South Dunedin – better not wreck it

DCC media releases

South Dunedin’s First Heritage Open Day (14 Feb 2011) On Saturday, 19 February, a number of South Dunedin heritage treasures will be open and on display for free guided tours.

Grant Available For King Edward Street Facades (14 Feb 2011) The Dunedin City Council has launched a one-off grant for South Dunedin building owners which aims to help to improve the overall look of King Edward Street


Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, Politics, Project management, Town planning, Urban design

50 responses to “South Dunedin – better not wreck it

  1. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Wed, 16 Feb 2011
    South Dunedin heritage open day
    By David Loughrey
    South Dunedin’s heritage is about to be put on public display, with the Dunedin City Council offering a $50,000 grant to improve the look of the area’s retail hub. On Saturday, the suburb will have a heritage “open day”, an initiative of the Mayfair Theatre, the Dunedin Gasworks Museum and the council.
    Read more

    This is not a criticism of the planned open day.
    Bigger fish to fry. I wonder if it’s about paint.

    A MUCH happier thing to inspire confidence (such is the danger of DCC media releases lacking detail and elaboration) would be the hint or mention of independent heritage assessments and best practice approaches to conservation and care of historic buildings at least once in the item – as a precursor to allocating any council monies for superficial paint jobs.

    Acknowledged, $50,000 is a tiny sum indeed.

    In lean times, we’re always hopeful that council (incentive) funding goes on priorities such as achieving weathertightness and earthquake strengthening (for example, tying facades and parapets), extending to the conservation or reinstatement of distinguishing architectural elements.

    There are a significant number of attractive older buildings in the South Dunedin mainstreet area between the railway overbridge and Macandrew Road, that with attention paid to conservation and adaptive reuse – together with complementary and cooperative tenancy management – will support an ‘in-street’ residential community capable of generating business for retailers who currently struggle to identify, serve and widen potential market audience. What is essential shopping, beyond Pak’N Save?

    While South Dunedin might get a lick of paint, it massively deserves a step up in coordinated urban DESIGN thinking. Way less of Beca’s traffic management ‘tinkering science’, thank-you!

    DCC ‘retail centre’ design options 1-3 produced for public consultation in 2010 threaten to undermine if not plasticise the formal, spatial and material uniqueness and rarity of South Dunedin’s mainstreet area.

    They are THE TRAP not to fall into.

    The South Dunedin community and those invested in the King Edward Street area deserve rather more intuitive, imaginative, subtle and practical design options for area enhancement – to recognise and deliver ‘the treasure’ back to South Dunedin for renewed business confidence and vigour.

    DCC, Beca – don’t ever suggest URBAN DESIGN is TRANSPORTATION PLANNING.

    Any plan option – is it ‘just’ diagrammatic, artist licence? we don’t KNOW – produced by DCC showing diagonally laid pavers (stripes!) and street trees (like every other ill-advised DCC tree planting scheme) that unweaves/decimates the architectural wealth and three-dimensional distinctiveness of the built environment deserves some rissoling, in a constructive way.

    [Yes, get rid of large areas of asphalt to let the South Dunedin reclamation breathe . . . but, laying down loud hard stripes up to the skirt of buildings, in a way that has no demonstrable historical area precedent or meaning?]

    Many of the buildings in South Dunedin have been allowed to depreciate while rents remain high, in an environment suffering the effects of encroachments by ‘out of zone’ large retail.

    Some building investors have purchased their properties to hand on to the next generation(s), as you do. This can mean total site clearance for new build, irrespective of district plan protections for many of the facades in King Edward Street. Yes, succession planning has its ugly side for well-loved shopping centres.

    DCC – advocate, educate, shift the gearing. Not sure PAINT can do all that.

    Government legislation to come into effect shortly will address taxation and depreciation mechanisms that contribute to the decline and neglect of buildings like those in King Edward Street.

    DCC – invest in appropriate incentives and community partnerships that utilise best practice approaches to mainstreet economics, community development, health and ecology (so many buried water courses, how many high water table effects?), building conservation and sympathetic adaptive reuse for long-term sustainability. And more.

    Don’t rush change – avoid your desktop whirlwinds. Be informed.

