Councillors move to trim expenditure

Dunedin city councillors have swung the axe on a series of controversial projects - including spending on John Wilson Ocean Dr and the city's shark nets - in a last-ditch effort to reduce a looming 7.5% rates increase.

However, they have also decided to press ahead with other major projects, including the sale of Carisbrook and the $8.6 million fourth stage of the Otago Settlers' Museum upgrade.

The big decisions were made during the first day of annual plan deliberations yesterday, which aimed to finalise the council's spending plans for the 2011-12 financial year.

Among the projects chopped was the $487,519 plan to upgrade John Wilson Ocean Dr for shared use by motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and other users.

Debate over the road's use has been ongoing since it was closed in 2006, and appeared close to resolution when councillors earlier this year approved plans for an upgrade to make it safe for multiple use.

However, the councillors' change of mind yesterday meant funding for the work would be removed, and bollards in place part-way along the scenic drive would remain in place, providing a vehicle-free space at no extra cost.

The controversy over the council's long-running shark-net programme was also resolved yesterday, as calls to end it were heeded by councillors, who voted to remove annual funding of $38,000 from the budget.

The two decisions came after numerous public submissions to last week's annual plan hearings, most of them calling for John Wilson Ocean Dr to stay closed to vehicles.

A steady stream of submitters also called for an end to the city's shark-net programme, citing the ineffectiveness of the nets and their environmental toll.

Councillors also confirmed their intention to sell Carisbrook as an industrial site, or for some acceptable use, with big-box retail prohibited.

Councillors also voted against reviewing the planned $8.6 million fourth stage of the Otago Settlers Museum upgrade, despite questions raised about the appropriateness of the spending, meaning the project would proceed.

Also yesterday, Cr Kate Wilson briefed the media on a review of building consent fees, which showed they were higher in Dunedin than other cities.

A review was to be carried out, with results presented to the council's planning and environment committee in September, she said.

The deliberations of the council's annual plan hearings committee will continue today and could stretch into tomorrow, depending on progress.

The committee's recommendations will be presented by the full council on June 7, and the finalised 2011-12 annual plan signed off by the council on June 27.


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