ODT 2011.2

Editorial, photos and pictures of persons related to articles are those published by the ODT and available from its online content at the links provided. Break out quotes and voting information amended in table format are my tweaks.


Board gives $4000 to Lyttelton


Wed, 29 Jun 2011

Dunedin’s Otago Peninsula Community Board is to give nearly $4000 in surplus community funding to Lyttelton’s community board, in a show of solidarity following the Christchurch earthquakes.

Councillors at this week’s full Dunedin City Council meeting approved the unusual spending of the board’s discretionary fund, which was usually distributed to community groups and projects within boards’ individual areas.

Cr Jinty MacTavish said the board felt an affinity with Lyttelton because of their shared harbour lifestyle, and had surplus funding left over as the end of the financial year approached.

Only Cr Lee Vandervis voted against the move, saying the money should be spent within the board’s area.

  • A proposed new road name near the Forsyth Barr Stadium remains in doubt after the council missed a submission from a member of the public.

Council staff earlier this month recommended a series of new road names around the stadium be approved, after public submissions drew a muted response.

However, Cr Andrew Noone told this week’s meeting one submission criticising the decision to rename part of Parry St as Gambia St had been missed, and would need to be considered before a final decision was made.

  • An attempt to hand Dunedin’s reins of power to Cr Lee Vandervis as acting deputy mayor for nine days next month fell flat at the meeting.

With Mayor Dave Cull and deputy mayor Chris Staynes both due in Shanghai next month, a report to the meeting recommended former deputy mayor Syd Brown as acting deputy mayor in their absence.

That prompted Cr Fliss Butcher to recommend Cr Vandervis instead, saying he deserved the council’s “solidarity” on the basis of his showing in last year’s mayoral race.

Mr Cull would not allow the amendment on procedural grounds, and councillors voted to accept Cr Brown.


Still no decision on ocean drive http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/166712/still-no-decision-ocean-drive

By Chris Morris on Tue, 28 Jun 2011

The long-running debate over Dunedin’s John Wilson Ocean Dr continues, with plans that would have kept the road closed to vehicles to be reconsidered yet again – among other options.

Councillors at yesterday’s Dunedin City Council meeting voted overwhelmingly, 11-3, in favour of considering more options that might allow some restricted vehicle access on the drive.

The vote – instigated by Cr Bill Acklin – means the issue will be referred back to the council’s community development committee for further work, with results expected within months.

It was the latest twist in the saga surrounding the scenic coastal road, and came after councillors had first approved, then later removed, $487,519 in funding for the road in the 2011-12 draft annual plan.

The money was to upgrade the road for shared use by motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and other users, but the vote to remove it last month kept the road permanently closed to vehicles.

That prompted Cr Acklin to signal last week he planned one final bid to save some form of restricted vehicle access.

He said there had been a groundswell of public reaction against the move to keep vehicles off the road, and it was clear all users – be they motorists or cyclists – wanted access to the drive and views from Lawyers Head.

Cr Acklin’s pleas found support from most councillors yesterday, although some who again switched sides supported consideration of only minimal vehicle access if a suitable option could be identified.

Cr Richard Thomson – changing his mind for the third time – said, as an example, vehicles could be allowed on the first Sunday and Monday of every month, and prohibited at other times.

He still believed the council’s decision to ban vehicles had been “fundamentally correct”. Arguments against vehicle access had at first prompted him to switch from supporting vehicle access to opposing it.

He would be prepared to switch sides again, allowing the committee to consider new options for limited vehicle access, but not if it became a “trojan horse” for earlier expensive plans to upgrade the road.

The new proposal could be achieved at little or no cost, would have little impact on other users and protect the area for non-motorists at all other times, he said.

Mayor Dave Cull believed the “best outcome” was to continue closing the road to vehicles, but he was “extremely uncomfortable” about a divided council making a final decision.

“I will support this motion with the hope we can achieve some kind of consensus around this table that would be a robust decision.”