    I know, you will say that you are.

    • Elizabeth

      A significant number of King Edward Street buildings have their principal facades listed for protection in Schedule 25.1 of the Dunedin City District Plan. This means the owners may apply to the Dunedin Heritage Fund for assistance, in the form of a loan or grant, towards the conservation and restoration of their buildings.

      A funding precedent:
      In 1997, as a 150th Anniversary Project, building owners in George Street, Port Chalmers (Heritage Precinct TH15, recognised in the District Plan) received a $20,000 grant from the Dunedin Heritage Fund, towards streetscape and facade improvements.

      The Dunedin Heritage Fund is jointly administered by Dunedin City Council and New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

      Building owners may apply for rates relief in view of proposed conservation and adaptive reuse work to historic buildings – contact Dunedin City Council to discuss the criteria.

  2. Grethe

    Elizabeth, clearly you know a lot about urban design and you may have some legitimate points, however may I suggest that constantly bashing the efforts of council staff, whom for the most part are just as equally passionate and dedicated to the cause of making Dunedin a great place to live, is counterproductive. If you have ideas why not suggest them in a positive way to staff instead of sitting at home ranting on your blog while DCC staff are at work trying to do something positive for the city.

    • Elizabeth

      Apologies Grethe, I never get out – locked up at home and only the internet left for communication. It’s a sad world, and it’s mine all mine.

      {Elizabeth, Grethe probably thinks DCC’s stadium vision helps South Dunedin, too. Grethe, is that Danish? -Eds}

      • Elizabeth

        ### March 4, 2011 – 7:18pm
        South Dunedin pedestrian section undergoing tidy-up
        A small pedestrian section in South Dunedin is undergoing a tidy-up.

        • Elizabeth

          ### ODT Online Wed, 9 Mar 2011
          Makeover giving lift to South Dunedin
          By David Loughrey
          Improvements to South Dunedin are steadily being introduced by the Dunedin City Council, with an extensive makeover of Lorne St under way.
          Read more

        • Elizabeth

          As predicted, a complete cock-up, illustrated in paint.

          How to wreck ANY patina of age in the South Dunedin main street. Thanks DCC. Let’s paint one of the most incredible elderly little duplexes “clean white” above the verandah line…

          You say it was the original building colour? And you know the original signage and will replicate it? Yep, you want to tell residents and visitors the history and age of the street, in plain white.

          Like I say – a total balls-up. Thank god I photographed and rephotographed the entire fronts and backs of the buildings before you started this incomprehensible, non-conservational, swing-ball of superficiality and fickle brainlessness.

          ODT 25.4.11 South Dunedin clean-up

        • Elizabeth

          ### ODT Online Wed, 15 Jun 2011
          Significant spruce-up for South Dunedin
          By Chris Morris
          South Dunedin’s retail area could be in line for a $1 million spruce-up in the next stage of revitalisation work in the suburb. Councillors at yesterday’s Dunedin City Council planning and environment committee were asked to choose from three possible options for improvements along King Edward St, with estimated costs ranging from $588,000 and $2.99 million. They settled on the mid-range “option two”, which would have new trees, benches, paving, pedestrian space and traffic-calming measures to “assist in establishing a stronger identity for the shopping centre”.
          Read more

        • Elizabeth

          Asked about the budget for work to be done, Dr Johnson said staff had only “rough order costing”, and the design was still evolving. “The report in October should discuss budget.”

          ### ODT Online Wed, 14 Sep 2011
          South Dunedin retail plans going to DCC
          By David Loughrey
          The strategy to spruce up the long-neglected South Dunedin retail area is about to move up a gear, with plans for more improvements in King Edward St to go before the Dunedin City Council next month. Aspects of the South Dunedin retail strategy have already been put in place, with retailers and building owners taking advantage of a $50,000 fund that provided grants for cleaning and painting facades. An extensive makeover of Lorne St has improved that area, with street furniture, play equipment and plantings part of a $116,000 project.
          Read more

  3. Phil

    I’d have a lot more respect if there was some attempt for urban design coming out of DCC. They need to be brave enough and strong enough to lead developers, instead of following them. And councillors on the committees need to back them up. When they can do that, we’ll all happily be able to stop ranting.

