Where the street has no claim

Both Baldwin St and the maker of the chocolate treats that once rolled down it have slipped in status. Photo: ODT files
Both Baldwin St and the maker of the chocolate treats that once rolled down it have slipped in status. Photo: ODT files
Champions of Dunedin's Baldwin St, officially dethroned yesterday as the steepest street in the world by the ultimate authority, Guinness World Records, can follow one of two paths as they digest the seismic news.

Accept defeat with grace, or go on the attack and send the Ffolks from Ffordd Pen Llech a clear message - in the spirit of Ffriend-ship, obviously - that they do not Ffrighten anyone.

Perhaps, in the spirit of the classy Black Caps after their Cricket World Cup heartbreak the previous day, Dunedin should stand for Welsh rival Harlech, applaud the new king of the mountain, and give a rousing cheer of ''chwarae teg'' (fair play).

This city has treasured having the world's steepest street for more than 30 years, and there must be some acknowledgement of what it may now mean for a small town in Wales, whose 2000 residents could be in for either a massive boost, as busloads of eager tourists arrive to check out their famous new landmark, or a spell of relative pain from hitherto unknown issues like public toilets and campervanners getting stuck.

Baldwin St remains remarkable in its own right. And the status of second-steepest street in the world - not to mention the steepest in the Southern Hemisphere - still carries some weight, surely.

Dunedin tourism bigwigs do not seem too alarmed at the Welsh heist, pointing out there are plenty of other attractions in the South, and the novelty of the steepest street was generally only appreciated by tourists once they got here.

Many Baldwin St residents, meanwhile, see the positive side of losing the crown: they will not have to put up with so many rubber-neckers and loiterers. They can reclaim their street, effectively.

Yes, all is well and good in North East Valley. Bravo to our Welsh brothers and sisters and all that. But should Dunedin take this defeat on the chin or start throwing some haymakers back?

We could begin by hitting the Harlechians (Harlechites?) right where it hurts: you call that a street? As more than one person has pointed out, Ffordd Pen Llech looks more like a goat track. It's narrow, winding and seems to have few houses on it.

The definition of a street comes into play. Is the Welsh lane/road/path a ''public way that has buildings on either side''? Well, no. Let's call it the steepest road in the world and leave the street honours with Baldwin.

To be fair, Harlech does seem that it could benefit more than Dunedin from having this ''honour''. One place is a tourism mecca with a special mix of wildlife, scenery, architecture, culture and the arts; the other has an old castle and something called a Victorian Mop Fair.

It has been a rough few years for Dunedin ''icons''. Beloved sports ground Carisbrook is gone, the Cadbury chocolate factory has shut up shop, the Fortune Theatre is no more, the famously brutal Dunedin winter has been replaced by a sort of weird mildness, Ben Smith is going to France - and now we've lost Baldwin St.

Perhaps an All Black victory over Wales in the Rugby World Cup final will be sweet revenge.

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