Time for 'middle ground' on Octagon car ban


It is time to find some middle ground over the pedestrianisation of the Octagon and George St, writes Dunedin heritage developer Stephen Macknight.  

Is it possible for us all to be right, but still totally disagree?

When it comes to the pedestrianisation of the Octagon and George St I think it is. We are imagining a ‘‘one size fits all’’ to try to cater for various people’s needs, day and night winter and summer.

This won’t work unless the approach is flexible enough to recognise that the people and their needs are constantly changing depending on the time of day, day of the week, time of year and weather conditions.

Surprisingly, we can have both more parking and better access, and safe pedestrianisation.

We just can’t have it all, all of the time.

I suggest what we should be looking at is what might be called a ‘‘controlled shared space’’.

Physically this could look much like what the University of Otago has done on Castle St next to the university. It would be paved and landscaped in an attractive way, while allowing for parking and vehicle movement in each direction.

At most times it would function utilising the parking available and two-way movement, much as it does at present, though perhaps with a slightly slower speed-limit.

However, through control of the availability of parking spaces, and signalling to allow the ability to limit traffic into these areas in various ways, The Octagon and George St could be transformed when appropriate to either limited access and limited parking, or no access and no parking.

This could be done using a very comprehensive traffic management system that considers traffic flow locally, around Moray Place and beyond, to ensure the traffic flow problems that we are experiencing at the moment are not replicated.

I can imagine on sunny days in the summer, say between the hours of say 10am and 2pm on weekdays and in weekends, areas might be closed to through traffic with only ‘‘drop off’’ parking available. Outside these hours and through the night it would function with full parking and access. On rainy days, or in the middle of winter, it might also remain much as it is now.

For special occasions or events, areas might be fully closed to allow the safe enjoyment of large numbers of people. Saturday afternoons, Sundays, cruise ship and concert days might qualify as times for full pedestrianisation of some areas.

The system could be automated through an app, so people can see in real time the status of parking and access, so people can plan how they use the area to best suit their needs.

If the work was done in this way, there is no need to decide now what our needs might be in the future, nor debate the exact requirements of individual businesses whose need may well be different in 10 years’ time.

If, however we don’t approach the problem in this way, the only real alternatives are to keep it much as is, or to force some degree of change on to people, when it is clear many of them do have real cause for concern. Either way, the full potential and benefits of the changes will not be able to be realised.

I do hope we can find agreement in a solution, perhaps along these lines, that allows things to move into the future in a dynamic and interesting way, making our special city as good as it can be for everyone.


The availability of parking could be shown in real time on an app, with the ability to select the park closest to your destination and pre-book , maybe 10min before you arrive (and start paying) before you arrive. This would reduce central city congestion by stopping people driving around looking for parks, as well as being much more convenient. The app could select available parks based on your location and their proximity to your destination.

This system could also include private and leased parks, thereby better utilising existing parks that are sitting empty much of the time. This could provide an income for these parks, providing the owner or person leasing it with an incentive for those parks to be made available to more people more frequently.

The parks could be controlled by simple green or red light set in the pavement, with all other information, such as timing and payment, set up in the app.