2GP: Don't sit on the fence

It can often be the case when it comes to public proposals, projects or policies, people's eyes simply glaze over.

The feelings can be: Why should I care?

Does it even affect me?

The fact is such complacency and disengagement are likely to benefit those pushing for change, while those likely to be affected - perhaps negatively - can be doubly disadvantaged by a dismissive attitude.

Some of the problems with public documents are undoubtedly their length and language; they can seem - and often are - arduous, alienating and frustrating to trawl through.

Often the devil is in the detail, so a concerted effort is required to become informed, but sometimes the things that matter the most can be largely left in the background while the ''easier pickings'' make for readier public consumption.

The latter certainly seems to be the case with the Dunedin City Council's proposed Second Generation District Plan or - to refer to its snazzy-sounding abbreviated moniker - the 2GP.

The council has been consulting with community ''stakeholders'' to develop the proposed plan over the past two years, as part of its obligations under the Resource Management Act.

The District Plan manages the natural and physical resources of Dunedin and controls what people can do on their land and how it can be developed.

So far, the primary debate in the public domain has been over fence height.

Certainly, it is something most people can relate to as most of us live on properties bounded by some sort of structure, whether it be hedges, fences, walls or other buildings. Some may involve a shared responsibility; some may benefit one side, and disadvantage the other.

Such things can become the stuff of neighbourhood disputes, therefore they are certainly not too small to matter.

But the fact is there are any number of items in the proposed plan that could affect residents personally - or change their wider environment.

If nothing else, the current public debate has hopefully highlighted the importance of not sitting on the fence regarding the proposals.

The plan is hugely significant.

It represents the most influence the council can have on the city and its residents for years to come.

It must coexist with other strategies: economic development, the environment, arts and culture, and social wellbeing.

It will work best (and best serve the needs of people and the community) if it has widespread input.

There is much to consider, not to mention the need to balance often competing forces of development and sustainability.

Land use and supply, heritage, risks and hazards, health and safety, light and noise, transport, energy, water, waste, green space are among the areas in the mix.

It is important Dunedin residents understand the proposals (whether they seem as innocuous as fences or signs, or as all-encompassing as residential zoning or commercial activities) and realise they will directly and immediately affect some people; and all residents will ultimately be influenced by the city's vision for the future.

Among the bigger proposed changes, for example, is housing density.

Residents should be aware there are plans for zoning changes, more medium-density housing, and no new rural residential subdivisions.

This is not small fry; where and how we live, work and play - and whether we are economically and socially prosperous - are at stake.

The public has every opportunity to be heard.

The notification and submission period of the proposed plan runs until November 24.

It is encumbent on everyone to get informed and have their say - or it might be a case of having to forever hold your peace.

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