Vehicles back on John Wilson Drive

Motorists will again be driving along John Wilson Ocean Dr next year, after emotional arguments and pleas to compromise at yesterday's Dunedin City Council meeting won the day - by just a single vote.

Councillors voted 8-7 to allow vehicle access between 11am and 2pm on weekdays, but to exclude traffic completely on weekends and public holidays.

The Ocean Drive will become a 30kmh maximum speed zone and will get $45,000 worth of traffic-calming measures, including speed humps, road markings and signs.

However, the resealed road will not be ready until after July 1 next year, once resurfacing previously scheduled for 2012-13 had been completed.

The decision came amid interjections from the public gallery and despite last-minute concerns from councillors worried the "compromise" would please nobody.

It came after Cr Bill Acklin, who led the charge for reinstating vehicle access, appeared braced for defeat, facing strong, vocal opposition from some other councillors.

He told the meeting he had asked every submitter to last year's public hearing on the future of the road whether they would be prepared to compromise. It appeared while most motorists had been willing to share, most other users had not, a position he called "selfish".

Cr Acklin appeared close to tears when the vote was eventually decided, with Crs John Bezett, Neil Collins, Paul Hudson, Andrew Noone, Richard Thomson, Lee Vandervis and Colin Weatherall joining him voting for vehicle access.

Votes against were cast by Mayor Dave Cull, deputy mayor Chris Staynes and Crs Syd Brown, Fliss Butcher, Jinty MacTavish, Teresa Stevenson and Kate Wilson.

The decision came two and a-half years after debate over the road's future erupted, after the council confirmed the road - closed in 2006 for construction of the Tahuna outfall pipe - was to remain closed indefinitely.

The sometimes-heated debate has divided councillors and the community in the years since, but councillors appeared no closer to resolution yesterday than they did at last month's community development committee.

The vote at last month's meeting on whether to reinstate vehicles had been locked 6-6, until Cr Acklin's casting vote came down in favour of motorists and sent the decision to yesterday's council meeting for final approval.

And yesterday's vote came despite Cr MacTavish urging councillors not to take a "rushed decision", given the costs and the changing use of the road she said was likely to continue.

Cr Wilson praised the "wonderful process" that had got councillors compromising, but said she would nevertheless vote against motor vehicle access because it would undermine the experience for walkers and cyclists.

Cr Butcher changed her position from last month, saying she would vote against the move because speed humps would ruin the experience for cyclists, walkers and motorists alike.

Cr Collins disagreed, saying the road had been "captured" by non-motorists after being shared for almost 50 years. He wanted vehicles reinstated for restricted hours seven days a week, but would accept the compromise.

So too would Cr Thomson, despite his personal preference for the road to remain vehicle-free, and Cr Bezett, who said he disliked the compromise but would vote for it despite wanting greater vehicle access.

Cr Stevenson argued the road should remain closed, with special permits for restricted vehicle access.

Cr Vandervis said failure to compromise would see the council "stuck with this embarrassing, unresolved issue forever".

Mr Cull said he had been "torn" but said it was "time to bite the bullet" and keep the road as a walkway.

Such was the disagreement, Mr Cull took the unusual step of moving straight to a vote by division, where councillors had to announce which way they were voting one after another.

That showed vehicle access had squeaked through, with the yes votes of Crs Hudson and Vandervis, who missed last month's meeting, being crucial.

Crs Collins and Butcher also changed their votes from last month - Cr Collins to yes, and Cr Butcher to no. The no vote of Mr Cull, who missed last month's meeting, was not enough to change the result.


Close-vote compromise

• Open to vehicles between 11am-2pm on weekdays.

• Closed to vehicles weekends and public holidays.

• $45,000 worth of speed humps, road markings and other traffic-calming measures.

• Work delayed until after previously planned $125,000 road resealing, scheduled for 2012-13.

• Restricted vehicle access starts some time after July 1 next year.


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