Rumblings over Harbour Cone

Dave Cull.
Dave Cull.
There was plenty of heat, but no eruption, as Dunedin city councillors pointed fingers over a new management approach for Harbour Cone yesterday.

The rumblings began at yesterday's Dunedin City Council meeting as councillors debated the proposal for a new trust or board to assume governance of the council-owned property.

Councillors began trading points of order after Cr Lee Vandervis criticised council spending on the property, leading to a stoush that ended when Cr Vandervis was told to sit down by Mayor Dave Cull.

Councillors at yesterday's full council meeting approved a transfer of governance responsibilities over the property, which the council bought for $2.6 million in 2008, to a new trust or management board, which is yet to be created.

The council would retain ownership of the land and have two representatives on the board or trust to be formed, which would then be bolstered by members of the public.

However, the council would also grant the trust $1000 a year to help cover the property's rates bill, as well as $500 a year for basic administration costs, councillors decided yesterday.

And, in a late addition yesterday, council chief executive Paul Orders would also identify funding for a one-off $5000 grant to be given to the trust.

That move came after councillors, including Cr Richard Thomson, worried the new trust would otherwise be handed ''a hospital pass'' if it was established with no money in the bank.

However, Cr Vandervis questioned the wisdom of paying ''such an enormously high price'' for a property that could not even generate enough income to cover its own rates bill.

Lee Vandervis.
Lee Vandervis.
That bill stood at $5777 a year, while the only income from the property was a grazing lease worth $5000 a year to the council.

The rates bill, lease income and extra council funding would all be transferred to the new trust under yesterday's agreement, but Cr Vandervis was worried the council would be ''throwing more money at a supposed asset''.

''We don't actually have an asset here. We have a severe liability.''

Cr Jinty MacTavish fired back with a point of order after taking exception to Cr Vandervis' suggestion volunteers' ''passion'' for work on the property was diminishing.

Mr Cull also weighed in, describing Cr Vandervis' criticism of council spending as ''clearly laughable'', while Cr Fliss Butcher called another point of order for Cr Vandervis' ''tedious repetition''.

''The points of order here are the tedious repetition,'' Cr Vandervis retorted, before being instructed to take his seat by Mr Cull.

Other councillors supported the proposal, including deputy mayor Chris Staynes, who insisted the council's earlier purchase had been to protect the ''outstanding'' landscape for future public access.

''Not everything that this council spends money on is expected to be profitable,'' he said.

Mr Cull said the council had responded to community calls when it bought the property, but the new trust would be the most economical way to manage the property in future.

''Council doesn't need to minutely control everything we own.

''The community are probably the better people to look after this,'' he said.

Councillors voted to approve the new arrangement, despite opposition from Cr Vandervis, who voted against it.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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