  4. Hype O'Thermia

    Why do those streetscape designs look so wearily generic? No style reference to the character, history, taste or anything else of the area being ameni-fied, just the same old same old. I’d feel better about it if I found they were genuinely generic i.e. designers with framed diplomas weren’t being paid (expert rates) for each one of these exercises with municipal lego.

    • Elizabeth

      The whole thing’s a fiasco if the Lorne St updo is anything to go by – check out the prison yard furniture now in place.
      How many urban designers does DCC have to lose for these kinds of results.

  5. Amanda kennedy

    I am curious to know when the South Dunedin library is going to be up and running. This would serve South Dunedin well, for all sectors of the community.

  6. Alistair

    The proposed South Dunedin library is a “nice-to-have” that the city just cannot afford. The main Library is not far down the road, with a good bus service on the route.
    As well as a large capital cost, a new library will add a significant amount to the Council operating costs into the future.

    • Elizabeth

      DCC having bought the PACT building for the purpose of a library (great I say), and given the social cost of not having a contemporary multi-functional library facility in what I understand is still New Zealand’s most densely populated suburb, one with many social and economic disadvantages (known and measured), just maybe there are other ways to consider council budgets against the (absent) managed debt programme we’ve all been waiting for from (laughs) the standing council.

  7. Amanda kennedy

    Yes, Alistair. I was being a bit ‘tongue in check’. I know that now we cannot afford it; I knew this before Hudson and mates voted for the stadium. I well remember being told by Noone that there will be no problem with stadium spend as it was all figured out and I was simply mistaken to say that there will have to be big sacrifices (like libraries in one of New Zealand’s most populated areas). He pooh poohed my ‘opportunities costs’ argument against the stadium. This is why I know that all those who voted for the stadium debt do not care about things like libraries or stopping our water being privatised. No problem for them. Why should those who had no say or control over the present debt pay? And those who caused it keep having any say on how this city run? Seems it really is a case of privatised profit and socialised debt for Hudson and mates especially.

  8. Amanda kennedy

    Though it is predictable to watch how much the stadium cabal is prepared to sacrifice to get money for the stadium in order to ensure the dentist looks successful, it’s also a tad worrying.

  9. Hype O'Thermia

    I’ve never quite got why a South Dunedin library was so desirable. Wherever it is placed it would be within walking distance of only a few Sth Dunnerites, so if it’s a travelling-distance away from their homes how much better off would they be than by taking the bus/car/bike into town?
    I liked the Book Bus which visited right up close to where people lived and had a good range of books that changed often. Or what about a Library Bus – or a cheap/free Library bus ticket?

    • Elizabeth

      A contemporary library isn’t all about books. I like your ideas! And hey, the Book Buses (2) are still running. The people of South Dunedin are after a ‘library’ that also serves as a worthwhile community gathering place in the main street – beats the new concrete picnic tables in all weathers at Lorne St.

  10. Hype O'Thermia

    A community drop-in centre, if that’s what they want, could be fitted out in an existing building very cheaply compared with the standards for weight-bearing, also temperature and humidity that are required for a library containing books, electronic media and paintings.

  11. Amanda kennedy

    I think because a lot of elderly and young families live in South Dunedin the walking and (maybe) cycling is not such a good option. And of course the price of bus tickets is ridiculous.

  12. Peter

    While it could be argued that the South Dunedin Library is an easy target for cost cutting I would be loathe to do so. South Dunedin as a poorer, more disadvantaged area always seems to get the short end of the stick. (Cut the bigger ticket items first, starting with the stadium, and then working down.) The Labour Party, followed by the National Party, have been complicit in the destruction – along with the council – of the one major asset South Dunedin did once have – Carisbrook. Labour has represented the area for years and should hold its head in shame for the contempt it has shown to SD on this occasion. Holding ‘South Dunedin’s Got Talent’ quests is a poor substitute for supporting the people there.
    The best thing that could happen politically for SD is for the electoral boundaries to be redrawn to a point where the seat became more marginal. Then SD might get a better deal from the politicians.

