A public hearing on new bus shelters planned for Dunedin
turned into a political spat yesterday when committee member Cr
Lee Vandervis criticised the process and then quit the meeting
The walkout occurred near the beginning of yesterday's
meeting of the Dunedin City Council hearings committee, which
was to hear from submitters who opposed plans for new glass
bus shelters around the city.
It was believed to be the first time a councillor had
withdrawn in such a manner, with previous withdrawals brought
on by sickness or similar circumstances, committee chairman
Cr Colin Weatherall said later.
Cr Vandervis - one of three committee members - began the
session by grilling lawyer Michael Garbett about legal advice
given to the committee that suggested it should consider only
a narrow range of public concerns relating to impeded access.
Cr Vandervis was worried that precluded many of the other
issues being raised by submitters, such as vandalism of the
shelters, despite assurances from Cr Weatherall it did not.
Cr Vandervis also claimed the hearing's outcome had been
"predetermined" because the contract to build shelters had
already been let, and consultation had occurred at a
politically convenient time, just before Christmas, when many
people were unable to respond.
Cr Weatherall cautioned him against such suggestions, but Cr
Vandervis responded by requesting an adjournment.
He then retreated to a back room with Cr Weatherall and
fellow committee member Cr Andrew Noone, followed by council
governance manager Sandy Graham and Mr Garbett.
The group emerged 15 minutes later and Cr Vandervis announced
he would "respectfully withdraw" from the rest of the two-day
hearing and deliberations that followed.
"I'm uncomfortable with continuing, given the nature of the
pre-Christmas submission process, which invites broad
submissions but allows the committee to decide only on narrow
access considerations," he said, before packing his papers
and leaving the room.
Yesterday's three-strong panel was selected by Cr Weatherall
from the eight councillors on the council's wider hearings
Cr Vandervis receiving $68 an hour as a hearings fee, but
only for time served, Ms Graham confirmed.
Cr Vandervis remained available to sit on future hearings
committees, but Cr Weatherall would not comment when asked
what impact Cr Vandervis' behaviour could have on future
Cr Vandervis was also reluctant to comment when contacted,
saying to do so "might prejudice" the hearing still under
However, he reiterated his claim legal advice from Mr Garbett
had to be accepted, despite Cr Weatherall's assurances the
advice was only one view for the committee to consider.
His withdrawal meant Cr Vandervis missed submissions from
property owners including Margaret and Ernest Diack, who
objected to a shelter being added to an existing bus stop
outside their Forbury Rd home.
The elderly couple, speaking through lawyer Devon Miller,
argued it would reduce the value of their home, which
featured an impressive fuchsia garden, and encourage more
people to congregate outside, raising safety concerns when
reversing from their driveway.
The council plans to build about 120 of the glass bus
shelters at existing unsheltered bus stops over the next year
on behalf of the Otago Regional Council, which is responsible
for the city's bus services.
The new design would improve visibility and safety for
passengers and drivers and discourage "undesirable"
behaviour, council transportation operations programme
engineer Michael Harrison said.
Objections from 48 property owners had been received, but
plans for five shelters had since been withdrawn and another
12 complaints resolved, leaving 31 objections for the
committee to consider.
The hearing concludes today, with deliberations and site
visits to follow.