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes also backed the move, saying any decision made while the community and council were divided would be “unsafe”, while Cr John Bezett believed there remained “room for everyone” on the road.

Ignoring motorists’ arguments would see the issue coming back before councillors in future, and “I want to see some closure on this, and the way to do it is to reconsider it”, he said.

However, Crs Lee Vandervis, Kate Wilson and Teresa Stevenson all opposed the move. Cr Vandervis said the debate had been “torturous” and the council’s initial decision to prohibit vehicles should remain.

Cr Stevenson urged councillors to give the change time to settle in.

Following the debate, councillors voted 11-3 to review options for the drive, which will remain closed in the meantime. No funding for work on the road will be included in the 2011-12 annual plan.

A workshop would also be held, allowing councillors to discuss new options and reach a “compromise” for the road’s shared use, Cr Acklin said.

How they voted:

  • Yes: Crs Bill Acklin, John Bezett, Syd Brown, Neil Collins, Jinty MacTavish, Andrew Noone, Richard Thomson, Colin Weatherall, Fliss Butcher, deputy mayor Chris Staynes, Mayor Dave Cull.
  • No: Crs Teresa Stevenson, Lee Vandervis, Kate Wilson.

Lone dissenting vote as 7.7% rates rise adopted


By David Loughrey on Tue, 28 Jun 2011

Dunedin’s rate increase for the 2011-12 year, a 7.7% rise, passed the final hurdle yesterday, when the city council adopted this year’s annual plan and set the rates.

The council, Mayor Dave Cull said in his introduction to the plan, had been “mindful of the impact on ratepayers and their ability to pay for not only major projects, but other city initiatives to make our city a safer, more vibrant place to live and work”.

The council was also acutely aware, he said, of the value of the many unpaid organisations in the city, and their contribution.

The debate as the council voted to adopt the plan was reasonably brief, but followed a year of work by staff, days of consultation and deliberation, and this year, departmental budgeting initiatives that are still under way.

Cr Lee Vandervis told the meeting he did not support the final plan, as it was “so little different” from the “unsatisfactory” draft plan.

He said it was based on assumptions that were untenable, and the council was borrowing $28 million to pay “a runaway interest bill”.

Cr Jinty MacTavish said she had “some sympathy” for those views, and the issue of debt needed to be dealt with as soon as possible.

But Cr Colin Weatherall labelled Cr Vandervis’ comments a “diatribe” about decisions that had been made over a long period of time, and said he would vote in support.

All councillors, apart from Cr Vandervis, voted to approve the plan and set the rates.

Mr Cull said now that was done, it was time to begin work on next year’s version.


Vandervis gate-crashes mayor’s private meeting; refuses to leave


By Chris Morris on Fri, 17 Jun 2011

Security guards were called – and police almost followed – after Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis barged into a private meeting in Mayor Dave Cull’s office and refused to leave.

The incident, on Monday morning, was confirmed by Mr Cull and Cr Vandervis yesterday.

Cr Vandervis defended his actions, saying he acted in the public interest, but Mr Cull labelled his behaviour “highly unusual” and “unacceptable”.

The office invasion was prompted by Monday morning’s meeting of a council liaison group, established in March to act as an intermediary between councillors and the council’s council-controlled organisations (CCOs).

The meeting, held in the Civic Centre building, was chaired by Mr Cull and attended by deputy mayor Chris Staynes and Crs Syd Brown and Richard Thomson.

Cr Vandervis – who was among councillors excluded from the meetings – told the ODT he decided to “simply turn up”, after questions sent to Mr Cull about the group’s activities were ignored.

Cr Vandervis said he walked in, took a seat and began unpacking his papers and laptop, and repeatedly refused to leave when challenged by Mr Cull.

Eventually, Mr Cull adjourned the meeting to his mayoral office. Cr Vandervis said he followed the group in and again took a seat.

He ignored more requests to leave, prompting Mr Cull to call security guards, but not even talk of a trespass order and a threat to call police could budge Cr Vandervis.

Cr Vandervis said two “rather spindly-looking” guards arrived and threatened to remove him, but changed their minds and said they would call the police.

