Octagon trial not popular

People enjoy a warm day at the Octagon earlier this year. Photo: ODT files
People enjoy a warm day at the Octagon earlier this year. Photo: ODT files
Pedestrianisation trials in the Octagon early this year were marred by a global pandemic, a lack of consultation and a budget blowout.

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%.

Comments

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"there was value in trialling ideas" .....Mayor Aaron Hawkins.

How about your next trial being one where you and your council try to stop wasting ratepayer money for a period of 6 months?!

Now that's a trial 99% of ratepayers would support.

Amazing. I was starting to wonder if I was going mad.
All too often we are presented with reports in the media about all manner of things that simply don't fit with what our own sensors tell us.
My eyes showed me there were fewer people 'enjoying' the space. My ears heard others saying the same and retails complaining about trade. The space felt empty, deserted, uninviting and cold. Yet our ODT was full of positivity about the project at the time.
Pictures as above, didn't match my reality and I was wondering what I was missing. Was I becoming unhinged, disconnected from society, out of tune with the rhythm of life in the city? Doubt about my own sanity was creeping in about this project and many other trending issues.
Now an official report that matches my reality. What a novelty. What a relief.
Yes, we are fortunately living in a great little place that is barely big enough to call a city. We don't have a continental climate and that NE sea 'breeze' always kills the warmest days and the hills cast big shadows but we still love it.
We need a livable city, a mobile place, a warm corner, a happy space, a welcoming smile, not a playground, full of shadows for a main street.

$377,000 These people need locking up for blatant stupidity whoever is behind it should be sacked,it's easy to spend other peoples money,the Mayor should also offer his resignation as well he's an idiot.

Could someone please tell me where I can find these reports?

How about a 6 month trial on the impact of closing DCC?

How about my observation of the experiment: poorly planned, poorly implemented, poorly managed and driven by ideolgical imperatives rather than good planning or common sense.
And somehow they managed to spend over double the budget. What is the George St mess going to actually cost, only $90 million or $120 million because budgets mean nothing when you simply don't care whose money you are spendng.

The whole idea was stupid that is why it was not popular.

"Mayor Aaron Hawkins said there were "no real surprises" in the 224-page report.." So why the hell do it in the first place?

"Some parts of the Octagon Experience were a success" - what a ridiculous statement. What does it even mean? A man enjoying a beer in the Octagon was a success? The kiddies in the sandpit had a good time one afternoon? This council is rife with stupidity and are carrying on like 12 year olds.

Only idiotic Far Leftists can spend $377,000 of other people's money then basically shrug and say "it seemed like a good idea at the time."

Vote them OUT!

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