A University of Otago professor has struck back after the
Taxpayers' Union accused the university of wasting taxpayers'
money ''counting graffiti and rubbish''.
Union executive director Jordan Williams said an Otago
University study led by Associate Prof Nick Wilson on
Wellington's street-connecting walkways equated to ''counting
graffiti and rubbish''.
''Ten years after it was revealed that high school students
were getting NCEA credits for picking up rubbish, our
universities are doing academic studies into the graffiti and
litter in walkways.
''A toddler could alert you that an alleyway is dirty, but at
Otago it appears to count as academic study,'' Mr Williams
Taxpayers paid for Otago University to produce ''real
science'', and for councils to maintain walkways.
''Our advice to both is to stick to their knitting, rather
than be led by spin and `surveys' that are self-evident.
''Otago's byline `Your place in the world' should be more
aspirational than counting graffiti and rubbish.''
Prof Wilson yesterday struck back, saying the study, which
was published in an international peer-reviewed journal,
looked into issues that put people off walking.
''Data on litter and graffiti was just a small part of it,
but these are non-trivial issues if they put people off
walking and cost the council a lot of money,'' he said.
No university funds were spent conducting the study, which
was done by Prof Wilson and his colleagues in their spare
''Ironically, if cities were more walkable, then this would
save taxpayer funds on healthcare services by preventing
cancer, diabetes and heart disease.''
Being a scientific study meant it was outside the scope of
routine council activities and the fact its authors were
independent gave it more weight.
''This means that the public and other scientists may find
the results more credible.''