Cr Vandervis said he began dialling the police on his cellphone, claiming the group’s meeting was illegal because other councillors were excluded.

Instead, he eventually agreed to leave, followed by the security guards, after Mr Cull offered to meet him for an “amicable” and “productive” meeting about his concerns later in the day, Cr Vandervis said.

Monday’s protest came after Crs Vandervis, Fliss Butcher and Teresa Stevenson criticised the CCO liaison group’s creation in March.

The group was not to have decision-making powers, but aimed to provide a conduit between councillors and the CCOs when, for example, discussing commercially sensitive matters at short notice.

Mr Cull had ruled out allowing non-members to attend as spectators, but Cr Vandervis said yesterday his advice from a lawyer and from council staff was the exclusion of most councillors was unprecedented and illegal.

He claimed the group was making high-level decisions without oversight from excluded councillors; that his questions about the financial performance and directorship of the CCOs had been ignored; and no reports from the group had been received by the other councillors.

Mr Cull denied the group was illegal, saying most councillors – backed by staff advice – had voted to create the group and agreed to the exclusions.

The restricted membership allowed “full and frank” discussion with staff from the CCOs and parent company Dunedin City Holdings Ltd, while resolving “a few issues”, which he would not detail.

“Basically, this is a matter of Cr Vandervis not accepting a council decision.”

Cr Vandervis said he was satisfied by an assurance from Mr Cull more information would be provided and the group’s meetings would cease next month.

“Obviously, they’ve had some major goose to cook and they’ve done it, or they’re near to doing it, but I wouldn’t know.”

Mr Cull said the intention was to establish a new reporting mechanism for CCOs, as part of a governance review already under way. That would mean the CCO liaison group was no longer needed, he said.


Vandervis fails in bid to downgrade sporting hubhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/165012/vandervis-fails-bid-downgrade-sporti…

By David Loughrey on Thu, 16 Jun 2011

Plans for a $14.6 million transformation of Logan Park survived an attempt by two councillors to drop much of the funding from the Dunedin City Council’s budget yesterday.

The plans, which supporters say will turn the park into a major metropolitan sporting hub, appear set to face another attack later this month, when they go before a full council meeting.

But voting yesterday appeared to show they have majority support at the council table, despite an acrimonious debate.

The plans for the area have been on the council’s books since 2005, when the Logan Park development plan included proposals for new facilities for tennis, athletics, squash and the New Zealand Academy of Sport, South Island.

They were put on hold while the Forsyth Barr Stadium was planned and built, but money stayed in the budget.

An update last week, with council funding of $12.08 million, proposed new or upgraded facilities for the city’s sporting codes, including a new multipurpose artificial all-weather turf for a variety of sports, another artificial turf for football only, paid for in part by Fifa, a new hockey turf and tennis courts, and a possible new life for the former art gallery building as an administration centre for Sport Otago and other regional sporting bodies.

The plan, which followed considerable discussion with sporting codes, went before the council’s community development committee yesterday, with parks and reserves team leader Martin Thompson coming under questioning from Crs Teresa Stevenson and Lee Vandervis.

Cr Stevenson asked if money would be coming from sporting codes towards the work, and was told the council would be working with groups on the issue.

Cr Vandervis moved the committee agree to the relocation of the Academy of Sport only. Asked by chairman Cr Bill Acklin whether he meant to get rid of almost $8.5 million for the rest of the work, Cr Vandervis said he meant to put it “on hold”.

Cr Vandervis said the budget went back to 2005, when the financial situation in Dunedin did not have the constraints it now did. Graphs of the council’s debt “basically look like Mt Everest”, and leaving the money in the budget would not be in the best interests of the city.

Cr Vandervis said it was time to “put these very-nice-to-have things on the back burner”.

Cr Fliss Butcher asked Cr Vandervis if he had raised the idea when the council was considering its budgets earlier in the year, and he said he had “in general terms”.