  13. Hype O'Thermia

    Sth Dn being a poor and disadvantaged area isn’t a good reason for providing something at great cost that is not necessary. Politicians always seem to find it easier to provide something they can point to – a building, a bridge, an enduring monument to their reign – than services. E.g. better cheaper bus route to and through that area, lighting, simple bum-rest seating placed where there’s an available space so elderly and unfit can walk in the knowledge they can take a break when their legs get tired or they run out of energy.
    By the way Amanda, most elderly people can walk, they were raised to walk far more than younger generations. In fact unlike the stereotype of crumbling old wrecks, most elderly people are not unfit in body or mind and their period of dependence on care-givers and mobility assistance is short. We hear a lot about the aging population as a health & money problem in society but not much about the high proportion who fall off their twigs without needing more than population-yearly-average care, and in those lives many are actively contributing till the end. Admittedly more of the multiple disadvantages are seen in poor areas because they impact on earnings and costs during their working lives as well as later, in retirement.

  14. Peter

    As I understand it the proposed new library is also, as Elizabeth has pointed out, a community centre to anchor the SD community. Maybe it is possible to redevelop an existing facility rather than build an entirely new one. A possible cheaper option? I don’t know.
    SD, whatever way you look at its demographic and how well the people there are coping or not, is poorly disadvantaged compared to other parts of the city. You just have to drive through it to see for yourself. There are though some signs of positive change. A lot of the old, dumpy and bastardised housing along the main road, for example, is being pulled down and new places are being built.

  15. Hype O'Thermia

    All cities need places where poor people can afford to live until such time as poor people and those who choose to spend adequate income on things other than housing are extinct. So they don’t look like nice middle-class areas, it doesn’t mean they are unpleasant to live in. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the neighbours talk to one another and are helpful – same applies to any housing area of course. Community values are not the preserve of the attractively housed.
    We are also richer – all of us – for having cheap areas which interesting non-mainstream retailers and creative people can afford to rent, shops, workshops, studios. Look at the prime retail areas in any city – the same big chains, the same products predominate. Lovely if you only go to town to “do the shops” once in a blue moon. Otherwise a combination of glossy with dull.

    • Elizabeth

      City Property purchased the PACT building on King Edward St for the purpose of housing a library in South Dunedin, and part of that deal was some council social housing in Helensburgh went to PACT. It’s been well documented by the council, and has featured in ODT and D Scene, and consequently at What if? No new building is necessary. As I’m sure Peter is aware, a library has been promised to the residents for years and appears in the LTCCP. It also pays to keep up to date on community consultation had at South Dunedin in the last while – South Dunedin was always going to be the next urban design project after the Campus Master Plan was created. There has been a deliberate attempt throughout the consultation processes to ensure the proposed changes for the suburb are community driven. This said, the design aspects taken care of by DCC and consultants in response to the community driven brief are, to me, not as competent as hoped for at a conceptual level. Let’s hope the developing design work will be more contextual (recognising the extraordinary social history of the suburb, and the natural and built environment) and thoroughgoing for the businesses, social agencies, residents, and others who call South Dunedin home. South Dunedin is another of Dunedin’s suburbs that attracts first-home renters and buyers – not dissimilar to the flat area of North East Valley – at the same time, there are fifth and sixth generation working class families, senior citizens, socially disadvantaged households, and more. The University’s Caversham study and books by Erik Olsen are worth consulting; there is some material available online. These will get you past the bleating. You can also talk to the likes of Presbyterian Support, Methodist Mission, Age Concern, and Work and Income.

  16. Peter

    That’s good info, Elizabeth. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what has already been done by the council and others.At least something is starting to be done along King Edward St. It will be interesting to see what the experts with this urban design stuff come up with for further ideas to revitalise the
    SD neighbourhood/main street. A lot more trees and vegetation would be good. Further out to St Kilda I notice Forbury Raceway has planted deciduous trees along the street fence line. Lots of them too. Will look great when they mature and the fence should largely protect the trees from vandals.

