Intertidal habitat considered

The Dunedin City Council has agreed to accelerate roading improvements on Otago Peninsula, but will also consider ways to protect wildlife under threat from the work.

Councillors at yesterday's long-term plan deliberations voted to approve a plan to accelerate the road-widening, seawall and cycleway work on Portobello Rd, to complete the project in three years instead of 10.

That would save the council an estimated $3 million over the life of the project, as well as responding to community calls for more speedy progress on the project.

Councillors also voted yesterday to create a new community advisory group to help council staff consider ecological, landscape and character issues while the work was carried out.

The idea was put forward by Cr Jinty MacTavish after Cr Neville Peat had earlier questioned what council staff were doing to provide for wildlife affected by the project.

Up to 10ha of the harbour would be reclaimed by the time the project was finished, meaning a loss of intertidal habitat for wading birds and other wildlife, he said.

Members of the Otago Peninsula Community Board and lobby group Save the Otago Peninsula (Stop) had expressed concern at the impact on wildlife, Cr Peat said.

He asked council transportation group manager Gene Ollerenshaw whether provision had been made in project plans to offset that impact, perhaps by recreating a rocky beach further out into the harbour.

Mr Ollerenshaw said that would be ''well outside'' the scope of a project, but could still be considered.

Cr MacTavish said the project represented a ''significant spend'', and the council needed to take ''the greatest care and attention'' on issues other than the primary focus of safety.

The new group would not be short of volunteers, and could find ways to ''tweak'' plans at little cost, providing new bird roosts, avoiding significant habitat areas or protecting the area's character, she said.

Cr Peat said nobody wanted to backtrack on the improvements project, but the impact of harbour reclamation needed to be considered.

''It's not death by 1000 cuts to the rocky intertidal zone, but it's starting to impact.''

Cr Andrew Noone said, on the other side of the harbour, construction of the missing section of the state highway 88 cycleway to Port Chalmers was expected to begin as early as January and be completed in two years.

Cr Aaron Hawkins said the projects would together form a ''truly world-class'' cycleway around Otago Harbour.

''I think that's a phenomenal achievement.''

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