Doubt over Albany St cycleway consultation

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
A Dunedin businessman says he has "next to no confidence" the city council will consult properly about a proposed cycleway a second time around.

At yesterday’s infrastructure services committee, councillors were briefed about the proposed Albany St Connection Project (the Project).

Some property owners and local businesses have raised concerns about the consultation process for the project, and "initial legal advice is that the consultation process is potentially open to challenge, and it would be prudent to re-consult in relation to the project".

Chris Hart. Photo: ODT files
Chris Hart. Photo: ODT files
Liquorland franchisee Chris Hart, who owns Leith St Liquorland, had previously aired his complaints about the consultation process.

Mr Hart said he was "not surprised" the council had been warned of potential legal challenges.

"Let’s be clear: we were not against cycleways. That is not the issue. But we have to hold the council to account for their process."

The process had been "cherry-picked" right from the start, he said.

"They chose people to get the OK from. They want to have their cake and eat it too. The planning just beggars belief in the way they treat the public and the ratepayers."

He was particularly concerned the proposal would cost the area 68 carparks.

"The council seemed to just want to charge ahead and not respect the process."

Although he was pleased to hear the council would go back out to the public for consultation, he was concerned "the same people on council" might be involved in that process.

"At this stage, I have next to no confidence in the council. What have they actually learned?"

At yesterday’s meeting Cr Lee Vandervis spoke of the "continual stream of parking restrictions".

"But there have been no attempts to act on a number of suggestions for increased parking.

"For many years, I have been representing the people who have been clamouring for this."

Cr Carmen Houlahan asked council staff about the impact of the re-consultation timelines.

She also asked what would happen if groups were not happy with the proposed project in the next round of consultation.

General manager climate and city growth Scott MacLean said the new consultation would happen very soon.

A hearings committee would make its decision based on the final submissions, he said.

Cr Houlahan asked about the degree the degree to which the students’ voice had been heard in the process.

"There is obviously the voice of Otago University Students’ Association ... but there are a lot of students who bring their car to university.

Infrastructure services committee chairman Jim O’Malley said individuals would be able to submit in the next round of consultation.

Cr Houlahan said while she was in favour of cycleways generally, she might submit personally on the Albany St proposal.

Cr Steve Walker said he trusted the hearings committees to take on board any feedback and information, and reach a balanced decision.

The Albany St project has been described by the council as aiming to provide a safe walking and cycling connection between the harbour shared path and the city’s tertiary education area and central business district.

The council consulted on a proposal in 2022.

Concepts were developed following discussions with key stakeholders, including the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Tūhura Otago Museum, student representatives, the disability community and user groups, the council has said.

Another round of consultation was carried out last year in response to feedback.

In December, deputy mayor Cherry Lucas said three carparks should be added on the northern side of Albany St, but she was outvoted 2-1 at the hearing on recommending this to the council.

The other councillors at the hearing were Cr O’Malley and Cr Mandy Mayhem.