Draft transport strategy passes

Dunedin's draft transport strategy has cleared another hurdle, despite being criticised again by one of the city councillors considering the 30-year plan.

The Dunedin City Council's hearings subcommittee met again yesterday to sign off on an amended draft strategy, which will now go to a full council meeting on September 23 for final approval.

That was despite opposition from Cr Lee Vandervis, a subcommittee member, who again took exception to some of the strategy's assumptions, from rising petrol prices to the safety of cycling.

In sometimes heated exchanges, Cr Vandervis demanded to see the studies or other evidence underpinning many of the strategy's key assumptions, while calling for changes to the strategy's wording.

Council staff came armed with a stack of folders full of the studies and other documents underpinning their work, but that was not enough for Cr Vandervis, who labelled their efforts a ''grasp-at-straws kind of exercise''.

He preferred the evidence of Prof Herbert Harris, of the Otago Chamber of Commerce, who last week criticised the strategy for failing to address the big issues facing the city's transport network.

It was a view that prompted Friday's angry retort by Mayor Dave Cull, on the same day as Cr Vandervis insisted petrol prices had remained static for 40 years and were not rising as the draft strategy assumed.

He continued the attack when the hearing resumed yesterday, taking aim at other strategy assumptions, including the idea more cycling and less car use would make people safer.

Council staff pointed to Dunedin and international research that backed the claim, but Cr Vandervis insisted the idea was ''nonsensical''.

Motorists were protected by their cars, while those who chose to walk or cycle were at ''far, far greater'' risk of serious injury or death, he said.

Subcommittee member Cr Jinty MacTavish, at times appearing exasperated by the debate's tone, warned chairwoman Cr Kate Wilson consensus was unlikely.

''I don't think it's going to happen,'' Cr MacTavish said.

Some amendments were agreed, including amending the strategy's references to expected petrol price increases to instead refer to expected petrol volatility.

However, the four other subcommittee members - Crs Wilson, MacTavish, Teresa Stevenson and Andrew Noone - were forced to vote as a block to overrule Cr Vandervis on other points he continued to contest.

The meeting concluded by noting a submission by Dunedin planner Don Anderson for a new highway along the city's rail corridor to be referred to the New Zealand Transport Agency for consideration.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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