Ian Mann (left) and Ken McIntosh have divergent views on
the future of Dunedin's John Wilson Ocean Dr. Photo by
Two men, two wheelchairs - and two very different views
of the future of John Wilson Ocean Dr, at St Kilda, in Dunedin.
Ian Mann (82) is reliant on his wheelchair, after hip
replacements left him unable to walk more than a few short
steps at a time.
Ken McIntosh (53) is also reliant on his wheelchair, after a
series of operations to remove a tumour on his spine left him
an incomplete tetraplegic in 2003.
Both men also shared a love of John Wilson Ocean Dr and the
panoramic views of coastal scenery from Lawyers Head, at the
end of the drive.
But their views diverge when it comes to the future of the
road they both love.
Mr Mann wanted it reopened to cars, allowing him to be driven
to the top by wife Joan to take in the view.
Mr McIntosh was equally adamant it should remain
vehicle-free, fearing the return of motorists would make it
unsafe for people like him.
It is a stark lesson in the difficulties faced by the Dunedin
City Council as it grapples - once again - with the scenic
drive's future, five years after it was closed to vehicles in
The decision by councillors on Monday to send the issue back
to the council's community development committee, to explore
more options for the road's future, has been met with guarded
acceptance by groups lobbying on both sides this week.
However, Mr Mann told the Otago Daily Times the
solution was simple: allow vehicles back on to the road, and
encourage everyone to share.
"It's a wide road - it's practically three lanes. There's any
amount of room for everyone.
"Given a little bit of goodwill from everybody, there's no
reason why it can't be good."
Mr Mann, who uses a wheelchair or mobility scooter for trips
outside, said he had visited the area "from time to time"
over the past 22 years, since retiring to Dunedin.
He was now unable to walk the length of the drive, and
unwilling to brave cold weather and "freeze to death" while
exposed to the elements in his wheelchair.
"Old bones don't like being cold."
That left only vehicle access if he wanted to enjoy the views
from the drive and Lawyers Head.
"I'd love to be able to go along in the car, sit and have
lunch, watch the view for half an hour or so. I wouldn't do
it every day - perhaps not every week - but I think the
opportunity should be there."
Those objecting to any form of shared vehicle access were
being "quite selfish", he believed.
The councillors' decision on Monday was "a step in the right
direction", but limited vehicle access should be available
each day, he argued.
However, Mr McIntosh said he had been converted after
initially believing the road's closure to vehicles was a bad
He used to visit Lawyers Head in his mobility van, to eat
fish and chips and enjoy the views, but since its closure to
vehicles had discovered the joys of a wide-open and
"You'd see other people around. There's families with kids on
there. It's just so good. And there's no way I would use it
if vehicles were riding on it as it is, because it's just too
"The young fellows use it as a race track."
He visited the area "once a fortnight" at the moment, and
every few days in summer, and believed there was no
comparable vehicle-free alternative in Dunedin.
Initial council plans - since discarded - to spend $487,519
upgrading the road for shared use had been "just crazy", as
had the ongoing arguments over its future.
"Every week, there's something different about it. Next week,
it will be that they're just going to open it [to vehicles]
again and have it back as a normal road."
Mr McIntosh also believed the solution was simple. The
council should stick to the vehicle ban.
"It's only one small bit of road that people can't drive on.
There's plenty of other ones they can drive to if they want
to have a look around.
"There's no other place like it [John Wilson Ocean Dr] in
Dunedin that families can go out with their kids on bikes and
"It's the only thing like it around."