Octagon trials: call for patience after ‘tough’ first day

Contractors place planter boxes in lower Stuart St yesterday afternoon. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Contractors place planter boxes in lower Stuart St yesterday afternoon. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
While it was a "tough" first day for retailers, Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins is calling for patience after the first day of this year’s summer trials of the "Octagon Experience".

Road cones, high-vis vests and traffic snarls were more in evidence in the city centre than crowds of foot traffic yesterday, as the Dunedin City Council started its summer pedestrianisation trials of the Octagon — a prelude to a possible, more expansive, multimillion-dollar upgrade of the city centre.

Over the rest of summer, through a series of configurations, streets are to be filled with planter boxes, white picket fences and — ideally — large crowds, as a series of events hits the city, starting with the NZ Otago Community Trust Masters Games.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan visited Octagon retailers yesterday and for some, the less-than-busy streets during the set-up phase was a grim sign.

"Today’s been tough for many of the retailers," Mr McGowan said.

"The key to this now is making sure we get really good data that is going to create informed decision-making."

Mr Hawkins said he expected to see a "vibrant city centre" as people arrived for the events.

"I think from this weekend onwards ... it will be a significant and busy time in that part of the city.

"The whole point of doing this is to be able to refine it for future events in a way that works best for our local environment."

Council principal urban designer Kathryn Ward said the University of Otago would help collect data to "understand movement numbers and economic effects of the trial and help shape future decisions about the Octagon and the central city".

Council planning and environment committee chairman Cr David Benson-Pope said there was a lot of "misinformation" about the council’s plans, including some incorrectly saying it had plans to pedestrianise George St.

There were no current plans, "even in the short term to do even that much with the Octagon", he said.

Mr McGowan urged the council and community to remain flexible.

"If things are looking catastrophic in the next wee while, we need to be able to react fast enough to shorten things if necessary ... but equally if it’s going well we need to be celebrating with those who have made the right decisions if that’s the case," Mr McGowan said.



View all

Oh yes, nothing like that wonderful summer experience of seeing your business go broke while the clowns in the DCC play their anti car games.

Events may have a very short term gain for this area, but the councils anti alcohol people are doing their best to limit that success as well. Just clowns masquerading as urban designers.

Mr Lim, Take your own stats of when people enter your shop etc to compare it. Good to see that overseas visitors were interviewed not locals with a time restraint to get things done. Did the visitors know that Dunedin doesn't have Trams, Trains or a good Bus service. Mr Lim is bang on the money about the DCC wanting to close the area all the time. As for the the UNI reporting on this, are the Students not the Mayors mates and voted him in, so I'm betting that the end of the report will be wrote first then the middle and start of a report so it matched the wanted outcome. As mentioned in above comments these Councillors haven't a clue on a lot of things, The water appears to deep in water up to his bottom lip and struggling

"The water appears to deep in water up to his bottom lip and struggling"

What is this nonsense you are spouting now?

Do your conspiracy theories know no bounds?

my apologies Dunedin - please accept, it might have been a typo or an edit from the ODT as often done when a comment is not 100% PC, or fit or towing the Councils line- Unfortunately I can not confirm that.
It was meant to be tongue and cheek for 'Dunedin Hawkins is calling for patience after the first day of this year’s summer trials of the "Octagon Experience".

Which IMHO is quick off the mark because they obviously know the closure is controversial and people are sick of his leadership already and how the town is being destroyed shaped and there is nothing people can do really.

I guess my 'conspiracy theories and others have no bounds kind of like the Councils continued waste of coin with little to no accountability of what they do and sweep things under the carpet and say nothing or oh well.
once again please accept my humble apologies no offence intended

Oh whats happening to Sammies

ODT reply: Hi Rtn2Dun, we did not edit your post at all. The above comment was exactly what you wrote. Cheers

Getting sick of these small minded claims that businesses will fail due to these changes. When was the last time you went to the Octagon and parked directly outside wherever you were going, 99% of the time you park in the parking buildings near by.