Cr Stevenson said she had suggested cutting the Logan Park budget at that time, but Cr Vandervis would not second a motion to that effect.

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes said the annual plan period was the time to have addressed the budget. That had not happened, and the council had not indicated it would.

“Doing it now would remove any possibility of consultation.”

There would be an opportunity, he said, to review some of the budget lines for the project.

Mayor Dave Cull said the money had been in the budget for a long time, there was a lot of work to do on the plan, and the money did not have to be spent if the council approved the work that had been done.

To dump the budget would be “completely unreasonable”.

Cr Vandervis’ motion was lost when he and Cr Stevenson voted for it, but Crs Butcher, John Bezett, Jinty MacTavish, Andrew Noone, Staynes, Colin Weatherall, Kate Wilson, Acklin and Mr Cull voted against.

A second motion, to approve the budget, and continue work with stakeholders, was carried.

Both Crs Wilson and MacTavish asked for more information on the issue before a June 27 council meeting, when the decision was due to be ratified, and indicated they were yet to be convinced by the proposal.

Offer to pay fine rejected


By Chris Morris on Thu, 16 Jun 2011

A motorist who vented his anger over a $60 parking ticket to Dunedin city councillors yesterday prompted an “embarrassed” Cr Lee Vandervis to reach into his own wallet.

However, Cr Vandervis’ attempt to hand over $60 in cash during yesterday’s Dunedin City Council public forum was rejected by the man, and quickly labelled a “setup” by Cr Fliss Butcher.

The motorist, Mark Lambert, had decided to use yesterday’s public forum to object to the $60 ticket he received on April 21.

Mr Lambert said he was ticketed while briefly double-parking to drop his wife outside Les Mills Gym in Dowling St, “something people do at Les Mills every day of the week”.

He claimed he was not obstructing anyone while double-parked, but was not angry with the parking officer’s decision to issue the ticket.

Instead, he wanted councillors to change the policies under which parking officers operated, to encourage greater use of discretion by parking officers and prevent the public from being brow-beaten for minor infractions.

That prompted a sympathetic Cr Vandervis to say he had “suffered similar indignations” himself.

After inquiring about the size of Mr Lambert’s fine, Cr Vandervis then left his seat and offered $60 in cash to express his “sympathies”.

As Cr Butcher claimed a “setup”, Mr Lambert also took to his feet to return the money, saying he did not want the donation.

An undeterred Cr Vandervis said he planned to address other complaints about the city’s parking officers, while Cr Teresa Stevenson called for a staff report about the use of discretion by parking officers.

“This issue does come up a lot,” she said.

Council community life general manager Graeme Hall said in response the matter would be discussed at the next meeting of committee chairmen and deputy chairmen.

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Stadium demolition ‘regrettable’: Davies


By David Loughrey on Tue, 14 Jun 2011

Design changes at the Forsyth Barr Stadium have resulted in areas being dismantled and rebuilt, as the company that will run the venue makes changes to catering and bar facilities.

The work was described yesterday by Cr Lee Vandervis as “demolition”, but that description was denied by Carisbrook Stadium Trust chairman, Malcolm Farry.

It was, though, an “entirely regrettable” matter, Dunedin Venues Management Ltd (DVML) chief executive, David Davies, said.

The brief debate arose as the latest report on the stadium came before the Dunedin City Council’s finance, strategy and development committee yesterday. The six-weekly report led to clashes, as the latest details of the project were discussed.

It also emerged yesterday that Rugby World Cup 2011 organisers were not confident a media box on the north stand of the stadium would be completed in time for the World Cup, meaning it would stay on the south side for now.

The design changes were brought about when alterations to the catering area were signalled earlier this year. There was debate at the time about the issue, with Mr Farry claiming the design in place was appropriate, but Mr Davies asking the council for extra money for the catering fitting-out, part of $5.1 million of extra funding agreed to in March.

Cr Vandervis yesterday asked if there had been “demolition” at the stadium.

He had heard concrete cutters were used, and “demolition is the only word you can use”.

Mr Davies said after the meeting it was regrettable the work had to be done.

