New councillors already eyeing challenges

Steve Walker and Sophie Barker, who will today be sworn in as co-deputies of the Dunedin City...
Steve Walker and Sophie Barker, who will today be sworn in as co-deputies of the Dunedin City Council's planning and environment committee, are looking forward to George St becoming a more people-friendly place. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Two of the Dunedin City Council's newest deputies have their eyes on the future of the city.

Steve Walker and Sophie Barker will today be sworn in for their first terms as Dunedin City councillors, alongside fellow newbies Carmen Houlahan and Jules Radich.

But Mr Walker and Ms Barker have also been appointed co-deputies of the council's planning and environment committee, overseen by chairman Cr David Benson-Pope.

Both were excited to secure their posts as deputies, and were already turning their attention to the challenges ahead.

Mr Walker told the Otago Daily Times he wanted to focus on protecting the city's environment and wildlife, while also helping guide Dunedin towards becoming "a modern, 21st century city".

That included making the city more liveable, by creating new people- and family-friendly spaces, while striking a balance with the needs of motorists and business, he said.

A fear remained in some sectors that pedestrianisation was a threat to businesses, but evidence overseas was that it attracted more people to an area and boosted turnover, he said.

"It's a win for families and it's a win for businesses," Mr Walker said.

Ms Barker said she was already scrutinising the council's suite of strategic documents - including its economic development and spatial plans - and planned to push for a refresh to "get them moving".

The strategies had cost a "huge" amount in time and money to develop, but not all the actions recommended in them had been implemented, which had cost the city more, she said.

"Some of them haven't been done, which, in my opinion, would have made a difference to what is going on in the city."

But she also wanted to focus on the future development of the city, including its CBD and the merits of further pedestrianisation.

The city would have to brace for "a bit of pain" as projects such as the George St redevelopment and Dunedin Hospital rebuild went ahead, but the results would be worth it.

"That is something we need to do. We need the centre of our city to be vibrant so that people want to go there."

The results would also benefit the many thousands of cruise ship passengers who flooded into the area during visits.

"We need to ensure that everybody's safe and businesses are thriving and people are enjoying themselves."

Both incoming councillors agreed the city's slogan, insisting on its ambition to be "one of the world's great small cities", needed to change.

"I already think it is," Mr Walker said.

"I want to be part of making it the greatest small city in the world."


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