'Slap in the face' for George St retailers

Retailers have vented their anger about the Dunedin City Council’s decision to make the city’s main shopping street one-way for traffic and tilted towards pedestrian use.

One called the vote for a one-way George St a ‘‘slap in the face’’ for retailers.

Another took aim at Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins by mocking up a picture of his face on a dart board.

However, the Otago Chamber of Commerce spoke up in support of a revamp of the George St area.

Brent Weatherall, a George St retailer, makes clear how he feels about the Dunedin City Council’s...
Brent Weatherall, a George St retailer, makes clear how he feels about the Dunedin City Council’s decision to make the city’s main shopping street one-way for traffic. Mayor Aaron Hawkins appears to be unwelcome at his shop. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Chamber acting chief executive Nicky Aldridge-Masters said previous concerns about traffic flow had been dealt with and she was heartened construction work would not happen while people were doing Christmas shopping.

Some work is scheduled to start as early as October 18, but surrounding rather than in George St and it will stop in December.

Councillors voted on Tuesday 9-5 for one-way traffic for George St in a southern direction, towards the Octagon, starting at Frederick St.

George St jeweller Brent Weatherall had previously presented a petition to the council with 6500 signatures in opposition to the redevelopment.

Yesterday, he mocked up a picture of Mr Hawkins on a dart board which he posted to social media, and got a sign printed announcing Mr Hawkins was ‘‘banned’’.

He called the council a joke.

Fellow jeweller John Bezett said the council was too easily influenced by the development’s designers.

Councillors had given retailers a ‘‘slap in the face’’.

Mr Hawkins said there was a spectrum of opinion in the business community.

‘‘Some are quite vocal and opposed and this is understandable,’’ Mr Hawkins said.

‘‘Change is scary and people are anxious, particularly in the current business environment.’’

Retailers spoken to by the Otago Daily Times yesterday were mostly against a one-way George St, but shoppers were more mixed in their views.

Modaks Espresso owner Jack Bradbury said the changes should be positive for the city.

The George St businessman could envisage tables, chairs and a safer, enjoyable space.

Mr Bradbury called the council’s decision brave.

‘‘I like it,’’ he said.

‘‘I guess, whether it’s the right call, time will tell.’’

Ms Aldridge-Masters said the upgrade should result in people staying longer in the city centre.

A small number of car parks would be lost, but not as many as might have been if councillors had preferred a redevelopment that retained two-way traffic.

The four blocks in George St set to be redeveloped have 97 spaces for parking, loading zones and bus stops; this would be cut to 78 in the one-way model, and further to 60 if the two-way revamp design had been preferred.

Two-way traffic will be retained between Frederick and Albany Sts, but that is part of the redevelopment.

Otago Sports Depot owner Brent Davies said the council’s scheme was ‘‘madness’’.

‘‘My big frustration is no-one ever comes and talks to us.

‘‘They don’t want to hear our voices,’’ he said.

Void Clothing owner Neil Gaudin said the changes could drive shoppers away.

However, Disabled Persons Assembly networker Chris Ford said they would be positive for the wider disability community.

‘‘The new streetscape design will give greater opportunities for disabled people to navigate around,’’ he said.

‘‘It will make the area more accessible and inclusive for everyone.’’

Comments

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Oh Brent...A 6500 signature petition means nothing to this council. Nor would a 128,000 signature petition!

This council decided some time ago, they would no longer be answerable to the citizens of this city. THEY know best, and our job is simply to fund their vision and carry the debt of that vision. The sooner you get used to it, the better!

How about this......Westfield Taieri ! Perhaps its time to encourage shopping centre giants Westfield or Stocklands to construct an all indoor shopping centre in the North Taieri/Mosgiel region including foodcourt, Kmart, perhaps a boutique multiplex cinema and of course ample free carparking. We then encourage the city retailers boutique and large (JB HI FI etc) to relocate and then the council can make the whole George Street precinct a playground for youth next to the council offices. The next step would be for the Mosgiel/Taieri region to ditch the DCC and form its own district council.....one can dream I guess!

I could definitely get behind that! It's not far to drive, and you'd use about as much fuel getting there and parking straight away in a big mall carpark - and using the higher speed roads - than you do idling in traffic, trying to get a park. My truck's too tall for most - all? of the parking buildings, and there's nothing available on the roads, really. If I'm going shopping, I need a vehicle to transport stuff - most people seem to. The council seem to think that people that shop are going every day to buy one little bag they can transport on their bike, or their bag if they're walking. I'm sure there are some folk like that, but the majority save things up for a half-day and do their groceries etc. as well. I mostly shop online as a result, or go to the malls when I'm up in Chch. The council are just moving - expensively - further and further away from anything that allows flexibility. We need more parking, cheaper - MUCH cheaper if you're talking Wilson's - and far more streamlining, so that pedestrians don't compete with cars and cars can get quick, efficient access. The current situation makes a bad thing aggressively worse.

Local body elections are a year away. I look forward to seeing the end of this anti-business mayor.

Yet more complaining from some retailers, and again, the very ones that have successfully held off progressing George Street for well over a generation. Can they not grasp the basic concept of pedestrians walking the main street and entering the shops along the way? Drivers transiting George Street in cars don't buy from shops, pedestrians do. Parking in George Street is quite minimal anyway, so a few less parking spots won't make any difference.