  17. Amanda kennedy

    Well, that should be the crux of the thing: is a the South Dunedin library necessary? I think so, but it is all up to the people who live there I guess, and if they think it is important in their lives and if they are prepared to fight for it. Because fight for it they will have to if they really want it, because the tune from council will now be “…there is no money…awfully sorry…but you have all spent the loot on the big shiny thing you all so desperately wanted…”

  18. Hype O'Thermia

    What needs to be reexamined is the point of a Sth Dn library. Is it difficulty accessing the Central Library? If so, is building another one the best solution or can people from the potential Sth Dn Library’s catchment be offered better access methods? It’s not as if Corstorphine, Concord, Caversham people can get to the centre of South Dunedin all that easily, it’s not a wee stroll just round the corner for most of them. Is it the need for a community meeting place? If so, is building another library the best way to provide one? And overall, is building a second library the best use of funds to benefit disadvantaged people in that area, or is it something people have seized upon as an emblematic mark that they are getting a fair go at last from the DCC?

    • Elizabeth

      Hype O’Thermia, the PACT building is an existing building, City Property now owns it. No new building is needed for a South Dunedin library – to give the suburb its full name as a mark of respect.

  19. Amanda Kennedy

    Well, I am reluctant to make the ‘DCC’ my object of annoyance. I think most of the councillors do the best they can given that they are in a very tricky situation and they are trying to preserve their opportunites to return to council in the next election ( I’m talking about Crs Wilson, Vandervis, Thomson, MacTavish, Stevenson, Staynes and, especially, Mayor Cull).

  20. Hype O'Thermia

    As I understand it the transformation of a building to use as a library requires much more strengthening than for ordinary use, so while the PACT building would probably require only moderate alterations to be turned into a community drop-in centre, re-jigging it to library standards would be a much bigger job.

    Not sure where disrespect comes in re abbreviating suburb names. North East Valleyers seem slow to catch on to the taking-offence trend re NE Valley and even NEV. I’m sure they’ll catch up, especially if grievance mode is rewarded.

    • Elizabeth

      City Property is required to deliver an investment return of 7% – 8% on its development properties. Therefore to purchase requires full diligence (see building economics), meaning the cost of enhancing building performance for the intended use is factored in. Let’s not try to second guess the building experts. If you want to read up on the future of Dunedin Public Libraries, see the report by Octa Associates Ltd (project managers).

      What if? would hate to resemble the ‘nonsense poetry’ at ODT Online Comments.

  21. Hype O'Thermia

    My abject apologies for writing to What if? in a way that questions matters espoused by the site directorate. I will endeavour in future to avoid “nonsense poetry” contributions such as the one that shamefully comes unbidden into my mind, that sometimes experts’ evaluations and costings turn out when a project has been embarked on, to be less that 100% accurate. This is without doubt a foolish notion: I have been reading too many cheap novels.

    • Elizabeth

      City Property didn’t build the stadium. Didn’t project manage the stadium. Is one of the council departments that actually makes money. It’s a good performer.

  22. Alistair

    A Library in South Dunedin would be nice to have. But with enormous Stadium bills to pay, Dunedin is going to have to do without “nice-to-haves” for a long time.
    In the election campaign, Dave Cull and the Greater Dunedin team voiced concerns [about] debt and promised to “Slash Operating Costs”. Since the election there have been only token gestures to control spending, the bureaucracy has grown, the Stadium has been given a blank cheque, and the dishing out of ratepayers money to pander to interest groups has continued as before. The $50,000 to Ngai Tahu for the Octagon “artwork” is just the latest example.
    Everyone knows that there a huge hole in the Council finances, but where is the plan to do something about it?

    • Elizabeth

      Alistair – your last paragraph is the worry, the silence from council… a RWC tactic? ducks gliding calmly on the pond, paddling furiously underwater? capable, incapable? Well, let’s see what the DCHL annual report does tomorrow on release. And, what follows from Paul Orders’ arrival on Monday, will Athol Stephens be his righthand man into the sunset?

