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Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan and councillors presented diverging viewpoints on the relative merits of the woolly grass clippers during the council’s service delivery committee meeting in Balclutha on Wednesday.
The debate arose during a discussion about a proposed new recreational walking track using the town’s Clutha River flood bank, which is controlled by the Otago Regional Council (ORC).
Councillors were asked to decide between three surface options for the proposed track, ranging in cost from $126,018 for boxed gravel to $494,500 for concrete.
In her report to the council, community plan implementation manager Sharon Cousins said any investment in surfacing could necessitate the removal of grazing sheep to help preserve the new track.
Mr Cadogan spoke passionately against such a move, saying those using a rural council path could expect it to have a rural aspect.
"We need to retain the sheep, as they keep the grass down. Otherwise, conservatively, we’ll be mowing 40acres [16ha] two or three times a year, with associated costs.
"I could begrudgingly handle spending $126,000 instead of maybe $2000 for a bit of gravel on the slippiest sections, but eliminating sheep does not make any sense to me."
Cr Bruce Vollweiler, a Waihola farmer, favoured the box gravel option, and argued against retaining sheep.
"If I’m out for a weekend walk in my nice shoes I don’t want to be stepping in [sheep faeces]. I can get enough of that every other day of the week."
Cr Alison Ludemann also spoke in favour of the box gravel option, while avoiding the contentious issue of sheep droppings.
"The community has asked for this [amenity] through the Our Place consultation process, and it would make a good, tidy walking track for people, albeit at a cost. We shouldn’t ignore what the ratepayers have asked for."
Mrs Cousins said any decision would need to be referred back to the ORC for engineering approval.
The council voted 11:3 against the box gravel option, and requested further guidance be sought from the ORC before it made a final decision.