Retailers say petition shows opposition to George St changes

Two Central Dunedin jewellers have handed over a 6000-strong petition against pedestrianising George St, while accusing the council of pushing ‘‘fanatically obsessed views’’ and criticising the consultation on the idea.

Brent Weatherall and John Bezett made clear to Dunedin city councillors their opposition to a council vote last June for a preliminary plan to turn George St into a southbound one-way street.

As part of his submission on the council’s annual plan yesterday, Mr Weatherall said he was representing 40 businesses who felt there had been a breakdown in consultation and said the council needed to acknowledge the magnitude of 6000 signatures.

“Council is no place for fanatically obsessed views.

“Upgrades are a necessity. However, the impact of one-way traffic flow with a reduction in parking would be catastrophic for business and citizens alike.’’

Opposition made clear ... George St jeweller Brent Weatherall has the support in the form of 6000...
Opposition made clear ... George St jeweller Brent Weatherall has the support in the form of 6000 signatures against pedestrianising George St. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH


Central businesses in Dunedin should be treated as the council’s ears on the issue, he said.

“Overwhelmingly, I’m hearing business is not against main street upgrades ... that include improved accessibility, beautification , pavements and parking.

“But is blatantly clear we do not want one-way traffic flow and reduced parking.”

The petition, requesting traffic remain two-way in George St with ample parking, would be presented at a council planning and environment committee meeting next week, Mr Weatherall said.

Cr Lee Vandervis said, in his experience, some council staff had been pushing their own ideology of a car-free central city.

Mr Bezett said he was opposed to personal views influencing council staff, and was concerned companies brought in for the preliminary design stage were not carrying out planned stakeholder consultation.

Beginning work in April next year on the street did not allow for enough consultation, especially in the wake of Covid-19, he said.

Mayor Aaron Hawkins reminded the pair no formal decisions about the George St pedestrianisation had yet been made.

Property Council New Zealand Otago chapter executive member and Oakwood Properties director David Marsh, who spoke at the hearings, said creating a one-way system ‘‘will create total chaos with the traffic’’.

“‘George St could be a total ghost town and a one-way system would just make it worse.

“These are the realities of life and our retailers are at a point where a lot of them are almost insolvent.’’



View all

Just in.....the results of having ' fanatically obsessed views' in Oslo and Helsinki.Pedestrian and cyclist deaths cut to zero!

Exactly this! It works EVERYWHERE around the world. Pedestrian areas are lively places and they are much better for families and people with disabilities because they are barrier free, quiet, and safe. AND that are retail hotspots because they attract so many people. The reason this didn't work during the test phases in Dunedin is because people here are glued to their cars and refuse to go anywhere if they can't park right in front of the door. Interestingly they spend hours wandering around the mall - where is the difference? It's just the mindset! And that is why we have to pedestrianise George Street or at least parts of it and then people will adapt if they have to. Sometimes a bit of tough love is needed for the greater good and that is exactly the job of politicians! What is not their job is to make life easier for every Tom, Dick and Harry who can't run a business without busloads of people being dropped off on their doorstep. Sorry retailers, the world is changing and we all have to adapt.

These two jewellers rely on drop off and pick ups as people’s rings and watches need fixing and cleaning. It is in there own interest that they have car parks and a two way system outside there shop. The 6000 signatures would have been signed with a very good pitch from two salesman. The block between Hanover and St Andrews Street needs to be fully pedestrianised not partially. Stop living in the 90s Dunedin people.

What have the 90s got to do with it? Planners have been proposing pedestrianisation in Dunedin since the 1950s/60s. Partial rather than full pedestrianisation helps pedestrians to feel safer and more secure at night.

What Brent and his cronies still don't seem to understand is that a city centre should provide a variety of functions, and while one of them is as a retail centre, another is as a social hub.

As he seems determined to use this survey as evidence to support his argument, why doesn't the ODT contact the University for an opinion on the relevance of his survey sample? That is, do the results of a petition placed in stores IN FAVOUR of maintaining the status quo represent the population of Dunedin as a whole, with their many diverse hopes and dreams for their city?

The claim that the council is no place for 'fanatically obsessed views' shows exactly how much respect Brent and his mates have for the wider community. I would say it is no place for fanatically obsessed retailers.

That said, COVID19 poses a unique quandary.

Better still, wait till the next election and have a referendum then. Given what people like Brent do for our community, your comment about 'Brent and his mates' and their lack of respect is frankly insulting, and I can only hope beneath you.