If I was doing business in the Octagon I'd park near the area, then move to the next area. Tim it is about the 'flow-on effects' those who parked in the Octagon will not be able to so people will go further to park, pushing those people out to areas where others usually parked. Nothing wrong with walking however it's about 'time is money' elderly people who can't walk as far, Parents with young children prams and shopping to be carried, the wind rain. What is nearby?

Mate, how about the DCC close the streets around the place you work? Think it might have an impact on your employers bottom line? Think it might be really inconvenient? Even if they only lost a couple of sales every day that's still money lost for what? What should they have to loose any money? DCC made the decision without consulting any of the businesses. Small minded? DCC are elected officials who are accountable to US! They are supposed to act in our best interests. The closure is not in our best interest! You may not have any issues with the DCC walking all over your rights but a lot of Dunedin residents do! Guarantee you wouldn't see any street closures that would inconvenience the DCC! I don't think the businesses are small minded...just some of Dunedin's residents!

I think Cr David Benson-Pope summed things up correctly when he said: "they (DCC) have no plans". I think what he might have meant to say was they (DCC) have no clue! Here is an idea for Benson-Pope. How about we close the DCC on a trial basis? Maybe initially move to a 4 day work week and prorate employee pay accordingly. Think of the potential savings? We all need to do our part and remain flexible right? How many days until we can vote these clowns out of office and they can rejoin the circus?

Should have been set up in the night. The presence of hi viz cones and jackets makes it look like a confusing consruction zone. Hardly the 'atmosphere' that would be expected by people looking for a relaxing shopping and eating experience.
I would agree to give this a chance to work, but not if it's looking like a 'red zone'.
Lets see how it pans out. However, I would also be tempted to put this whole idea on the back burner and get on with dealing with our basic services over spending $60m to pedestrianise George St.
We're seeing too many 'frills and financial thrills' at the expence of basic services.
I doubt Dunedin residents are on board with this sort of experiment and expenditure right now.
Come on DCC, get your basic services and books in order first eh? The frills can be looked at later. People found Dunedin to be a very desirable place to live long before the Plastic Yurt, Ego Structures and Bridges to Nowhere. Get good at the basics.

As you know I am no sycophant when it comes to the Council's doings but most cities worth visiting have car free areas of public space about their centres. I can't see this being a major problem for shops and bars in the long term, areas like this attract people and people means more foot traffic. Most cars in the area are just passing through to somewhere else.

A work in progress. All you 'businesses' will be smiling again soon when the crowds arrive. Meanwhile, we non-business people might like to WALK around OUR city centre without the noise, pollution and danger of traffic! Or drunks.

Build it and they will come? The octagon isn't the field of dreams! Nobody goes to the octagon to shop! There aren't any shops. What are you going to walk around and look at at? The center of the city is pretty much dead and other than drunks there isn't much to look at! Business won't be smiling until the next election and then only if competent professionals are elected who have a plan to revitalize this dying city. Don't confuse the retoric the ODT and DCC arr feeding you about our economy. Drive around the city and county the number of empty shops...even around the octagon. Ask the young people why they are leaving. No jobs and a crummy economy! Closing the octagon hurts local businesses and for what? You may want to walk the octagon but must people want good jobs and a good economy. DCC is clueless!

Timmy Well said, we moved back to Dunedin 5 years ago after being away 30 years, we bought a house loved the town ( not city any more) and was disgusted at how Cull was not running the show. no accountability and didn't care about the people who pay their wages. 18 Months later we moved away because of the lack of jobs and could see the place getting worse, Dunedin was the same old place I left in 1988 if not going backwards. Dunedin needs employment the IT world was Cull's golden ticket and answer to everything, not everybody is all good with IT, where the oil and gas bring a lot of follow on fields. This Mayor is no better than Cull and sorry to say him and his greens vision are wreaking Dunedin, ( the Greens are wreaking every town in NZ slowly but surely) I feel sorry for the people of Dunedin, I'm glad my parents encouraged me to select a career 17 that got me out of Dunedin and I've been spoilt with traveling. Dunedin will always be special because it was my birth town and I still have family there but Wake up Dunedin, the Mayor is a drop-kick and so are most of the councillors except the odd one or two. IMHO CR Lee Vandervis would be an awesome mayor,

View all



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter