Fairfield gets slice of logging profit

Colin Weatherall.
Colin Weatherall.
A passionate plea from retiring Dunedin city councillor Colin Weatherall this week saw the council reverse a decision not to give the Fairfield community a share of the return from trees harvested in the area.

The trees were planted by the community in Walton Park 40 years ago for the benefit of the future Fairfield community, but became the property of the DCC on amalgamation.

The community, through the Saddle Hill Community Board, had recently asked for some of the $127,000 surplus, after harvesting the trees and replanting the area in natives, to be returned to the community for the beautification of a section of road reserve in Main Rd, Fairfield, but councillors voted against it for fear of setting a precedent.

The surplus is to be used to repay debt.

Cr Weatherall was unable to attend the original meeting, but raised it again at Monday's council meeting, hoping to reverse the decision and convince councillors to give Fairfield up to $10,000 for the project.

The community had planted the trees in the belief they would benefit that community, and the then-Land Transport Authority had failed on a promise to do the work after building the new state highway nearby, he said.

''It's only a small amount to finish that project. I'm not asking for it all. I think it could have a great argument for getting $127,000, but I'm not going to.''

Councillors agreed at the previous meeting to award $10,000 to an upgrade of the Walton Park reserve.

Cr Weatherall said giving the community this extra money would still leave the council with $109,000 to pay off some debt.

Syd Brown said he had originally opposed it on the basis of ''the process'', but now: ''In my mind it meets the promise the community made at the time to the local community and I support it.''

Neil Collins said the money was coming from a community project the community did and maintained because they believed it was for their benefit.

''They deserve that money to be taken from the fund and used the way it was requested to be.''

Kate Wilson said it was now clear in her mind this had been a long-term asset looked after by the community, and they should be rewarded for that.

But Lee Vandervis was concerned it was unclear what the money would be used for, and said any money available should be going towards clearing debt.

Cr Weatherall said the project was in the community board's community plan, it was drawn up by a landscape architect and agreed in principle with the community.

The trees were never a debt to the council, and so the money was not retiring a debt the council incurred.

Cr Brown said he, too, had changed his mind.

''There is a very clear situation here where we have $107,000 being given to the council by the Fairfield community to reduce our debt. I think that's a great gesture from the community.''

The vote was taken again, and the motion carried this time, with Cr Vandervis recording his opposition.

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