Station tipped as tour hub

Visitor centre could be on the move

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 16:00 14/11/2012
Dunedin railway station
WILMA McCORKINDALE/Fairfax NZ
A Dunedin bus operator says the Dunedin visitors' centre should be moved to the city's railway station.

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Dunedin Railway Station could become the city's I-Site Visitors Centre.

D Scene newspaper understands part of the much-photographed distinctive building, owned by city ratepayers, is under serious consideration as the next I-Site, amid calls from a city bus operator for the centre to be relocated.

Cruise shuttle operator Malcolm Budd, of Ritchies Transport, said the railway station was an iconic building with empty council-owned premises at its north end, which could be used.

‘It is an ideal and sheltered pickup and drop-off zone for the passengers.

"Everybody knows where it is. It's an historic part of Dunedin. There's a lot to see there, there's a lot to offer in that area for cruise ship passengers."

Budd's suggestion came in the wake of council plans for cruise ship bus stops to be set up outside Dunedin police station in Great King St, or the courthouse in lower Stuart St. The stops would be used on days during the cruise season when the Octagon was closed for public events.

Budd believed that would affect passengers being guided by Dunedin Visitors Centre I-Site staff to local sightseeing tours.

He said passengers already had difficulty finding the I-Site, in Princes St.

"How are the shuttle passengers going to find the I-Site from Great King St or lower Stuart St when the Octagon is shut off?" Budd said.

"People will just go and do their own thing and won't bother going to the visitors centre and they'll just walk around town."

Budd said problems on cruise ship days, such as delays getting buses into the Octagon and city centre traffic congestion, would be solved if the I-Site was relocated to the railway station.

"We're getting screamed at by the cruise ship people to have the shuttles on time, people wondering where the shuttles are, and we have people ringing us and saying there's big queues in the Octagon waiting for shuttles. We have queues a mile long at the ship because it is taking us an hour to do a turnaround. If we went to the railway station we could do it in 45 minutes. We need a quicker turnaround."

Budd understood concerns the railways station was too far from the city's shopping centre, which has in the past prevented the council from considering it as a visitors centre site.

However, he didn't agree that it would affect retailers, saying shoppers rarely had problems finding shops.

Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said the Visitors' Centre was an important aspect of the city's tourism industry which serviced more than $2m visitors annually, about half a million being international.

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The railway station ticked most boxes needed for a Visitors Centre site, and the idea of relocating the centre there had been mooted for years, Saxton said.

He denied being aware of any plans to move the I-Site, though. Saxton believed things worked well on cruise ship days. He praised the organisation of the visits by Visitors Centre staff, saying they did an excellent job managing road closures and reducing congestion.

Today sees the arrival of Voyager of the Seas, carrying 3000 passengers. Cruise ship passenger numbers were rising, with an increasing number of coaches required. That could lead to questions about the impact on aspects like transportation, Saxton said.

However, Dunedin needed to consider requirements of all tourists to the city, not just cruise ship passengers, Saxton said.

- The Southland Times

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