Vandervis ejected after clash with Cull

Lee Vandervis.
Lee Vandervis.
Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis was ejected from the council chamber yesterday after a testy exchange with the mayor.

The councillor was asked to leave yesterday's full council meeting after questioning the membership of a cycleway working party and suggesting the council intended to remove car parks from the central city.

The council was discussing the appointment of a working party to guide the development of a business case for the next stage of the project putting separated cycle lanes on State Highway 1 through central Dunedin.

Cr Vandervis was concerned about the balance of the working party's membership.

The working party is Mayor Dave Cull and the heads or deputy heads of the relevant council committees - Cr Kate Wilson (chairwoman infrastructure services), Cr Jinty MacTavish (chairwoman community and development), Cr Aaron Hawkins (deputy chairman planning and regulatory), Cr Chris Staynes (chairman economic development) - Ian Duncan and Bruce Richards, of the NZ Transport Agency, and Hilary Phipps, of the University of Otago.

''I see two righteous cyclists, a rail trail cyclist, the only two councillors that don't own cars, two transport agency staff responsible for the dreadful lanes that already exist on the one-way, and an environmental sustainability officer from the council,'' Cr Vandervis said.

''This choice is unbalanced to the extent that I don't believe the make-up of this committee will do anything other than spend the maximum ... at the expense of parking in one-way streets.

''I am not happy with this incremental, step-by-step way of reducing massively the parking on the one-way street systems.''

At that point, Mr Cull interjected.

''I would like you to withdraw that because there is no evidence one of the objectives of the cycling strategy is to incrementally withdraw parks. You are misrepresenting the intentions of the council and staff, '' Mr Cull said calmly.

Cr Vandervis responded he did not believe there was anything to withdraw, or that he was misrepresenting anything.

Mr Cull again asked him to withdraw his comments.

''I'm sorry, I'm not going to,'' Cr Vandervis said.

''Then I will ask you to leave the room, please,'' Mr Cull said, rising from his chair, an unusual move that in standing orders requires silence from the room so he can be heard without interruption.

Cr Vandervis then quietly packed his things and left.

Afterwards, Mr Cull said Cr Vandervis' comments were ''unacceptable'' in that they cast aspersions on the members of the working party and the council's intentions.

Cr Vandervis, a critic of the council's cycle plans, later said he stood by his comments and that they were accurate in that car parks were demonstrably being removed for cycle lanes around the city.

He did not think his ejection was personal, though he was ''clearly not at the top of [Mr Cull's] Christmas card list''.

Rather, Mr Cull had an agenda to push cycleways through and simply did not like the councillor ''saying things which he sort of would prefer are not said, whether they are true or not'', Cr Vandervis said.

The clash is the latest in a series of spats between the two elected members.

Earlier this year, Mr Cull was forced to apologise in writing to Cr Vandervis after suggesting during last year's local body election campaign that his policies were ''shonky, nutty and extreme''.

Mr Cull said he asked Cr Vandervis to leave a meeting once before, last term, when the councillor started ''yelling about something or other'', though Cr Vandervis said he voluntarily left after the mayor refused to allow him to speak.

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