Councillors not moved by campaign

Fliss Butcher
Fliss Butcher
A marketing campaign promoting active lifestyles in Dunedin appears to be a flop with city councillors, despite the civic leaders voting to spend more than $100,000 funding it.

Information released to the Otago Daily Times showed just one city councillor - Cr Kate Wilson, of Middlemarch - has signed up for the council-funded MoveMe programme since its launch last April.

That was despite calls by Cr Fliss Butcher at the time for all elected representatives to take part, neatly sidestepped by fellow councillors.

The programme aimed to encourage physical activity by offering tips, exercise programmes and promoting Dunedin's recreation opportunities, and was supported by the University of Otago, Sport Otago and other groups.

It was launched with start-up funding of $110,000 from the council, which was continuing to co-ordinate the programme - at a cost of $35,000 since then - on behalf of all other partner organisations.

However, just 392 people had so far registered for the programme, including just six using Dunedin City Council staff email addresses, although 12,464 had visited the programme's website.

Contacted this week, Cr Butcher said the results, including the efforts of her fellow councillors, were "a bit disappointing".

"But, you know, people get busy and all these other things happen."

Some city councillors were already active in other ways. Crs Jinty MacTavish and John Bezett were among those known to be regular cyclists.

Others were less keen on organised exercise. Cr Lee Vandervis, arguing against the programme last year, recommended "waving a chainsaw" around the garden instead.

Cr Bill Acklin was among those appearing slightly nervous during last year's debate, conceding some councillors were not doing "as much as we should be" to remain active.

And, despite voting for it, Cr Butcher said this week the poor results showed the programme was a waste of money.

"Everyone can go for a walk if they want to get fit. They don't need to have some ratepayer-funded internet sign-up programme to do it.

"Other things are more important."

She had intended to sign up after urging others to do so last year, but damaged her knee shortly afterwards, and was to have surgery on it.

"I'm looking forward to being fully active again afterwards."

Council community recreation adviser Hamish Black said it was "probably fair" to say the number signing up was lower than hoped for, but he was pleased with the total number of people visiting the website.

"These sort of initiatives do take a while to create a bit of profile through the community."

He planned more community-based events and to prepare more maps, activity plans and information brochures to promote the programme, but the key remained encouraging more people to sign up.

"It's just that conversion rate that we'll hope to improve."

The council was not alone in funding the programme. The Southern District Health Board, through its Healthy Eating, Healthy Action initiative, contributed $15,000 over three years, and other partners offered their own time and resources, he said.

It was hoped another $25,000 from the council's active city budget would be approved for 2012-13 as part of the council's annual plan process, and funding was being sought from community funding organisations.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

 

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