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
"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
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.