Few seem to rate DCC plan debate

Just five people or organisations formally told the Dunedin City Council what they thought of a projected 6.5% rates increase.

Three submissions advocated for more parking in the central city.

On the face of it, this level of engagement contrasts with what has happened previously.

The council’s summary of its 2019-20 annual plan noted 56 comments related to a rates rise.

Two years ago, 200 comments were about the proposed rates rise and 172 were about its central city plan.

As a result of feedback on the proposed rates increase of 6.5%, an increase of 4.1% was approved, the council commented in its 2020-21 annual plan.

This year, there has been no budging on a proposed 6.5% rates increase.

The last person who made observations of this nature was sneered at.

Of course, Cr Lee Vandervis made other comments, too.

He noted the 200-odd submissions about a proposed tunnels trail reflected a well-organised effort.

"Good on them for that," Cr Vandervis said.

"But take it with a sack of salt that it deserves to go with."

He also drew an obviously reasonable inference.

People had lately decided there was no point in making a submission to the council about such things as rates, he said.

The submissions process had failed, he concluded.

All sorts of factors need to be considered here — the council did not seek feedback about particular subjects this year, for example.

As Cr Steve Walker highlighted, digital content achieved a high level of reach.

He also took issue with Cr Vandervis’ scepticism about cycling uptake, adding "I think he’s living in dreamland".

Points of order have been raised for less.

Cr David Benson-Pope added a note of sarcasm, commiserating with Cr Vandervis that "not so many people share his views these days".

Since annual plan deliberations, Cr Vandervis has reinforced on social media why esteem for him is sometimes lacking.

Activity such as a recent post related to Three Waters can make it tempting to dismiss even his sound points.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins was among those to make strong arguments to counter the councillor’s interpretations about local democracy consultation.

What was more interesting was the celebration some councillors felt was justified for a consultation process they described as smooth.

This was a process that resulted in three funding requests not already on the council’s radar, in an election year.

Cr Sophie Barker was relieved the process did not resemble lolly scrambles of years gone by.

Cr Jim O’Malley noted some groups used to approach the council year after year.

Better engagement with them was being achieved "and therefore they no longer need to turn up".

That sounds positive, but it is a little hard to tell if local democracy is truly served by this.

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

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