Council failing to govern Dunedin

Is it now time for a commissioner to be appointed to govern Dunedin? Russell Garbutt asks the question.

There are a number of factors that point to the drastic action of appointing a commissioner to govern Dunedin as being the only solution to contain a council unable or unwilling to govern a city in accordance with the requirements of the Local Government Act.

Such factors include the financial position Dunedin residents find themselves in.

While Dunedin's rate of growth is static, the population is made up of a significant number of transitory students at the city's tertiary institutions and a significant number of residents who are elderly and have limited incomes.

And yet this same population has a level of debt per ratepayer second only in the country behind Auckland, which is growing in size and ability to pay off debt.

Most of this debt is directly due to the decision to fund a new rugby stadium that a previous council decided to progress, despite the lack of private construction funding.

The truth behind this project will be revealed only by a full forensic audit of all matters connected to the stadium, but this council seems unwilling to learn what happened and even more unwilling to be able to take any action that may flow from such an independent audit.

So while a previous council was responsible for the stadium decision, this council seems unable to deal with all that flows from that decision.

The cycleway project is another governance failure.

This project is now seen as a philosophically-driven one with benefits for few but unrevealed or unknown costs for many.

The blind determination to mix up cycles and heavy traffic on State Highway 1 through the centre of Dunedin is, in the views of many, unbelievable.

There is no meaningful evidence that shows there is widespread pressure for cycleways criss-crossing South Dunedin.

A project undertaken at a time of acute financial pressure without clear evidence it is needed, desired and has high community priority must be seen as irresponsible.

Costs have now more than doubled for half the cycleways planned. That is a four-fold increase.

The number of mixed messages about economic growth is alarming.

The DCC has a policy of 10,000 new jobs and an increase in average household income of $10,000 within 10 years and at the same time has, according to Mayor Dave Cull, no mandate to operate in the area of economic development. But even if it did, it has no plans to achieve this goal.

Policies must be achievable and the means to achieve must be clear.

Then there is the Delta property speculation shambles that resulted in millions being lost without any form of accountability, the whole DCHL governance shambles which benefited the few and cost the many, the ongoing DVL/DVML uncontrolled spending and small business owners saying they are being driven out of Dunedin.

The current councillors would oppose any views they need to be replaced, but in the end, it is the councils that have created the problems - they sure are not qualified to suggest they know the answers.

 -Russell Garbutt, formerly from Dunedin, is a Clyde resident.

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