Council still divided on Ocean Dr access

The Dunedin City Council remains as divided as the community over John Wilson Ocean Dr, after a casting vote was needed to end a deadlocked debate over vehicle access to the road yesterday.

The future of the closed section of road was back before councillors at yesterday's community development committee, with a staff report recommending an $88,000 upgrade before reinstating vehicle access between 11am and 2pm on weekdays.

That would allow restricted vehicle access once traffic-calming speed bumps and other measures were installed, but keep the road closed for pedestrians and others to use outside those hours, at weekends and on public holidays.

The recommendation prompted prolonged debate at yesterday's meeting - lasting more than an hour - eventually leading to a revised plan from Cr Colin Weatherall.

The revised plan reinstated vehicles between 11am and 2pm, but reduced the road's speed limit to 30kmh and delayed the $88,000 in traffic-calming work until motorists' compliance with the new speed limit could be monitored.

That came only after alternatives pitched by other councillors were batted away one after another, with Cr Neil Collins failing to win support for seven-day access within the same hours, and Cr John Bezett arguing unsuccessfully for 9am to 3pm opening hours each day.

Even then, councillors remained divided when Cr Weatherall's revised recommendations were put to the vote, with the result tied 6-6.

That left the decision to the casting vote of committee chairman Cr Bill Acklin, who has argued vociferously for vehicle access to be reinstated.

"I'm voting yes," he declared.

The result meant the decision to reinstate vehicles would be referred to the next full council meeting on December 12 for final approval.

The vote came after council staff, responding to councillors' questions, also confirmed a $120,000 resealing of John Wilson Ocean Dr was scheduled for 2012-13, but might not be needed if the road remained closed to vehicles.

If reopened to vehicles, $25,000 of the $88,000 traffic-calming work - water-blasting to remove existing road markings and then adding new ones - could be saved, if the resealing progressed first.

The rest of the $88,000 could also be saved if motorists stuck to a reduced 30kmh speed limit, introduced through speed limit reviews over the next two years or by a temporary lower limit in the meantime, councillors heard.

Council parks manager Lisa Wheeler said the 11am-2pm opening hours would cater for rest-home residents, workers and tour buses driving along the route, and otherwise leave it free for pedestrians and others to use.

However, councillors remained divided, with Cr Bezett saying police reasons for wanting the road closed remained "very relevant", even while arguing motorists needed access earlier than the proposed 11am opening time, including on weekends.

"It's enough time ... the morning's over by 11am."

Cr Collins declared his colleagues "mad" after failing to win support for his bid for seven-day opening, while Cr Teresa Stevenson wanted the spending scrapped completely, given the council's tight fiscal situation.

Crs Jinty MacTavish and Kate Wilson also worried about the spending, given fiscal constraints, while Cr Fliss Butcher wanted a complete vehicle ban, but would support restricted access because others in the community wanted it.

Cr Syd Brown said none of the options considered would win more than 50% of the community's support, and the road should therefore remain closed.

Cr Bezett said he had hoped the differences could have been resolved by now.

"Obviously, they haven't."

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

 

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