The design changes were part of $2.4 million allocated to catering, and while other options had been considered, in the end it was decided it was “better to demolish and start again”.

The work allowed bars to be lengthened on one level of the stadium, and changes on another level to allow for catering equipment. The changes brought the stadium in line with international standards, and would help financial projections to be met.

The report to the meeting confirmed the media suite relocation could be completed before the Rugby World Cup.

“However, at the request of RWC the original media suite may still be used.”

A decision had been made last year to build the media box on the north rather than the south stand, which would free up areas on the south stand for more corporate boxes, thus allowing for extra revenue.

Mr Farry said not all media would shift, rather Sky Television facilities would move to the north stand, while other media would stay in the south stand.

But RWC representatives had said “in effect” they were concerned about the loss of about 180 seats on the north stand, some of which were provided to Christchurch people unable to see games in that city, and “are not as confident as we are” the box would be finished in time.

Mr Farry said the seats could be relocated to the south stand, and the trust was confident the box would be finished. But as RWC had agreed to pay any extra costs from keeping the media box in the south stand until after the World Cup, it was agreed to do that. After the event , that work would be completed.


Blast prompts warning over Caversham tunnel


By Chris Morris on Thu, 9 Jun 2011

Auckland’s deadly gas blast – which claimed the life of a worker – is a “tragic reminder” the same threat could lurk inside Dunedin’s Caversham tunnel, a Dunedin City Council manager says.

The warning came from council water and waste services manager John Mackie yesterday, days after Canadian mother-of-two and Watercare Services maintenance planner Philomen Gulland was killed in the Auckland gas blast on Saturday.

The explosion, which occurred inside a large-diameter water main, also injured six other workers, including network engineer Ian Winson, who lost part of both legs.

Methane gas had been detected at the site, but the exact source – and the cause of the explosion – had yet to be determined.

Mr Mackie said yesterday there was a real risk the same sort of explosion could happen inside the Caversham tunnel if methane gas leaked from a council-owned gravity sewer which ran through the tunnel.

It could not be assumed the tunnel would be safe just because it had openings at both ends and air running through it.

In Auckland, Watercare workers had been operating air extractors and opened vents inside the water main before the explosion, he said.

Air extraction was also being carried out at the West Coast Pike River coal mine, but this did not prevent an explosion, he said.

Methane gas, in particular, only needed to build up to low concentrations before it was capable of exploding.

Last month, Mr Mackie had delivered a blunt warning to councillors, during 2011-12 draft annual plan deliberations, about the risk of methane and hydrogen sulphide gases escaping into the tunnel.

He pointed to fatal accidents overseas caused by gas build-ups in confined spaces – including a 1988 methane-gas explosion inside a sewer in the United States – as an example of what could go wrong.

That did not stop councillors committing to reopening the tunnel to cyclists and pedestrians, subject to further studies and safety work, and budgeting an extra $100,000 to pay for the work to begin.

It also did not stop councillors again debating the merits of the Caversham tunnel project during this week’s full council meeting, called to confirm draft annual plan decisions ahead of final confirmation on June 27.

Cr Neil Collins, speaking at this week’s meeting, said the situation that led to the Auckland explosion “was not a mile apart” from that in the Caversham tunnel.

He wanted the council’s pledge to reopen the tunnel, and the $100,000 funding allocated, removed from the draft annual plan.

However, his move was defeated at a vote after other councillors argued against it.

Cr Kate Wilson – a member of the working party exploring reopening tunnel – said a thorough review, funded by the $100,000 budgeted, would examine whether the tunnel was safe for public use.

There were “quite clear distinctions” between the fatal accidents overseas cited by Mr Mackie and the situation in the Caversham tunnel, she said.

Cr Lee Vandervis went further, saying there was no link between the Auckland explosion and the “vastly different” situation inside the Caversham tunnel.

Cr Colin Weatherall said the risk inside the Caversham tunnel was minimised by the air flowing through the tunnel between its two open ends.

