Dunedin Streetscape

The retail quarter at George Street in Dunedin grew from a humble bakery in the 1920s, slowly expanding as more shop fronts were established.  In recent years, the often ad-hoc nature of development has turned George Street into a fragmented retail area in need of an upgrade, and a cohesive and attractive look. Which is exactly what it got.

Trees featured in this streetscape:

Native & Evergreen


Dunedin has long been considered the capital of the South, but in recent years the centre began looking tired and fell behind other urban centres. Recognising this, Dunedin City Council developed the ‘Totally Gorgeous’ project, a $100 million plus once-in-a-generation infrastructure development plan to re-establish the beauty and appeal of Dunedin’s retail centre. 

Unlike other major cities, Dunedin does not have a suburban mall, everything (including the mall) is in the centre, so beautifying the area was essential and the designers recognised the need to incorporate a range of plants and trees in the streetscape. The aim of greening the streetscape was obviously aesthetic, but it also looked to use nature to boost sustainability, with the trees reducing carbon emissions and reintroducing bird and insect life to the centre.

Zelkova serrata, Japanese Elm in Dunedin CBD streetscape
Beautiful trees and shrubs in Dunedin CBD, George Street.
George Street Dunedin

A key aspect of the design are the seating areas which ‘sit’ on the edge of raised garden beds, a mature tree providing shade cover. With the garden level at the same as that of the seat, it creates a real feeling of being in a natural escape while enjoying the CBD amenities. The revitalising smells and scents are more powerful than exhaust fumes and it’s a wonderful way to bring the advantages of the great outdoors to the built environment. 

A number of rainwater gardens were added to provide a natural solution to stormwater run-off, the garden reabsorbing water and reducing the burden on the upgraded stormwater pipes underneath the street. 

It was a pleasure to work with Kurt at Jasmax, along with the instalment team, assisting them with the tree selection. The finished streetscape uses a mix of New Zealand Natives and deciduous plants to great effect. The planting is carefully balanced for seasonal variation, really showcasing the living centre of George Street and bringing a vibrancy to the retail quarter that was missing. Importantly, all are hardy Southern trees that excel in adverse weather…just in case any of that Scottishness in Dunedin decides to blow through town. 

Ulmus lobel tree supplied by Easy Big Trees in Dunedin CBD, George Street
George streetscape with Ulmus lobel tree