Councillors reject stadium meeting

Bill Acklin.
Bill Acklin.
Two Dunedin city councillors invited to explain the merits of the planned $198 million Awatea St stadium at a public meeting in South Dunedin have rebuffed the offer, saying their views would not be listened to.

Meeting organiser Tracey Crampton Smith hoped "three or four hundred" people would attend the meeting planned for the Caversham Presbyterian Hall on April 19, and hear the views of South Dunedin's four ward councillors.

Crs Bill Acklin, John Bezett and Neil Collins - all stadium supporters - and Cr Dave Cull - a stadium opponent - were all sent invitations on Wednesday, she said.

However, Cr Acklin told the Otago Daily Times he had no intention of attending the meeting, while Cr Collins said he would not be going either if the meeting was "anti-stadium". Cr Bezett was yet to receive his invitation, while Cr Dave Cull said he would speak.

Cr Acklin said abusive and threatening emails he had received from people opposed to the stadium, attacking him for supporting the project, confirmed "such a meeting is of no benefit to anyone".

"These meetings are only attended by people that have made up their minds that they don't want the stadium to proceed. If I thought for a moment that they genuinely wanted to hear from me, I would be there.

"But the emails that have been coming in consisting of abuse and threats from those who are against this project confirm that such a meeting is of no benefit to anyone.

"I am receiving a lot of emails from stadium supporters telling me to stick with it. The thing is, though, these people won't attend public meetings," Cr Acklin said.

Cr Collins said he was also yet to see an invitation, but "my initial reaction is I would not be available. The two meetings that have been held so far are purely for people opposed to the stadium. It's not about covering positive ideas . . . The people that have been attending have a closed mind.

"I will have to consider that [invitation], but I'm not going to make that decision in a hurry. If it's an anti-stadium meeting, I won't be attending."

However, Ms Crampton Smith said the meeting was part of a "consultative process" between the ward's ratepayers and their representatives, and denied it would be "anti-stadium".

"I don't see it as anything other than a discussion," she said.

The meeting organised in the belief public opinion was "moving rapidly away" from supporting the project, but councillors would be given a chance to speak about the stadium and "hear the opinion of their constituents", she said.

"This lobby has been initiated so that we as ratepayers continue to express our concern to our council representatives with regard to the proposed stadium," she said.

Cr Cull said when contacted he would be attending and speaking at the meeting after receiving a "respectful, neutral invitation" to address the concerns and advantages of the planned stadium.

"It was a balanced invite."

Asked if he thought the meeting and audience would be predominantly anti-stadium, he said it "depends who is speaking".

Last month, about 1800 people attended a vociferously anti-stadium meeting at the Dunedin Town Hall organised by the Stop the Stadium group.

Another 150 people gathered at the Port Chalmers Town Hall last Sunday to hear the area's local councillor, Cr Andrew Noone, defend his pro-stadium position.

Asked by Cr Noone for a show of hands, only four of the 150 people at the meeting indicated they supported the stadium project.



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