Ocean drive debate revs up

There were impassioned pleas and an angry walk-out as debate over the closure of Dunedin's scenic John Wilson Ocean Dr to motorists showed no signs of dying down yesterday.

Keeping vehicles off the road was signalled by councillors with a vote last month, but the fallout from the move continued at yesterday's Dunedin City Council public forum.

Three speakers, upset the results of last year's public consultation had been swept aside, won applause from the public gallery as they took turns taking councillors to task over the closure.

Two members of the John Wilson Promenaders group, who also used the forum to congratulate councillors for the decision, endured muttering and scoffing from the gallery.

The pair's arguments even prompted one man sitting in the gallery to stage a walkout, after loudly declaring their arguments were "beyond belief".

"I really can't listen to this rubbish," he said as he went.

Councillors last month voted to remove $487,519 for John Wilson Ocean Dr from the 2011-12 draft annual plan. The money had been pencilled in to pay for upgrading the road to a shared space for motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and other users, following public consultation last year.

However, the funding decision was subject to last month's annual plan consultation, and a flood of fresh submissions from those opposed to vehicles on the road prompted a last-minute change by councillors.

A bid by Cr Bill Acklin earlier this month to reinstate vehicles for restricted hours, following a smaller $50,000 upgrade, also fell just one vote short.

Yesterday, Dunedin man Robert Gilmore told councillors they had misread public opinion by listening to annual plan submissions. Most of those wanting vehicle access to continue believed they had been heard after last year's consultation, and had not made second submissions to last month's annual plan. That left the way clear for those opposed to vehicle access.

"The simplest and cheapest solution to this problem is to remove the bollards and return John Wilson Ocean Drive to what it was before - a beautiful scenic drive," he said.

Joan Mann said her wheelchair-bound husband needed vehicle access to enjoy the view from Lawyers Head.

However, John Wilson Promenaders organiser Gerard Liddell applauded the vehicle ban, saying the drive was Dunedin's only wide carriageway free of vehicles where pedestrians, cyclists and others could feel safe.

There were snorts of derision as he argued the health benefits promoted by closing the road to vehicles outweighed the arguments for vehicle access.

St Kilda resident Justine Tindley agreed vehicles should remain banned, pointing to the litter and other problems they brought with them. She said use of the area was only now starting to grow, after 50 years of vehicle access, and believed the controversy would eventually be forgotten.

"In 10 years' time . . . it's just going to be crowded full of people."

The council will meet again on June 27 and vote to confirm the 2011-12 annual plan without the $487,519 funding needed to reopen the road to vehicles.

John Wilson Drive

Just because something is a "public road" doesn't mean that the public can or should use all means to access it. Technically all footpaths are included within a "public road" but that doesn't mean cars, or other vehicles are welcome.

I like having one lovely place in Dunedin by the sea which is car-free. I can walk along it or take the kids on their bikes. The St Clair Esplanade is less than 2 km down the road, and provides a wonderful view and experience for those who wish to view the sea/beach from the comfort of their cars.

I agree with those who consider that keeping John Wilson Drive car-free will make it more of an asset to the city looking into the future.

Looking at some reality here

The drive is accessible to cars right now, just not the whole drive. There are more impressive scenic lookouts in Dunedin within 5 minutes drive of JWD. There is nowhere else in Dunedin for families to walk and bike safely together without fast cyclists or cars. The view isn't scenic for drivers who should actually be watching the road not the scenery. Access to the view from the top is not great for people with physical disabilities or who are in wheelchairs because there are steps.

People in Dunedin need more areas to exercise safely and peacefully with their children and grandchildren, not less. Families are utilising the new found space in a healthy happy way. Leave it shut to cars.

Litter problem

As a councillor said, the litter problem is the council's problem. Provide bins and fine the litterers, but dont close a road because of litter. The big problem is the dog pooh and those idiots who pick up their dog pooh only to discard the plastic bag on the road or on the beach. 

Who is being selfish?

Who is being selfish? The ones who don't want any compromise with the situation as it now stands. Those who want the whole road open, or closed, haven't got their own way. 

You're right...

Tourism is the future, and John Wilson drive is a far more scenic and attractive propostion without the KFC and Maccas junk left behind by the boy racers and other losers in cars who don't know what rubbish bins are for.

It's great to see people actually using the drive as an area to hang out with their families without worrying about getting run over. 

I don't agree with how the council did it, but I like the results.

Another blow to progress

Where have you been, Dunedin residents?  Let the traffic through John Wilson Drive as it should be.  Our beach outlooks are one of our most valuable tourist drawcards, and John Wilson has to be one of the most visied sites.  Obviously selfish locals just want to keep it just for themselves.  Little wonder Dunedin is going backward. 

Dunedin City Council and Dunedin residents - get your heads out of the sand. Tourism is the future - be a bit proactive for all Dunedin, for a change.   

DCC councilors

It is a public road and full public access should not be restricted to any person at all just because a few councilors and some other very vocal persons think so.

There appears to be no apparent logic reason for the closure at all. [Abridged]

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