Transport plans provoke passion

Conflicting visions of Dunedin's future collided as debate over the city's draft transport strategy erupted at a public hearing yesterday.

Submitters on one side called for a city abandoning fuel-guzzling cars, and opting instead for electric vehicles, bikes and the return of cable cars, trams and commuter trains.

In stark contrast, Dunedin planner Don Anderson's vision was of a multimillion-dollar arterial highway pushed through the city's waterfront land, built on the belief cars would always be king.

The day's deliberations erupted into fiery finger-pointing after Cr Lee Vandervis suggested council staff were misleading the public by suggesting the city faced ever-increasing fuel prices.

The evidence pointed to the contrary, he insisted, despite a price ''glitch'' in the past decade, which meant the council's strategy risked being built on a lie.

Cr Vandervis was forced to apologise for his tone, but only after other councillors agreed to tone down strategy wording that assumed increased fuel prices.

The conflicting visions came on the final day of the Dunedin City Council's hearing on its draft transport strategy.

The day began with pointed comments aimed at the Otago Chamber of Commerce by Scott Willis, of the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust.

The trust was a chamber member, but Mr Willis said he took exception to the chamber's earlier criticism of the strategy.

Prof Herbert Harris, of the chamber, had criticised the sustainability ''agenda'' within the document, but Mr Willis said yesterday he was pleased by the strategy's focus.

''On this issue, the chamber does not speak for us,'' he said.

Instead, Mr Willis urged the council to do more to support low-carbon transport links between smaller settlements.

A switch to electric-powered transport could occur with more investment in generation, albeit with some disruption after 200 years of reliance on fossil fuels, he said.

''The resource is there. It's free. It's the build that's costly.''

He also urged the council to consider more investment in community schemes contributing to cleaner transport, such as Waitati resident Hagen Bruggemann's trial of retrofitted electric-powered cars.

However, he disagreed with the strategy's focus on safety above all else, saying roads would become safer anyway as people switched away from cars.

Generation Zero members Harriet Leadbetter, Heather Bosselmann and Tod Coxhead also urged the council to be more ambitious in its goals for alternative transport.

They called for a draft goal for the proportion of the population walking, cycling or taking the bus to be lifted from 30% to 50%.

That would improve safety, while the closure of some streets to vehicles could boost foot traffic and shop sales, they added.

Andrew Rutherford, of Port Chalmers, also called for the reintroduction of commuter trains, trams and cable cars.

A new service could include rail to Port Chalmers and Mosgiel, electric trams from St Clair along George St to the Dunedin Botanic Garden.

A heritage-style cable car also employing modern technology could also operate as a tourist attraction, perhaps on a new route, such as between the University of Otago and Maori Hill, he said.

However, Mr Anderson said council staff should abandon ''nonsense'' plans to convert the city's one-way streets to two-way routes.

Instead, the focus should be on a new arterial highway from the Oval to Logan Park and linking to northern routes out of the city.

While the cost of the project was not known, it could be paid for in part by selling council assets including the Wall Street mall and City Forests' trees, he said.

''Some people will moan and groan, but we have to look forward.''

Mr Anderson conceded he ''could well be a dinosaur'', but doubted the city would ever abandon the car.

''Dunedin will, I think, always be car-dependent.''

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

 

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