Council and NZTA at odds over one-way

One-way should stay in Cumberland St, central Dunedin, the NZ Transport Agency says. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
One-way should stay in Cumberland St, central Dunedin, the NZ Transport Agency says. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
A decision to keep the popular one-way traffic system through central Dunedin is being fought by the city council.

Elected officials are pushing instead for a programme that would reconfigure the heart of the city, introducing a northbound lane to the southbound State Highway 1 route and turning Cumberland St into a two-way local road.

Public feedback on the one-way system.
Public feedback on the one-way system.
Rethinking SH1 through the city centre would deliver more benefits than the status quo or tweaking the status quo, Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said.

The approach is summarised in documents as an opportunity to promote transformational change, make Cumberland St a "people-focused local road", enhance the pedestrian environment and make walking and cycling more attractive.

Several city councillors and the NZ Transport Agency are not on board and public sentiment has traditionally been strongly in favour of keeping the busy one-way system.

Reliable journey times for drivers on key transport routes is listed among the benefits of retaining the one-way system in an upgraded form.

The transport agency’s board backed a business case promoting that option, prompting the council to push for an alternative approach as the starting point for deeper discussion.

Planned construction of the new Dunedin hospital between the SH1 one-way pair of routes has forced national and local government officials to confront issues such as hospital access, traffic speeds and safety.

Transport Minister Michael Wood is due to visit Dunedin in April and the Otago Daily Times has been told discussion of the highway is on his agenda.

About three-quarters of respondents to a transport agency survey in 2020 wanted the one-way system to be retained.

An alternative model had since been refined, but the agency still preferred the one-way system.

Councillors voted 7-5 last month to push for the alternative — known as programme 2 version 3 — after a debate behind closed doors.

The result was made public after the transport agency confirmed its stance this week.

In a letter to the agency’s chief executive and copied to government ministers, Mr Hawkins said the alternative programme had far greater alignment with city strategic goals.

"It also has the unequivocal support of both the University of Otago and the Southern District Health Board."

Cr David Benson-Pope said the agency’s preferred option was suboptimal.

Several councillors disagreed strongly with what the slim majority voted for.

Cr Carmen Houlahan said a two-way model would cause more traffic congestion.

"When people get on the one-way at the end of a busy day, they just want to get home as quickly as possible," Cr Houlahan said.

"They do not want to sit in extra traffic and worry about people wandering out on the road because it has been designated ‘people-friendly’."

Cr Jules Radich said the one-way system was critical to traffic flow through Dunedin.

"Transit time is very important to business success," he said.

Cr Andrew Whiley said the one-way system had been proven effective and a two-way system would "ruin" traffic movement.

Cr Rachel Elder said many objectives could be achieved with either system.

She had concerns about a two-way system exacerbating traffic congestion.

Cr Lee Vandervis said the one-way system should be retained as the only practical way of moving large traffic volumes north and south through the city.

In his letter, Mr Hawkins noted the business case said the alternative programme "provides better outcomes for liveability, place quality, travel choice, connectivity and zero carbon".

Mr Hawkins said a health impact assessment "was even more direct" about the two-way model offering better results for health and wellbeing.

DCC stance

The  Dunedin City Council supports programme 2 version 3  as the basis for future discussion.

FOR (7): Mayor Aaron Hawkins, Crs Christine Garey, David Benson-Pope, Jim O’Malley, Sophie Barker, Steve Walker, Marie Laufiso.

AGAINST (5): Crs Carmen Houlahan, Jules Radich, Andrew Whiley, Rachel Elder, Mike Lord.

NOT PRESENT FOR VOTE (3): Crs Lee Vandervis, Doug Hall, Chris Staynes.

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