Mr Mackie yesterday took issue with some of the comments, insisting the risk of an explosion inside the Caversham tunnel and the tragedy in the Auckland water main were directly comparable.

The Auckland explosion was a “tragic reminder” of the threat.

Move to reopen road fails


By Chris Morris on Wed, 8 Jun 2011

A last-ditch bid to reopen Dunedin’s John Wilson Ocean Dr to vehicles has fallen one vote short, but not before triggering more debate over the road’s controversial closure.

The push came at yesterday’s full council meeting by Cr Bill Acklin, who suggested spending just $50,000 to make the road safe and reopening it to vehicles between 10am and 2pm each day.

That was after a council hearings panel – of which Cr Acklin was a member – last year recommended a $487,519 upgrade to make the road safe for shared use.

Councillors included the funding in the 2011-12 draft annual plan, but last month – after public submissions – voted to remove the funding and keep vehicles off the road.

Debate over the road’s future reignited again yesterday, as councillors on both sides of the debate claimed public support for their positions.

Cr Acklin presented a document showing $50,000 in work was needed to reopen the road.

The road’s bollards would be removed each morning by council contractors and replaced in the afternoon, he said.

There would be signs to advise motorists of the road’s opening and closing hours, rather than the DCC having to instal an expensive automated barrier arm.

His move won support from some councillors, who last month voted to scrap the $487,519 upgrade, as well as hearings panel chairman Cr Colin Weatherall and member Fliss Butcher, who missed last month’s vote.

However, the push still fell short in a 7-6 vote after opposition led by Mayor Dave Cull and his four Greater Dunedin colleagues, as well as Cr Teresa Stevenson.

Cr Andrew Noone then attempted to add $50,000 to the 2011-12 budget for safety work, but only after a report confirmed what was required.

That was also defeated after Mr Cull ruled the idea amounted to the same as that promoted by Cr Acklin.

Earlier, Cr Neil Collins said reopening the road to vehicles was “one of those classic ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ votes”.

He supported a compromise, but conceded: “Whatever we decide, half the population will be happy and the other half won’t.”

Cr John Bezett agreed, but said there was a public perception the council had been “unfair” in ignoring the hearings panel’s recommendations.

However, Mr Cull and several councillors took exception to any suggestion the council had not followed the proper consultation process.

Mr Cull said the panel’s recommendation was included in the draft annual plan for further consultation, but did not indicate a decision had been made.

The consultation prompted more submissions and a change of direction by councillors, which was “perfectly proper”, he said.

“That’s what [the] annual plan is for,” he said.

Yesterday’s debate also saw pointed questions about Cr Acklin’s document, with several councillors expressing concern what appeared to be a staff report was actually his own work.

Cr Acklin said his report was prepared using a council template, but was intended as a background document.

Cr Lee Vandervis also questioned how the cost of reopening the road could be reduced from nearly $500,000 to just $50,000.

Cr Acklin said that was because the work envisaged was “one 10th the cost and work” of that recommended by the hearings panel.

Council city environment general manager Tony Avery also said the $50,000 estimate from staff was based on another “slightly different” option, and the actual cost of Cr Acklin’s proposal would be $63,000.

Mr Cull said he would be “very uncomfortable” with any decision made based on the document, which was “not robust enough”, but he refused an offer by Cr Acklin to table another document explaining the figures.

The council’s 2011-12 annual plan will be signed off on June 27.


DCC contractors in firing linehttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/162667/dcc-contractors-firing-line

By Chris Morris on Mon, 30 May 2011

The performance of Dunedin City Council contractors holding $10 million maintenance contracts is to be scrutinised, amid claims the workers are literally spraying money away.

Council staff, together with Crs Andrew Noone and Lee Vandervis, will meet Fulton Hogan representatives next month to discuss complaints about shoddy and inefficient work practices.

At the same time, a new council sub-committee – including finance, strategy and development committee chairman Cr Syd Brown – will scrutinise the quality of the contracts, to see if changes could result in a “better bang for your buck”, Cr Brown said.

