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It was confirmed yesterday the city's bid for funding had been submitted on December 6 and a Cabinet decision was expected early next year.
Cr David Benson-Pope, the chairman of the council's planning and environment committee, said a positive outcome would allow the city to start "nailing down'' the specifics of the development plan.
Among the first to proceed could be a smaller "metro-style'' version of the Margaret Mahy family playground which opened in Christchurch in 2015.
Christchurch's playground was developed as part of the city's earthquake recovery plan, and was the largest in the southern hemisphere.
In Dunedin, a smaller playground inspired by the same approach was now mooted for the cross-wharf area at the top of Steamer Basin.
It could be a temporary space, until the development of an eco-tourism building replaced it, or it could become permanent if designs for the area continued ``evolving'', he said.
Either way, the aim was to draw people into the area, and sooner rather than later, he said.
That was in keeping with the emphasis on public access to the water that underpinned the wider development.
"The idea of a public playground, a really interesting one, I think fits perfectly with the public access issue. We're talking about a stunning public space here ... We've got to put things there that attract people other than those who might be working in buildings or staying in accommodation or lucky enough to be able to afford an apartment.''
The council has already voted 15-0 to build a $20 million, architecturally designed pedestrian and cyclist bridge to the waterfront.
Work was expected to begin next year, partly funded by the NZ Transport Agency, which would contribute $5.5 million.
Although the project's backers say the bridge is a key to unlocking public access and development of the area, critics have questioned the merits of the "bridge to nowhere''.
Cr Benson-Pope said that the playground plan would help address that concern.
While it would be smaller than Christchurch's, it would still be among the largest in Dunedin, he said.
"We're talking about an area where there are activities for children, but an area where families are attracted, where there's good shelter, great views, you could have barbecues there.''
The plan could also be helped by a reconfiguration of the surrounding area, he said.
One of the Jetty St overbridge ramps, leading down to Wharf St on the northeastern side of the bridge, was a "clip-on'' and could be removed, he said.
Wharf St itself could also be realigned, moving the road inland to the vacant grass lot previously earmarked for a waterfront hotel.
The timeline would depend on the outcome of the PGF application, but "I would hope we could move on something like that quite quickly'', he said.
"There would be some cost to council, but I don't think it needs to be large.''