Last-minute lobbying led to council U-turn on drive

Debate over the future of John Wilson Ocean Dr in Dunedin was "skewed" by last-minute lobbying by those opposed to seeing vehicles return to the road, a city councillor says.

Cr Bill Acklin was commenting on the decision by councillors - during this month's annual plan deliberations - to perform an about-face, voting 10-2 to scrap the planned $487,519 redevelopment of the road.

Cr Acklin was a member of the hearings panel that listened to public submissions last year, and recommended the redevelopment work to create a shared space for walkers and cyclists.

Motorists were to be allowed back on to the road for restricted hours each day, with access controlled by an automated barrier arm.

The idea was initially backed by councillors late last year, and the funding added to the council's draft annual plan, but axed after annual plan public hearings drew another stream of submissions from those opposed to motorists using the route.

Yesterday, Cr Acklin said he and the council had received "a lot" of feedback since the about-face from those "disheartened and disappointed ... and quite hot under the collar" about the decision.

He believed the process had been "skewed" because those who submitted to last year's public hearing in favour of reopening the road thought they had been heard, and a decision made by the council.

They had not submitted in large numbers to this month's annual plan hearings, leaving opponents of the road's reopening to motorists free to make their case for a second time, he said.

"In my view the whole thing was skewed and I'm very disappointed the council did not stand by the hearings panel and the council decision to support the hearings panel last year."

However, he doubted the decision could be overturned with 10 councillors voting against the move during the deliberations.

Council staff said they were still working on plans for minor safety and parking improvements that would still be carried out on the road.

That included turning parallel parks along the seaward side of the road - up to the bollards - into about 90 angled parks, council community and recreation policy team leader Lisa Wheeler said.

It also included painting yellow no-parking lines near the bollards, to create room for cars to turn around safely, Ms Wheeler said.

A fence at Lawyers Head had already been extended, and more plantings would be added in the area.

Beautification work could also be carried out along the length of the drive in future, she said.

The work would be carried out from within existing budgets "as soon as practical", but no timelines had been set.



No, not skewed

Councillor Acklin claims the process for making a decision on the drive has been "skewed" because supporters of re-opening hadn't resubmitted to the annual plan process.

The argument also works the other way. I made a submission in favour of total closure last year and had thought the process was finalised with the disappointing decision to allow at least a partial re-opening.

Had I known in advance that the annual plan process was again taking submissions, I would have taken the time to reiterate my arguments in favour of closure. The same will apply to a large number of others who think like me.

Let us just accept that the annual plan decision is a genuinely democratic one, reflecting not just the wishes of citizens but also the relative strength of the arguments.



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