Green perceptions spark row

Claims a panel that will shape the future of Dunedin has been stacked with a ''green tinge'' have sparked a political row within the Dunedin City Council.

The criticism came from Crs Andrew Whiley, Hilary Calvert and Lee Vandervis yesterday, as they attacked the makeup of the panel selected to hear public submissions on the second generation district plan (2GP).

Their views have been blasted by other councillors, who accused them of failing to raise any objections during a council debate on the panel's membership.

The 2GP will, once in force, introduce a host of new rules that will shape the city for years to come, covering everything from heritage buildings to natural hazards.

Public submissions opened last week and would be followed by a hearing before a panel of four councillors and up to three independent members.

Councillors at last Monday's full council meeting voted to appoint Kate Wilson, David Benson-Pope, Jinty MacTavish and Aaron Hawkins to the panel, with the three independent members to be added later.

The nominations were approved without opposition, after Cr Calvert left the meeting early and Crs Whiley and Vandervis failed to vote against the move.

But, speaking yesterday, Cr Whiley attacked the panel's makeup as having ''a very strong green tinge'', which would ''set the agenda very clearly''.

Cr Calvert went further, suggesting the panel had been stacked in favour of younger councillors and members of the ''chosen group''.

In the process, it had overlooked Crs Vandervis and Whiley, who were both qualified to sit on the panel, she said.

That was a problem if younger councillors did not own their own homes, and were deciding on rules for those who did, she claimed.

Cr Vandervis said the selection process had overlooked councillors like him, with property and business experience, in favour of ''newish councillors with good green credentials''.

Those selected would have ''an enormous say'' on the city's future, but ''with so many compliant councillors it was not worth trying to fight'', he said.

Mr Cull was at a local government meeting in Wellington yesterday and could not be reached for comment, and nor could Cr Noone, but other councillors rejected the claims.

Cr Benson-Pope, one of those selected for the panel, said the criticisms were without ''substance'', as the appointments had been made without objection or alternatives raised at last Monday's meeting.

Critics should have spoken up then, ''rather than grizzling about it after the fact'', he said.

If Cr Calvert missed the vote because she had left the meeting, ''that sort of speaks volumes doesn't it?'' he added.

Cr Kate Wilson agreed, saying critics' failure to speak up last Monday left her ''wondering how long it will take for them to understand council process?''

''I have a real problem with people then going behind the scenes and making comments.''

The panel's selection was limited to councillors with appropriate Resource Management Act training, which restricted options to the four selected or Crs Noone, Vandervis and Whiley.

Other councillors also backed the panel yesterday, including Cr Mike Lord, who said: ''If there are four better ones who are qualified, I don't know who they would be.''

Crs Neville Peat and Richard Thomson also backed the panel, as did deputy mayor Chris Staynes, who said whoever was selected would have to work within RMA rules.

Cr Doug Hall was not aware who had been selected until contacted yesterday, but said the panel's membership was ''not a makeup I would've picked''.

Crs MacTavish, Bezett and Hawkins could not be contacted.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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