The sub-committee will present its findings to the finance, strategy and development committee later this year.

Both moves come after community board representatives, speaking at this month’s annual plan hearings, criticised aspects of the contractors’ performance.

The council awarded two five-year roading maintenance contracts – worth $10 million – to Fulton Hogan in 2008, covering urban and rural maintenance work across the city’s roads.

Fulton Hogan subcontracted some of the work, including weed-control spraying, to Delta Utility Services.

However, Strath Taieri Community Board chairman Barry Williams told the Otago Daily Times some of Delta’s work was “completely nuts”.

That included spraying weeds near Middlemarch in the middle of winter, when weedkiller would be at its least efficient.

That had been happening recently, as Delta contractors sprayed along State Highway 87 towards Middlemarch.

He also questioned the wisdom of spraying weeds in strong winds, including on the morning of the May 12 storm, which brought down trees in Dunedin.

Spraying on other windy days had also resulted in the spray drifting across farmers’ paddocks, he said.

The council’s contracts required contractors to redo work not up to scratch, but Mr Williams said if they could afford to do it twice “then obviously their contract price is too high”.

Chalmers Community Board chairwoman Jan Tucker said members of the Port Chalmers public regularly complained about contractors’ performance.

This included the time it took to grade unsealed roads, prune trees growing into power lines or clear fallen leaves or grass clippings, which could block drains and cause flooding.

“They don’t listen to what the people are saying about when it [the work] is needed.”

The DCC was criticised last week for the time it took to sweep debris from the Otago Peninsula cycleway, in Portobello Rd, after the May 12 storm.

Fulton Hogan and Delta managers both declined to comment when contacted by the ODT about the criticisms.

Council transportation operations manager Graeme Hamilton said he was aware of the criticisms and shared some of the concerns, particularly when it came to spraying.

He had previously raised concerns with contractors, and organised meetings between council staff, contractors and community board representatives, but complaints persisted.

“Sometimes, you wonder when the complaints will stop. I don’t know the answer totally.”

The council monitored contractors’ work against a checklist of requirements, and could withhold payments or ask for shoddy work to be redone, which happened in less than 5% of cases.

It appeared either the community boards were “a bunch of unhappy people”, their complaints were not getting through to contractors or contractors were choosing to ignore the message, he said.

Next month’s meeting would attempt to “make sure we’ve got the focus of the entire management team of the contractor”.

Cr Brown said he had concerns about the quality of some work and contracts that prevented “common-sense” solutions.

That included contractors working on footpath resealing in one street without fixing other small problems – such as a pothole further down the street – because they were outside the terms of the individual project’s contract, he said.

The new sub-committee would consider ways of improving how contracts were assessed, awarded and monitored. That should also address contractors spraying weeds in winter.

“Spraying at this time of year – you might as well just go and tip it in the ditch somewhere, because it’s useless.”

DCC road maintenance

  • Two five-year contracts ($10m total value) held by Fulton Hogan; Delta Utility Services a subcontractor.
  • Contracts cover urban and rural maintenance work across nearly 2000km of sealed and unsealed roads.
  • Complaints by community boards about the quality of work levelled at this month’s annual plan hearings.
  • Council to meet contractors; sub-committee formed to investigate possible contract changes.

Bell-bottoms for museum?http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/161290/bell-bottoms-museum

By John Gibb on Fri, 20 May 2011

Yellow bell-bottom trousers from the 1970s, and stranger garb, could end up in Otago Settlers Museum collections, after a change in collecting policy is implemented.

Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis, a council appointee on the settlers museum board, asked at this week’s board meeting about the museum’s collecting policy: Was there a “wish list” for donations?

Would musical instruments from recent decades be of interest?

And, he had yellow bell-bottom trousers from the 1970s, plus a pair of green vinyl pants.

Museum director Linda Wigley replied the museum did have a collecting policy and staff carefully checked any items offered as donations to ensure they would add significantly to holdings.

The museum had collected few new items since the 1970s, but contemporary items would become tomorrow’s historical artefacts, and she wanted more collected. A full review of the collecting policy was under way.

