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Cr Andrew Whiley successfully convinced his colleagues at a June 8 council meeting that more time was needed to allow for councillors’ input into a proposal for an advisory group to offer feedback on the planned multi-million dollar George St upgrade slated for next year.
Designed to shift the emphasis of Dunedin’s main street away from cars and towards pedestrians and public space, the project has been closely scrutinised, and councillors questioned the proposed advisory group’s makeup and terms of reference.
Cr Whiley said it was his intention to be able to workshop the proposal with councillors and council staff before a debate and decision at the June 30 meeting, but soon after the meeting the idea proved fruitless.
"We were looking for a full-council workshop on it — and that was not going to happen," he said.
"There was no desire from some councillors to attend a full workshop when it was raised.
"If you have a workshop you want to have all 15 councillors there."
In an opinion piece published in the Otago Daily Times this week, Cr Whiley wrote he did not believe the proposed membership of the group, "as it was detailed in the [June 8] council paper, truly reflects the appropriate mix of stakeholders".
Notable exceptions included the Otago University Students’ Association, the council’s youth council and individual retailers.
"None of the property owners in George St were included and the Automobile Association was there supposedly to represent all transport operators (including taxis, trucking and courier companies)."
The proposal to be tabled at the June 30 meeting, published by the council yesterday, is identical.
Mayor Aaron Hawkins said the council voted to defer the paper "which means the same paper comes to the next meeting unchanged".
"During the meeting amendments can be made to it," he said.
At the June 8 meeting, Cr Jules Radich said councillors’ input was "vitally important if our citizens are to see democracy in action".
Yesterday, he said he was worried that without the workshop the discussion as to the appropriate membership would be reduced to a "brief few minutes".
"What worries me is that many council meetings are not conducted in a spirit of discussion to achieve the best possible result, they’re conducted in a spirit of what we want, we control the agenda and this is how it will be."
Cr Jim O’Malley, who as chairman of the infrastructure services and networks committee is slated to be part of the advisory group, said he understood the intent of the 10-5 vote was "there would be a workshop".
"I think maybe it is an accurate interpretation of standing orders, but I don’t think it captured the intent of the reason it was moved to this meeting.
"To just be laid on the table unchanged, I have a feeling that’s a very narrow interpretation of standing orders.
"I felt there were groups missing and it would have been a more efficient way of communicating if we’d just talked at a workshop ... helped staff get a direction on what we were looking for in that group. We’ve done that before — to me, this is a narrow interpretation of standing orders, to the purpose of which, I’m not sure."