Lessons learned from trial: council manager

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Mistakes were made in the pedestrianisation trials in the Octagon at the start of the year.

Dunedin City Council staff did not communicate plans with councillors well, nor with the public — and further they underestimated the ‘‘complex use’’ of the Octagon, council city services general manager Sandy Graham said.

Under questioning at yesterday’s full council meeting, she said lessons learned from the mistakes would be used for any future trials.

‘‘We would bring something to council before any decisions were made.

‘‘We would look to involve them [stakeholders] and collaborate with them more, not have a predetermined outcome in place.

‘‘We would be far more expansive in who we were engaging with in the first place.’’

Council staff took the fall for mistakes in the trial when councillors considered the Octagon Experience evaluation report.

Ms Graham said a major lesson was that the council needed to “involve and collaborate rather than just inform”.

In future, the council would collect the ‘‘necessary’’ baseline data for the movement of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles in city centre streets as the reports would ‘‘inform planning on George St and other major projects’’.

The Octagon pedestrianisation trial, which ran from January 27 to March 23, was timed to coincide with the Masters Games, two concerts and the peak summer season.

Various confounding factors, including inclement weather and a global pandemic, influenced the outcome.

Despite conflicting reports from consultants First Retail and University of Otago economist Prof Nathan Berg, who holds the DCC Chair in Entrepreneurship, several councillors argued the trial proved pedestrianisation was bad for business in Dunedin’s core.

Cr Jules Radich said ‘‘overall this was an unpleasant experience for nearly all concerned’’.

‘‘Overall Octagon businesses suffered badly ... down 20%.’’

However, he and most other councillors commended staff for honest answers yesterday.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose did reject a suggestion by Cr Lee Vandervis that the ‘‘fundamental findings’’ of the trial showed a net negative effect of pedestrianisation in Dunedin and could show a need to pull back on plans for the city centre.

‘‘There are no plans to pedestrianise George St,’’ Dr Bidrose said. ‘‘George St is not being converted into exclusive use of pedestrians.’’


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