Move to reopen road fails

A last-ditch bid to reopen Dunedin's John Wilson Ocean Dr to vehicles has fallen one vote short, but not before triggering more debate over the road's controversial closure.

The push came at yesterday's full council meeting by Cr Bill Acklin, who suggested spending just $50,000 to make the road safe and reopening it to vehicles between 10am and 2pm each day.

That was after a council hearings panel - of which Cr Acklin was a member - last year recommended a $487,519 upgrade to make the road safe for shared use.

Councillors included the funding in the 2011-12 draft annual plan, but last month - after public submissions - voted to remove the funding and keep vehicles off the road.

Debate over the road's future reignited again yesterday, as councillors on both sides of the debate claimed public support for their positions.

Cr Acklin presented a document showing $50,000 in work was needed to reopen the road.

The road's bollards would be removed each morning by council contractors and replaced in the afternoon, he said.

There would be signs to advise motorists of the road's opening and closing hours, rather than the DCC having to instal an expensive automated barrier arm.

His move won support from some councillors, who last month voted to scrap the $487,519 upgrade, as well as hearings panel chairman Cr Colin Weatherall and member Fliss Butcher, who missed last month's vote.

However, the push still fell short in a 7-6 vote after opposition led by Mayor Dave Cull and his four Greater Dunedin colleagues, as well as Cr Teresa Stevenson.

Cr Andrew Noone then attempted to add $50,000 to the 2011-12 budget for safety work, but only after a report confirmed what was required.

That was also defeated after Mr Cull ruled the idea amounted to the same as that promoted by Cr Acklin.

Earlier, Cr Neil Collins said reopening the road to vehicles was "one of those classic 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' votes".

He supported a compromise, but conceded: "Whatever we decide, half the population will be happy and the other half won't."

Cr John Bezett agreed, but said there was a public perception the council had been "unfair" in ignoring the hearings panel's recommendations.

However, Mr Cull and several councillors took exception to any suggestion the council had not followed the proper consultation process.

Mr Cull said the panel's recommendation was included in the draft annual plan for further consultation, but did not indicate a decision had been made.

The consultation prompted more submissions and a change of direction by councillors, which was "perfectly proper", he said.

"That's what [the] annual plan is for," he said.

Yesterday's debate also saw pointed questions about Cr Acklin's document, with several councillors expressing concern what appeared to be a staff report was actually his own work.

Cr Acklin said his report was prepared using a council template, but was intended as a background document.

Cr Lee Vandervis also questioned how the cost of reopening the road could be reduced from nearly $500,000 to just $50,000.

Cr Acklin said that was because the work envisaged was "one 10th the cost and work" of that recommended by the hearings panel.

Council city environment general manager Tony Avery also said the $50,000 estimate from staff was based on another "slightly different" option, and the actual cost of Cr Acklin's proposal would be $63,000.

Mr Cull said he would be "very uncomfortable" with any decision made based on the document, which was "not robust enough", but he refused an offer by Cr Acklin to table another document explaining the figures.

The council's 2011-12 annual plan will be signed off on June 27.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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