Realignment rejected after long debate

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull at yesterday's meeting to discuss the controversial Lovelock Ave...
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull at yesterday's meeting to discuss the controversial Lovelock Ave realignment project. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The Dunedin City Council has realigned its policy on Lovelock Ave, reversing its decision on a project that has been years in development.

While the decision chimed with Mayor Dave Cull's promise to take a look at council spending, it emerged not all of the $1.2 million earmarked for the project will turn out to be savings.

Some newer councillors at a meeting yesterday seemed to have at best limited understanding of the project and its extensive history.

In the end, the project's backers were told to go away and redesign the project, and come back to the council with a plan that did not involve realigning the road.

The realignment was part of a plan developed by Dunedin Botanic Garden managers to extend the rhododendron dell, relocate propagation houses and administration buildings, and deal with what they said were safety issues related to the road.

The project would have included a new information centre and entrance in the upper gardens, and was part of a larger $6.5 million strategic plan for the garden.

It was supported by the Friends of the Dunedin Botanic Garden, but opposed by many Opoho residents.

Upon his election last month, Mr Cull made sure upcoming tenders were not signed.

The matter was the subject of a sometimes tortuous and confusing debate yesterday, not helped by plenty of unchallenged discussion between councillors, rather than through Mr Cull as chairman.

During questioning from Cr Lee Vandervis, community and recreation services manager Mick Reece said the cost of the road was between $700,000 and $800,000, with $400,000 to bury a pipe from a nearby reservoir tank.

Cr Richard Thomson said the council should not accept the $1.2 million tender for the work.

"Is it essential or desirable?"

Cr Vandervis said he felt sorry for council staff who had worked for some time on the issue, but "we need to make a decision now".

While it was uncertain how much would be saved if the realignment did not go ahead, Dunedin people had an affection for Lovelock Ave as it was.

But Cr Bezett said councillors were making a decision "on very little information".

"It is a travesty of all the information that has gone before."

The least the council could do was have a workshop, or take newer councillors for a walk in the area.

People had worked for years on the project, he said, and he estimated that the savings could be as low as $120,000.

After about three hours' debate, Crs Cull, Vandervis, Thomson, Teresa Stevenson, Chris Staynes, Kate Wilson, Neil Collins and Jinty MacTavish voted not to go ahead with the realignment. Crs Bezett, Syd Brown, Bill Acklin, Paul Hudson and Andrew Noone voted for the project.

There was a further vote on the legal aspects of the matter, and it was decided a special consultative procedure should take place on the future of the project, once new reports on its future were put together. That would take place at the same time as the council's annual plan next year.

At a planning and environment committee meeting before the council meeting, councillors voted to go ahead with an investigation into opening the Caversham railway tunnel and developing a cycleway to Green Island and Mosgiel.

Most agreed with the plan, though Crs Brown and Collins opposed, saying the message at election time was to save money, rather than start new projects.



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