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A Revamped George Street Opens To The Public

After three years of hard work, Dunedin’s most significant infrastructure project in decades has come to completion – and it’s looking Totally Georgeous.

“We’re thrilled to hand George Street back to the people of Dunedin,” says Project Director of the Central City Plan Dr Glen Hazelton.

Construction for the Retail Quarter Upgrade Project began in September 2021 to replace the aging underground water, waste water and storm water pipes that dated back to the 1800s. Ensuring the resilience of the city’s underground infrastructure meant large-scale excavation, and the opportunity was identified to also make changes above ground to improve the amenities in the area. The result is a vibrant, friendly George Street with beautiful street art, a play area, outdoor seating options, and abundant plants and trees to bring nature into the city.

The project team worked with representatives of the disability community, seniors, youth, students, family groups and accessibility advocates to identify what a more people-friendly and accessible George Street could look like. Dr Hazelton extends his gratitude to the community group representatives who gave their time and input into the project, calling their help “vital” to shaping the end result of George Street.

The completion of the Retail Quarter Upgrade Project was acknowledged today by a whakawātea led by Edward Ellison (Upoko ki Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou) and attended by Mayor of Dunedin Jules Radich, mana whenua, Dunedin City Councillors, and staff from DCC, project partner Aukaha, and the Ō3 Collective – Jasmax, Aecom and Isaac Construction.

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“George Street was last revamped over three decades ago and had become a little tired. Just as the retailers on the street regularly revamp their shops, the city has refitted its main street,” says Mayor of Dunedin Jules Radich.

“I expect that the economic benefits of this upgrade will emerge strongly, as new businesses identify it as a compelling destination where people want to spend time and money. However, this project has been difficult for local businesses with the disruption at their front doors. Now it’s time for us to come together and support them to make George Street the beating heart of our great small city, as it always has been.”

DCC and the Ō3 Collective collaborated with mana whenua Kāi Tahu to define the city’s identity and convert it into a streetscape, led by project partner, mana whenua owned organisation Aukaha.

Aukaha’s mana whenua advisory panellist Megan Pōtiki says the opportunity to partner with the Dunedin City Council has meant being able to reinstate Kāi Tahu’s visibility back into the city and our community.

“Now, when my children walk down George St, they will see the kupu (words) of their tīpuna (ancestors) inscribed on the pavements, they will see our cultural practices transferred into contemporary art and celebrations of history and knowledge passed down through generations.”

Excerpts of poems and prose from Dunedin performers and writers Janet Frame, Hone Tuwhare, The Clean, Peter Olds, David Eggleton, and Ruth Dallas have been immortalised in the streetscape to highlight the city’s rich literary history and status as a UNESCO Creative City of Literature.

Acting Chief Executive of Aukaha Caron Ward says the partnership between mana whenua and Dunedin City Council has created a stunning main city centre that celebrates our shared histories and values.

“The culmination of the George Street upgrade brings an immense sense of pride and belonging to everyone – mana whenua, residents and manuhiri – to see our shared histories celebrated in a unique and inclusive way.”

The Retail Quarter Upgrade project has finished six months ahead of schedule, and Dr Hazelton credits this to the hard work of many teams and the support of Dunedin residents.

“We’d like to thank everyone for their patience, understanding, and adaptability. We’re also grateful to those who have supported our local businesses, keeping George Street bustling despite the works.

This project has been a once-in-a-generation chance to fix our infrastructure and revive Dunedin’s main street and shopping area, delivering something better for our residents. The final result is now everyone’s to enjoy.”

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