octagon Experience were a success, and some I wouldn’t suggest repeating in terms of what it looked like and how we did it," he said.
"Nobody can read this report and honestly argue otherwise, regardless of their own personal priorities within it."
There were three distinct phases to the trial, which ran from January 27 to March 23, and was timed to coincide with the Masters Games, concerts by Elton John and Queen, and the peak summer season.
Cr Carmen Houlahan congratulated the council "for releasing such honest reports that are at times very critical of what happened".
Cr Sophie Barker said the report showed a lack of engagement, consultation, and planning and was ultimately an opportunity "wasted".
Since the project had a $150,000 budget she was surprised by the trial’s $377,000 price tag.
"Council has talked about engagement but hasn’t followed through," Cr Andrew Whiley said.
Cr Lee Vandervis called Prof Berg’s report "the most comprehensive, best summarised and referenced report I can remember".
"It highlights the time/money/pollution costs associated with slowing traffic and shows that the Octagon Experience resulted in income losses of near 20% for many businesses," he said.
Cr Jules Radich said: "It doesn’t look good — it looks like the Octagon Experience was financially bad for the Octagon businesses."
The trial was largely unpopular with the public until the third phase began in March, council community and planning group manager Nicola Pinfold and city services general manager Sandy Graham wrote.
In phase one, from January 27 to February 16, 795 submissions were received and 69% said they did not enjoy the experience.
A total of 559 submissions were received during phase two, from February 17 to March 9, and 67% were negative.
But during phase three, from March 9 to March 23, of 539 submissions received, 60% said they enjoyed the experience.
First Retail data shows spending in the Octagon was up year-on-year in January by 10.8% compared with a 4.2% increase in the rest of Dunedin.
But spending was only up by 6.7% in the Octagon in February, less so than the rest of the city (10.3%).
Spending fell by -42.6% in the Octagon in March while the rest of the city dropped -3.4%.