Consultation over Esplanade 'possible'

Dunedin City Council roading network engineer Peter Standring speaks at a public meeting in...
Dunedin City Council roading network engineer Peter Standring speaks at a public meeting in Dunedin last night to discuss the future of the Esplanade at St Clair. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A request for public consultation on the future of the Esplanade at St Clair is to be made to the Dunedin City Council, following a public meeting at the St Clair Surf Life Saving Club last night.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull recently said a decision on how best to protect St Clair Beach and the sea wall would be based on expert engineering advice, not ''expert public opinion''.

However, there was some hope when council roading network engineer Peter Standring told last night's meeting it was ''possible'' for the DCC to consult people in the community with knowledge of the beach.

More than 60 residents, business owners, surfers and regular beach users attended the meeting called by Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran, to discuss the next steps towards fixing the problems at the Esplanade.

Large sinkholes appeared in the paved Esplanade walkway in May during a period of high tides and heavy seas, when fill was sucked out from behind the wall after waves got under the structure.

The numerous problems with the sea wall over the century since it was built have always generated a healthy level of public opinion on how to resolve them.

Last night was no different.

Among the issues brought up at the meeting was a concern there was no safe access to the beach, and many surfers said they were just jumping over barriers to get to the water.

There was also concern the St Clair club's ramp was out of action, meaning there would be long delays in any surf rescue operations in the area.

It appeared there were no councillors at the meeting. However, Mr Standring said the council was looking at the issue as a matter of urgency.

Many at the meeting agreed all the problems at the Esplanade were caused by the reshaping of the ''corner'' by the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool.

Some who had lived in the area for more than 30 years said they believed it was causing the sea currents to create a ''gouging effect'', which sucked sand away from the beach.

They believed the cheapest and easiest way to fix the problems would be to remove the corner.

The meeting concluded the council should recognise the knowledge of local residents, and they wanted to be consulted by the council before any final decision was made on the future of the Esplanade.

While Mr Standring's belief it could be done brought some hope to the meeting, there was also scepticism. Local resident Vince Ryan said there had been similar community meetings in the past where similar advice had been given but the DCC had not taken it.

Ms Curran said the public knew there was a DCC process in place, but the missing element in the equation was the opinion of the community.

The meeting voted to have Ms Curran approach the DCC and request regular meetings with the community, and to ask if the community could formally consult on any developments.

It was hoped another community meeting could be held, this time with council staff providing information.

A reference group will also be formed to liaise with the council on the issues.

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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