21 Dec 2016

Not all relieved by new steepest-street loo

9:03 am on 21 December 2016

Tourists climbing the world's steepest street in Dunedin will finally have access to a public toilet, but some fed-up locals worry it will not be enough.

A constant stream of tourists travels up the world's steepest street, Dunedin's Baldwin Street, each day.

Tourists are a near-constant sight on Baldwin Street. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

A constant stream of tourists can be seen climbing Baldwin Street all day, stopping in the middle of the street to take photos, or trying to force their campervans up the 19-degree angled street.

Until now, driven by desperation, tourists have been rushing into nearby businesses, knocking on residents' doors, or even finding a clump of bushes to do their business.

One resident, who gave her name as Lynette, has been living on Baldwin Street for 51 years and said tourists venturing into private properties to relieve themselves was not unusual.

"I caught a man, a few years ago now, and he was going to do his little business - big business, should I say - and I called out to him and he just said he was 'sorry'."

She said in the past three years, as more and more cruise ships had come to the city, it had become a lot worse.

North East Valley Baptist Church minister Steve O'Connor said the church had been pushing the council for some time to get a loo put in.

"We've had bus drivers just tell the people 'go and use the church toilets, they're quite happy for you to do it', without ever checking with us," he said.

"My administrator was going to lock up one day and heard voices in the chapel and there were 15 people in there waiting to use the loo."

Dunedin City Council has long promised to install a toilet and one has now been put in on North Road, near the entrance to Baldwin Street, and today it is making good on that.

The $90,000 council toilet is based on an American design, called a Portland loo. It has a graffitti-proof, easy-clean metal cubicle, designed to stand on footpaths in public areas.

The public toilet being installed on Dunedin's Baldwin Street will give some relief to tourists.

The public toilet being installed on Dunedin's Baldwin Street will give some relief to tourists. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

Co-owner of The Grid cafe, Gavin Mockford, said tourists had constantly asked to use the cafe toilet, resulting in a broken seat, and a cistern and handbasin ripped away from the wall.

He said he was glad the new council loo had gone in, but one toilet might not be enough.

"Ninety per cent of the time it will be fine, but as soon as you get buses turning up you've got the same problem as we've had for ages which is that 30 or 40 people on the bus at once want to use the toilet and we've got one.

"It's a worry, it's not going to solve the problem."

Lynette also said she did not think the busloads of tourists would benefit, because they were on a tight schedule.

Baldwin Street is the steepest in the world.

Baldwin Street is the steepest in the world. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

"There's so many people on the bus.

"I think what will happen is the public will use it more - and there's the possibility of young ones using it at weekends, and vandalism will set in."

Council spokeswoman Jendi Paterson said the toilet was being put in on a trial basis and could be moved - or the number of cubicles could be increased if necessary.

She said it would be operational at the end of today, but there would be no official opening.