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The Clutha District Council met in Balclutha on Thursday to hear verbal submissions to the draft Lawrence-Tuapeka reserve management plan.
A total of 12 chose to speak to their submissions in person and via Zoom, and a further 18 people joined the public gallery for the proceedings.
Before the hearings could begin, Cr Mel Foster, of the Lawrence-Tuapeka ward, excused herself from the discussion due to a perceived conflict of interest.
Mrs Foster said as some members of the Lawrence community believed she could have preconceived opinions on the subject of the bike track, she would withdraw.
‘‘A battle line appears to have been drawn, and a combative approach has been adopted,’’ she said.
Council senior analyst Mike Goldsmith read out part of an email from an unidentified submitter, who said they had decided to withdraw from the verbal proceedings due to community ‘‘bullying’’.
Conflict first arose in July, after the draft plan was released for community consultation.
The document included proposed restrictions for the track, limiting times it could be used in order to reduce noise.
At the time, Cr Foster told the Otago Daily Times the council had received several complaints about noise at the Wetherstons Rd facility, which sits on the council-owned Tuapeka Recreation Reserve.
However, the council later published a clarification in local media saying the proposals were a ‘‘starting point for discussion’’ only.
During Thursday’s meeting, most verbal submitters spoke strongly in favour of retaining unrestricted use of the bike track.
Concerns raised by other submitters, both verbally and in writing, centred on operator the Lawrence Bike Club’s apparent inability to limit use to locals.
Some suggested those visiting from elsewhere were less likely to use the track respectfully and were also using surrounding rural roads illegally.
Questioned by councillors about the club’s measures for ensuring proper use of the track, president Adam Robertson, said as it was part of the shared Gymkhana Club facility, the track was not locked.
However, club members were given clear rules to follow, he said.
Lawrence resident Barry Guthrie, speaking in support of the track, said it was a shame to see conflict in the ‘‘tight-knit’’ community.
‘‘Both parties need to come round the table and discuss the issue, even if that needs professional mediation.
‘‘We all share the grounds, and we all need to get on together.’’
The council will consider changes to the plan at a meeting on October 28.