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Sun, 16 Oct 2011
      Challenging future for 100-year-old Dunedin store
      By Ellie Constantine
      It has been a South Dunedin institution for the past 100 years, but the future of Wolfenden and Russell will hold some challenges, owner Gary Roberts says. The clothing store celebrated its centenary late last month and, while Mr Roberts was enjoying celebrating the store’s success, its premises raised some concerns.
      Read more

      • Elizabeth

        DCC Planning and Environment Committee Meeting
        Tuesday, 29 November 2011, 2.00 PM

        (or at the conclusion of the Infrastructure Services Committee,
        whichever is later)
        Edinburgh Room, Municipal Chambers

        Agenda – PEC – 29/11/2011
        (PDF, 33.0 KB)

        Report – PEC – 29/11/2011 (PDF, 2.6 MB)
        South Dunedin Retail Centre Revitalisation Plan

        • Elizabeth

          ### ODT Online Wed, 21 Dec 2011
          Website tracking South Dunedin upgrade live
          By David Loughrey
          A website tracking the $700,000 upgrade of the South Dunedin retail area has gone live, allowing the public to follow the process as it unfolds. The Dunedin City Council planning and environment committee late last month agreed to the revitalisation plan, part of extensive work done by the council’s city development department in the past few years. The plan, including improvements in King Edward St around Hillside Rd, Lorne St, Carey Ave and McBride St, follows two years of consultation, as well as projects already completed.
          Read more

          The website, at, details the status of each project.

          Lorne St is worth a VISIT to see the level of design intelligence going in – an utter disaster! Don’t get me started on the facade paint jobs – isn’t it better to spend ratepayer money on earthquake strengthening and conserving historical facades FIRST. Apparently not.

  23. Hype O'Thermia

    Val Parata made an intelligent contribution (therefore unlikely to be taken notice of by the Designy types in charge of superficial gentrification) in a letter to the Oddity. She pointed out the obvious-to-practical-people disadvantages of those bloody tiles the Designies have a love affair with. Or shares in, or goodness knows what. I struggle to see the point of the various outcrops of them, with their need to be taken up and replaced periodically when too many people have slipped and tripped on them. Given the number of elderly and infirm who live out in South Dunedin where the flat land makes it possible for them to get around even if they have to use walking aids and mobility scooters, the first design priority SHOULD be: improve surfaces, eliminate barriers, concentrate on usability and accessibility.

    • Elizabeth

      Hype, don’t tell me you believe in the Accessible Journey?! Although the NZ Disability Strategy makes specific mention, as does DCC’s Disability Strategy. Get over it. Roll on $$$’new’ South Dunedin.

      The first concept drawings showed striped paving areas – I was so aghast I couldn’t look at developed design – once lost, never found…

  24. Hype O'Thermia

    “New” in quotes. Yes. Same-old $2-shop fake Lego beginners’ build-a-town set, cheap because it was shipped with half the alternative components missing.

  25. Phil

    Why exactly do we need a website to show the construction work ? Apart from the obvious reason of giving the I.T. department something to do. This isn’t happening on the moon, it’s frickin South Dunedin. 10 minutes drive from any part of the urban settlement on a bad day. 15 minutes by bus. Here’s a thought: if I want to see what it looks like, I’ll go there!! Talk about engineering a problem simply to design a solution.

    • Elizabeth

      I quite like watching online video of dying water, stormwater and sewage pipes.

      • Elizabeth

        PS. The urban design team has some idea that it’s cool (themselves ie). News for them…

        • Elizabeth

          ### December 21, 2011 – 6:05pm
          South Dunedin upgrade
          A revamp of South Dunedin began earlier this year with shop frontages being painted along King Edward Street. The next phase of the project is due to start next year, after the council receives feedback on the living document it has posted online.

        • Elizabeth

          Your council is spending $700,000 on this uglification project.

          Dunedin City Council – Media Release
          South Dunedin Retail Centre Revitalisation Plan

          This item was published on 20 Dec 2011.

          The South Dunedin Retail Centre Revitalisation Plan was approved for release as a web-based plan by the DCC Planning and Environment Committee last week. The Plan is available at
          Read more

  26. Hype O'Thermia

    Did you notice the use of the term “ratepayers’ money” referring (ODT, quoting a DCC functionary if I recall correctly) to the small amount for regrassing a part of the Octagon? How often do you see it in contexts where council likes spending it on THEIR projects?

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