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An onslaught of complaints about Dunedin’s main street makeover has prompted calls for an urgent reconsideration of the initiative, and a petition has been launched calling for a vote of no confidence in Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins and several councillors.
The petition is by Dunedin resident David Thomson, who is concerned about the way the Dunedin City Council has "pushed through policies with little or no public consultation" - including the change of speed to 10kmh and dots in George St.
In an email to the council, Cr Carmen Houlahan called for urgent reconsideration of the changes to George St, given so many people were so angry about it.
"Every news item about this has generated a surge of negative comments - way worse than the Octagon trial, and that was bad enough.
"If we are really engaging with our community, we need to listen to the public. They are not happy. The shared space is not working."
Council city services general manager Sandy Graham said the decision could be reconsidered if any councillor gave chief executive Sue Bidrose notice of what they wanted to revoke, and it had to be signed by no less than a third of the councillors.
Ms Graham said the council resolution showed the changes were temporary and able to be changed when physical distancing was no longer required or when the country moved down from Level 2.
Cr Andrew Whiley, who voted against the changes, also said the council should reconsider the decision, but it should be done in a month’s time rather than next week.
"We do have to go through a due process. Council has talked about this all the way through as being a trial, and we’ve got to let the trial take place, as much as I disagree with it."
Cr Lee Vandervis also voted against the changes and said the decision could be revisited, but it would require some councillors to change their minds.
"Given councillors’ past attitudes, that is unlikely. The fact is, the majority of councillors voted for it, and that’s a decision we have to live with."
Cr Mike Lord said he voted against the decision, but believed it was made fairly.
"What’s important is that we didn’t break with any procedures, and on that basis, I wouldn’t go and re-look at it."
"If you change the decision now, what happens next week?
"You get a whole heap of people screaming out, ‘this is wrong, you should have had it with more coloured dots’."
Cr Steve Walker, who voted for the change, agreed.
"If we reversed every decision at the first whiff of dissension, absolutely nothing would ever progress."
Crs Jim O’Malley and Sophie Barker, who also voted for the change, said much of the negativity towards the changes came from people who believed the 10kmh speed limit had been implemented for 12 months.
But it had not, Cr O’Malley said.
"In fact, it will only stay in place while social distancing is enforced by the Government. So the speed limit may only be in place until we go back to Alert Level 1."
Cr Chris Staynes, who voted for the change, agreed that once social distancing was gone, there would be no need for people to spread out on the road.
"The picture is continually changing. We don’t know what Covid rules will change - there’s a review on Monday. So it may be that this is very short-lived."
However, he and Cr Rachel Elder, who was absent for the vote, said if the rules did not change, and given the level of negativity, there would need to be some reviews of whether change was required.
Cr Staynes rejected any suggestion the changes were designed to slowly bring Dunedin residents around to pedestrianising George St permanently.
"This is purely in response to Covid-19. It’s certainly not permanent pedestrianisation by stealth."