City councillors work for trial closure compromise

A proposal for a trial closure of the Octagon will be reviewed following a tight vote by Dunedin city councillors.

Most councillors signalled support for a partial, rather than full, closure of the Octagon during the trial when it was discussed at a full council meeting yesterday.

There has been outcry from business owners, bus company Ritchies, the Otago Chamber of Commerce, and the New Zealand Cruise Association over next year’s trial and a perceived lack of consultation.

Cr Carmen Houlahan put forward a motion calling for an urgent review of the trial, and for plans to be discussed thoroughly with stakeholders on a weekly basis.

The decision was important, as it affected livelihoods, jobs, and left a ‘‘lasting impression on visitors to our city’’, Cr Houlahan said.

The motion was not a criticism of council staff.

Rather, it was recognition that the council owed it to people to do the trial right, she said.

‘‘And right now I don’t think we have.’’

Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan addressed councillors earlier in the meeting, during the public forum, on behalf of the business community.

He again highlighted issues with the consultation process and the impact on businesses, and advocated for a partial, rather than full, closure.

Cr Jules Radich took the uncommon step of citing an ill-fated French monarch, saying councillors should take heed of Marie Antoinette’s fate and listen to the people.

But Cr Marie Laufiso argued the move was outside the governance role of councillors, and passing it would signal a lack of confidence in staff.

Mayor Aaron Hawkins said decisions to close public roads for events, such as graduation parades and markets, were made by staff regularly.

‘‘I have received plenty of positive feedback about this.

‘‘I don’t believe the opinion of our community is universal. I would hate for that to be lost.’’

Most councillors believed a partial closure of the Octagon, leaving the top half open to traffic, would be a suitable compromise.

They also acknowledged communication and consultation had not been up to scratch.

The first part of Cr Houlahan’s motion was passed 8-6, with councillors Laufiso, David Benson-Pope, Mike Lord, Steve Walker, deputy mayor Christine Garey, and Mr Hawkins voting against.

The second part, however, was voted down 11-3.

daisy.hudson@odt.co.nz

Comments

What did they do before cruise ships? These few people don't 'own' the heart of our city with their tents and trinkets. We, the ratepayers do, and we are the majority.

I too have been asking this question. It almost feels like the only reason we have the Octagon is to funnel tourists through a handful of shops selling over priced mechandise. Surely, this city, has so much more to offer the tourists than foreign made trinkets and smelly buses.

Are Mr Hawkins and Ms Laufiso seriously suggesting that councilors should just accept any idea mooted by DCC staff without review or comment? Or is it just ideas that they agree with?

If it is the first proposition then lets just get rid of the council and run the place with administrators. Lets save all the millions of expense paying for elections and councilors. Yeah I agree, that would be a very silly idea.