Fears plan will hit tenants

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Limited access wanted . . . Otago Art Society president Doug Hart and vice-president Annie Pepers want the Dunedin City Council to continue to allow limited vehicle access to the Dunedin Railway Station precinct. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

The Otago Art Society fears a proposed plan to make the Dunedin Railway Station a pedestrian precinct will adversely affect its operation and those of its fellow tenants.

The station is home to the Otago Art Society galleries, the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, Dunedin Railways and Cobb & Co Dunedin restaurant.

After a successful two-week trial closure in February, the Dunedin City Council is proposing to permanently restrict motor vehicle traffic and make the station frontage a pedestrian mall.

The proposal, which aims to improve safety and prevent vehicles from using the station frontage as a ” rat run”, will retain access for pedestrians, cyclists, motorised scooters, mobility scooters, maintenance vehicles and emergency service vehicles only.

The seven 30-minute parking spaces at the front of the station would be removed and two new 30-minute spaces included in the southern car park area.

The Otago Art Society “strongly opposes” elements of the plan, and is putting forward a counter-proposal that would prevent vehicles using the area as a “rat run”, while retaining the seven 30-minute parks.

This would involve providing dedicated parking for coaches and buses in the Station North car park, and closing off one end of the roadway – to prevent through traffic while allowing access for members and courier vans.

Art society president Doug Hart said the society had no objection to buses, coaches and large vehicles being removed from the area, “because we know that does impinge on people’s photographs of the building”.

“But from our point of view, if they remove the 30-minute parking from the front of the building, our artists – elderly and young – will struggle to deliver bulky and unwieldy artworks, especially in inclement weather,” Mr Hart said.

Society vice-president Annie Pepers said easy access to the station was vital to the survival of the Otago Art Society which, as a not-for-profit organisation, relied on sales from its gift shop gallery and exhibitions.

“We need to maintain our sales to be able to effectively operate, as a gallery and as a first point of contact for many visitors to Dunedin,” she said.

Mr Hart said the Dunedin Railway Station was traditionally a vibrant and busy place, “so, let’s not make our station a sterile photographic backdrop, but present it as a living, breathing, vibrant representation of our lives and the heritage of our great city”.

Historian and author Ron Palenski, of the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, agreed with the Otago Art Society that the council’s proposal went too far.

Hall of Fame had suggested closing off the area in front of the railway station’s main portico.

“That would mean vehicles could still come in, but wouldn’t be able to go right through,” Mr Palenski said.

Contacted by The Star, Dunedin Railways sales manager Chris Snow said the organisation was generally in support of the council’s proposal, so long as access to the space was not affected.

Dunedin Railways was also working on a submission.

Dunedin City Council Transport group manager Richard Saunders said the proposal design had been modified following the trial closure to better provide for the requirements of the Otago Art Society.

Parking had been allocated to Dunedin Railway Station tenants at the southern end of the station and there would also be two P5 pick-up/drop-off parks outside the station entrance.

“The final proposal balances the needs of tenants with that of the overall objectives of the changes,” Mr Saunders said.

The public submissions period for feedback on the Dunedin Railway Station proposed pedestrian mall closes on July 5, and a hearings process will follow.