Dunedin city councillor Richard Thomson thinks he might have
a plan that could satisfy the desires of both sides of the
debate over which part of Portobello Rd/Harington Point Rd to
A suggestion in the Dunedin City Council's draft annual plan
that it review the order of remaining widening and
cycle/walkway work on harbourside road around the Otago
Peninsula resulted in 600 submissions and ignited a fierce
debate between peninsula communities and between them and
The Portobello and Broad Bay communities argued for their
sections to be done first, as per the present plan, while
cyclists and residents on the Vauxhall/Glenfalloch section,
which would connect two already completed sections, argued
their section should be moved to the top of the list.
Both groups used safety as the key argument for picking them.
The debate became personal at some stages, with accusations
made by some in the Portobello/Broad Bay communities that the
council was ''hell-bent'' on starting at the city end of the
road partially because Cr John Bezett and Mayor Dave Cull, a
cyclist who rides the Vauxhall/Glenfalloch section nearly
every day, lived there.
Cr Bezett yesterday said he ''bitterly resented'' the
implication, and reminded the public he had clearly
disadvantaged himself when he pushed in 2007 to do the
Macandrew Bay segment of the road first, and had sought the
opinion of the auditor-general on whether he and other
councillors should withdraw on the matter.
He said the auditor-general had cleared peninsula-dwelling
councillors to sit in on the discussion and vote, but he had
decided to withdraw from both as a matter of clarity.
Mr Cull said he would chair the discussion, but also would
not participate or vote because there remained the perception
he would allow self-interest to influence the decision.
Also, he did not like the inference that to prove he was not
biased meant voting one way in particular.
Cr Neville Peat, of Broad Bay, felt he was less affected so
did not need to withdraw.
Cr Thomson, the council's finance committee chairman, told
councillors he had come up with an idea that he thought could
work, but staff would have to do the modelling to confirm it
He believed it could be possible to complete both sections
simultaneously, or as close as possible, at no additional
cost and little or no impact on rates over the next 10 years.
It would, however, mean borrowing money earlier than planned,
possibly affecting the council's goal of reducing its overall
debt level to $200 million by 2023.
He noted the work could not begin in the 2014-15 year anyway
because the programme was already fully committed to
completing improvements on a section of Harington Point Rd,
so feedback could be prepared in time for the setting of the
10-year budget in 2015-16.
He suggested a starting point for the work be named, should
it prove impossible to do both at the same time. However,
councillors agreed not to specify a priority in case it led
to what Cr David Benson-Pope described as further ''tension
and aggro'' in the community until they heard whether Cr
Thomson's idea was workable.
Finance and transportation staff said they could have a look
at the model proposed by Cr Thomson and report back to the
council on Friday, so it could make a decision.