They debated it for an hour and a-half and, even though some
of them did not understand what it was, in the end most of
them voted to ask ratepayers if they wanted to spend $22,000
The ''it'' was a proposal for the council to commit some
resources for a piece of work on food issues, specifically
reviewing and assessing the challenges, risks and
opportunities around food in Dunedin.
The proposal came from the council's community resilience
forum, chaired by Cr Jinty MacTavish, which last year
investigated food-related issues for the city.
The work would include co-ordinating a cross-council group to
ensure ''more joined-up thinking'' and decision-making around
existing food-related council work, working with city
''stakeholders for food'', and developing options and
mechanisms to address the challenges, risks and opportunities
Many councillors yesterday confessed they had no idea what
any of that actually meant, and were therefore reluctant to
allocate ratepayer money to it.
''Some councillors and myself are struggling to identify just
what this is all about,'' Cr John Bezett said.
Crs Richard Thomson, Lee Vandervis and Mike Lord said if it
was about food supply resilience, there were not any real
issues and the market would adapt in a crisis.
''Food is not our business,'' Cr Vandervis said.
''This is a proposal to spend money on a food resilience
solution that's looking for a problem. I don't think we have
Cr Andrew Noone said he did not think the work was a high
enough priority when budget lines were tight, while Cr Hilary
Calvert said councillors could not understand the proposition
and needed something more specific to support it.
Cr Kate Wilson said there was a poor understanding of
opportunities food presented: ''If we want to get 10,000 more
jobs in Dunedin, I'm telling you food is one of the ways to
Cr Chris Staynes agreed there were many economic development
opportunities in the area of food, and suggested councillors'
thinking on the topic had been hijacked by the word
The combined negative comments and a motion from Cr Hilary
Calvert that the work be done, without any extra resourcing,
roused a passionate speech from Cr MacTavish, who said she
thought Cr Staynes' comment that people were too focused on
the word resilience was ''the world's biggest
understatement''. There was ''a very narrow perspective of
resilience around this table'', she said.
To her, resilience was how communities were enabled to be the
strongest most robust system they could be, so they could
withstand any situation, for example a recession or a a major
change in demographic.
''The concept of resilience being about earthquakes or oil
shocks [which several councillors referred to] is, with all
due respect, a little narrow.''
She said the council was involved in food across its
activities, from parks and reserves, to environmental health,
planning and economic development, but departments were all
working in silos.
''We need to be conducting those services in a good quality
fashion, in an effective and efficient fashion for ratepayers
and businesses, in a manner that is appropriate for present
and future circumstances.
''What became quite clear through the community resilience
forum was that ... I simply cannot say we are doing that. I'm
not sure how much clearer we can be about that.''
Cr Neville Peat said the council was never going to be a
ringmaster in the food business, but it did have a role to
play, and there were opportunities in the areas of economic
development, land-use planning and in working with community
groups. A small amount of resource was required to realise
those or else councillors would end up back in the same place
asking for the same thing next year.
Mayor Dave Cull noted councillors had agreed to give bigger
amounts in rates rebates for a single heritage building.
It was clear there were plenty of opportunities and
challenges around food, but some money needed to be spent to
identify those fully.
Councillors then voted down Cr Calvert's resolution, which
was replaced by one from Cr Aaron Hawkins that the council
employ a part-time staff member to progress the work, at a
cost of $22,000.
The resolution was passed by the majority of councillors and
will be consulted on in the draft annual plan for 2014-15.