Call to reopen John Wilson Ocean Dr

Dunedin's scenic John Wilson Ocean Dr should be reopened to traffic immediately, with plans for a nearly half-million-dollar spruce-up axed, Grey Power Otago president Jo Millar says.

Ms Millar told councillors at yesterday's Dunedin City Council annual plan hearing her members - many in rest-homes and retirement villages - supported original plans to reopen the road to traffic.

Since then, the council had settled on keeping the road closed to motorists until a planned redevelopment was completed, catering for motorists and pedestrians, cyclists and other users.

The upgrade would cost $487,519 and was subject to consultation during this year's annual plan hearings.

The issue has revitalised debate over the road's future, with some submitters on Wednesday again arguing it should remain closed to traffic permanently.

However, Ms Millar yesterday said some of her members could not walk along the road to the lookout at the top, meaning they were excluded from the lookout's panoramic views of the coastline while it remained closed to vehicles.

Instead, she urged the council to abandon plans for the redevelopment costing "mega-bucks", which the city's residents "really don't need", and simply reopen the road with a minimum of work carried out.

However, another submitter, Anne Marie Parsons, argued yesterday the road should remain permanently closed to vehicles to provide a safe space for recreation.

She had herself been struck by a vehicle in the past while using a pedestrian crossing, and said it would be better if people using John Wilson Ocean Dr in future did not have to keep watching for cars.

"I think it's time we just had a nice open space . . . It's a perfect place to go. You don't even need to think about cars."

Paul Pope, of the Dunedin Amenities Society, acknowledged the debate continued to polarise the community, but said his organisation also wanted the road to remain closed to vehicles.

That would allow the development of a new coastal walking trail linking notable sites between St Clair and Otago Peninsula, saving the council money and bringing an economic return through increased tourism, he believed.


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