The Dunedin City Council is locked in a tussle with one of
its community boards after both claimed rights to money from
trees harvested at Walton Park.
The council had an unexpected surplus of about $127,000 from
the harvest, but has rejected part of a Saddle Hill Community
Board request to use $20,000 for two community projects in
The tug-of-war saw councillors taking sides during
yesterday's finance, strategy and development committee
Some called for an earlier pledge to return the money to the
community to be honoured, while others insisted the repayment
of council debt remained the top priority.
Instead, councillors agreed to award $10,000 to an upgrade of
the Walton Park reserve, while rejecting the board's other
request for $10,000 for the beautification of Main Rd,
The remainder of the money would instead be used to help
repay council debt, in line with existing policy, although
the decisions required signing-off at the next full council
meeting on September 23.
The tussle came 30 years after land beside Walton Park,
vested in the then-Silverpeaks County Council, was used to
plant about 9500 pine trees, a report by parks manager Lisa
Wheeler to yesterday's meeting said.
The plantation was a joint project involving the community
and the Silver Peaks council, with revenue expected to be
used to improve the reserve, Mrs Wheeler said.
However, that was before amalgamation in 1989, and ''no
special rules'' had been granted to the Saddle Hill board
post-amalgamation, despite the board's expectation money
would still be used in the area, she said.
Harvesting earlier this year had raised $213,000, which was
about $70,000 more than expected, and left a surplus of
$127,000 once replanting and other costs were budgeted for,
The community board, at its meeting on August 22, expressed
disappointment at the council's stance and asked for at least
some of the surplus to be returned to the community.
However, finance, strategy and development committee chairman
Cr Syd Brown yesterday reminded councillors the decision was
one for the council to make.
Cr Paul Hudson backed the board's revised request by
recommending $20,000 be allocated for the board's two
projects, which would still leave $107,000 for council debt
''This was not a council asset; it was a community asset,''
His view won support from Mayor Dave Cull, who said the split
was a ''reasonable compromise'' between a council policy and
''quite clear'' historic obligations.
''These trees were planted by the community and in a sense
they don't belong to the council.''
Crs Neil Collins and Jinty MacTavish also backed that
position, while Cr Brown supported granting money for Walton
Park reserve but not for Main Rd, Fairfield.
However, deputy mayor Chris Staynes feared a precedent could
be set, and said the real issue was whether Dunedin was one
city or ''a set of disparate communities''.
''I think the process here is incorrect. We should be seeing
ourselves as one city,'' he said.
Cr Kate Wilson also worried about the precedent and the
process, while Cr Lee Vandervis said council debt was being
ignored, in favour of spending the money, ''virtually before
this timber has hit the ground''.
Councillors eventually voted to approve $10,000 for the
Walton Park reserve, but narrowly rejected the request for
another $10,000 for the Main Rd, Fairfield project by a 5-4
Both moves would be considered for final approval on