It's about time that (like many cities around the world) Dunedin has some sort of vibrant pedestrian precinct that can be enjoyed by a wide range of Dunedin residents and visitors. Negativity begets negativity, Please stop the bleating and lets get on with it.

totally agree

I totally agree, I will never understand why shop owners are so opposed to this. You can't drive through the mall and yet the shops in there have plenty of customers. Pedestrian areas are great for business and make cities so much nicer!

I wonder if the car park on top has anything to do with it.
The retailers know their business.
The council should listen to them.
George St is a cold hole in winter. That’s the problem.

Yes I agree. In addition look at Christchurch who now has many of its flashes retail stores on one way or no car streets in the rebuilt CBD and they draw in their customers. Nothing wrong with this idea. The George street complainers need to calm down and look at this as an opportunity.

It's always a good laugh reading how groups that benefit from a change claim that the change is therefore "more inclusive for everyone". Let's not worry about those who've been excluded...

Retailers....change is obviously bad for business right? I'm sure things would be better for you if you returned to pounds shillings and pence, and sold by the pound/yard. And bring back delivery boys on Coventry Eagle bicycles.

Why would you want to walk all over the place to go to a shop where you had to go to - "retail therapy" is now internet driven and of course much, much cheaper because they don't pay local body rates - which pays the salaries of our mayor and his staff

Wrong, cheaper because they don't pay their employees a decent wage. Virtual slave labour in many cases.

Or tax.

I must say I don't care which way cars go in that area, as I walk most of the time... in fact, the fewer cars the better everywhere in Dunedin (and elsewhere...)

Otago would benefit from a one stop shopping Mall located outside of the city where shoppers are able to have more choice, cheaper goods and buy more than what can be carried on their bicycle or on the bus. This is the norm overseas. Lots of parking for our SUVs and trucks which are indispensable for people living in rural Otago. The only problem is that we probably need another million people to make it economically viable. If we could attract more people from Auckland and Wellington to take advantage of our cheaper housing it would be great for our city. Just think of the rates haul!

Yes but you'd have to get that extra million people to live rurally (which would extend Dunedin all the way to Cromwell), otherwise there'd be no need for those indispensable SUVs and trucks and your argument would be flawed.

DNNZ you hit the nail on the head. so why is Hawkins and his tight 5 hell bent on destroying Dunedin's main drag, it would be oK if it had twins light rail but it hasn't go enough people for that.

It's a tough call. Retailers do indeed seem clung to the idea they need cars at door steps to function. Many residents believe that without a car park at the door, its impossible to enter the shop. As Ray Collins and others have pointed out in the past, there are literally thousands of cities around the world, and many in New Zealand that have converted their inner city areas into public malls and have proven to be hugely popular. Some of those locations are of a similar climate and population as Dunedin. What is it with Dunedin people that they feel so resistant to this? The resistance here to ANY sort of progress is becoming depressing. The buildings, roads, footpaths and powerpoles, falling apart, yet when something is fixed, it's often poorly planned and the costs go to the heavens. Is this George St issue more a lack of confidence in the DCC and it's planners, or a genuine dislike of improvement? Or, more cynically, is there indeed something in the town water supply?

The change is maybe beneficial for businesses that cater to students, not so good for those who sell tangibles (think appliances etc) or who cater to the working class? Interesting to see what happens. I think it'll push more online shopping, but it could be a good thing for the cafes, restaurants etc

97 car parks over the 4 blocks on George St, dropping to 78...19 fewer. Do people really think everyone who shops at businesses here only come from these parks? Do people really drive around and around till the car park in front of the shop they want to visit opens up? I always parked on the outskirts or back street free parking areas and walked a few blocks when I drove. Pretty sure the 1000s of people I see along George St are not from the cars parked on the street either.

One, contrary to what is being claimed, this will not be good for our so called "green" footprint. I see longs lines of cars going around and around to trying to get a park or drop off Grandma in front of Farmers so she doesn't have to walk half a kilometer to get there.
Second, all socialist ideas sound great until you execute them. We simply do not have the numbers to cater to these lofty ideas of George street being crammed with pedestrians. If we had a high density population then this would make sense. The reality is we don't have the numbers and half of the time we have a an ice cold southerly blowing through town. Not exactly the sunny picture of kids running around in playgrounds and cafes sprawling out into the streets like Paris.
Just leave it as it is. Don't fix something that is not broken and save the bucks for something more useful in these hard time.
PC brigade be gone.

Oh, so mature.

Hawkins has done a great job...forcing people to shop via the internet! Haven't been to the CBD in almost a year. I don't have to pay for parking shopping on line. Better selection and better prices. Thanks Aaron... awesome job!

It's amazing that retailers are objecting to an expensive new project that will bring people walking past their shops. Currently, I avoid George St. It's ugly and you have to keep checking for traffic so can't relax and browse as you can in an internal shopping mall. Bring it on. A destination of pleasure and leisure instead of a place to avoid. Let's aim for the standard of Otago University campus, which also used to be full of noisy polluting passing traffic.

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