Quoting: Mayor Aaron Hawkins reminded the pair no formal decisions about the George St pedestrianisation had yet been made. (ends)
I am rarely impolite but Hawkins is being a slippery b*****d saying this because he had been pushing the pedestrianisation flat out from way before the last election because he wanted to ingratiate himself with Green Party theorists who think that banning the private car will save the world. Hawkins is now disavowing any personal involvement and getting ready to do a u-turn. He gets NO RESPECT from me.

6000 signatures!! If you make up a number make it realistic. There isn't that many sane people in Dunedin.

Shock Horror; Vanderpish backs the opinion of middle aged white guys. Interesting that Brent Weatherall and John Bezett have time to view these opinions whilst claiming the government Covid subsidy.

Pedestrianisation of George Street will only work if there is sufficient, nearby parking at reasonable cost. Public transport in Dunedin will never be efficient enough given the spread and low density of population, and who would want to catch a covid coach anyway?
This is an ill-thought out idea with no support from those it will effect and little support from the community. Like the mayor, it should go away.

Research indicates that pedestrianising city centres leads to increased spending (retail, cafe, restaurant) regardless of climate because people feel more relaxed and at home and therefore inclined to spend money. That is a fact. It is data driven... not an opinion. Dunedin and its retailers and cafe/restaurant owners should look forward to pedestrianising George street. I was asked to sign the petition but didn't. I wonder how many more people like me are there?

A properly designed, traffic free street, could no doubt be a beautiful thing. Dunedin has precious few streets through which a lot of traffic and people must travel to keep the city alive. Choking the flow of people because of a theory of how the world should be? Vogel Street is best suited to this style of city design as the traffic is low. The harbour side of Wharf street might work too. Only because traffic is low. Forcing this design upon a busy street is madness.

Said it many times before, and i'll say it again.

1. Reduce the speed to 15 km/h in the CBD.
2. Fancy up the street with brickwork or something instead of tarmac.
3. Eliminate curbing, and have a smooth dip or something for drainage instead, so that wheelchairs, prams etc can cross over wherever instead of only at certain spots
4. Keep the current level of parking, and maybe add a few more if possible
5. Keep the road TWO WAY

I'm basing all this on all the places i've been where cars and people coexist in the same environment, car parks separated from footpaths by bollards, not gutters.
Google street view Beach Street, Queenstown for a local, very good, example.

It's easy to knock people by trying to bluff others that you know better or you have the facts to prove them wrong. If you all think you are so right why don't you all do a similar 6000 or more signed petition and while you are at it show us cities of similar population and demographics to Dunedin, that are not tourist hot spots, that have successfully closed the streets to pedestrians and cyclists year round? I look forward to honest and transparent discussion and proof that it is happening somewhere that we can all research the facts that you present.

The "test phase" of the Octagon closure was not conducted in good faith which many here choose to ignore. It was deliberately timed to coincide with the Masters Games, the cruise ship season, and a series of concerts that all took place at that time. This gave a highly skewed result having the appearance of a cynical ploy by a wayward council to engineer consent for their agenda.

Will the pedestrianisation of George st effect business? Most likely in the short term yes, of course. We will have to adapt and change the way we do business. This, however, is just part of being in business. It may get tough in the short term, but I believe will get better in the long term.
I think the real question here is not what’s best for a few businesses, and a select few who like to park right outside the shop they want to go to, but rather what’s best for the people of Dunedin?
At present George St is a noisy, smelly, dreary and inaccessible place due to the vehicles that use it. Did any of those opposed actually go to the light show? It was, in my view, a success. The streets were vibrant and alive. People and families were out, engaged and enjoying themselves. If retailers and hospitality businesses were open in the evenings too, trade would have been good. The pedestrianisation of George street would attract people to the town centre & facilitate more events like these whilst still enabling us to hold onto and improve our current events.
6000 signatures is nice, however this still leaves 120k+ people who aren’t opposed. (I own a George St business for the record)

These retailers are simply thinking about themselves. They are so out of touch. It's us, the users, they should consider. Many of us WANT to use public transport and walk around town to shop, and socialise and simply enjoy central city! Its been great without the noise and pollution of the internal combustion engine. Let's have more green parks, not car parks, so workers and shoppers can sit, picnic, look at the surroundings and listen to the birds in the inner city. Life is not all about shopping.

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