Limited funds meant donations would be important, and yellow 1970s bell-bottoms would eventually be welcome. A “wish list” would be circulated to board members.

Board member and council community life general manager Graeme Hall noted new storage facilities would have to accommodate everything for 30 years.


City councillors focus on the big picturehttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/160689/city-councillors-focus-big-picture

By David Loughrey on Tue, 17 May 2011

The cover of a questionnaire about to go to every Dunedin household will feature a stock photograph, after city councillors baulked at the $2000 cost of taking a new one.

The decision will also mean staff or councillors with their own cameras, or Cr Jinty MacTavish’s partner Nick, will not have to raise a lens to their eye to save the city some money.

The sideline debate came during a discussion on the council’s Your City Our Future (YCOF) consultation, intended as “future visioning” to help decide the city’s direction.

A questionnaire will be sent to every household in the city with the council’s City Talk publication on June 8. The questionnaire seeks input on the priority residents would like the council to give to spending on everything from transportation to arts and culture, and from the environment to the economy.

But the picture on the front cover took up much of the discussion on the issue at a full council meeting yesterday.

Corporate policy team manager Nicola Johnston showed the council four images, one with a child blowing seeds from a dandelion, which she said had attracted criticism.

The quoted estimate of the cost of getting a new photo of an image that was clearly Dunedin, was $2000.

After the meeting, she said the cost of hiring a photographer for half a day, hiring a model, then buying the image for ongoing use would be $1000 to $2000.

Cr Vandervis asked with 687 staff, was there not somebody who could go out and take a picture of the city?

Cr MacTavish offered her services, or the services of her partner, who she said was a photographer.

The meeting agreed one of the council’s stock images of the city could be used, while Cr Richard Thomson noted the debate showed why the Sistine Chapel ceiling was not painted by committee.

YCOF began last year, when nine leadership teams from a variety of community areas developed a vision, a set of priorities and an action plan.

Ms Johnston’s report on the consultation said a programme would run from May 30 to July 6, and would include the questionnaire, use of web-based and social media, displays and meeting targeted demographics.

In late July, the council would run a “strategic direction-setting workshop”.

The questionnaire budget was $35,000, with delivery costs kept low by sending it out with City Talk.


Close vote on climate change workhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/160407/close-vote-climate-change-work

By David Loughrey on Sat, 14 May 2011

The cost of a quicker response to climate change became harder to pin down than the issue itself yesterday, with an array of estimates thrown into the discussion on the subject.

After a sometimes passionate debate that spanned two days, and a close vote, the council agreed to hasten its work.

The debate goes back to January, when a report to the council suggested bringing the work forward could come at a cost.

The council had planned to spend the next three years investigating how best to respond to the threats posed by climate change.

The work would include a major study on the future of South Dunedin and four other city “hot spots”.

Council staff were asked by Cr Jinty MacTavish to investigate ways of accelerating some of the work on hot spots.

A variety of figures were suggested for the work during debate that began late on Thursday, and was concluded yesterday morning.

Staff provided a figure of $170,000, although there was debate on the figure, as the staff member involved also would be doing work other than on climate change.

Cr Bill Acklin said he did not believe climate change was a council responsibility.

Instead, it was an issue for the Government.

There was no evidence the work should be done urgently and, considering the rates rise stood at 7.7%, he did not support what he said was the $85,000 cost.

Cr Chris Staynes said he supported accelerating the work.

The council was making a significant investment in areas that might be affected, including work it was considering to deal with erosion at St Clair and St Kilda beaches.

Cr Staynes estimated the cost was closer to $50,000 to bring the work forward.

Cr MacTavish said other cities were well ahead of Dunedin in planning for climate change, and the council needed to know if areas where development was planned were viable.

Without the information, it was not possible to make the decisions that had to be made, and there was no indication funding for the work would be coming from the Government.

Cr Syd Brown said he agreed with Cr MacTavish there was a risk-management aspect to the issue, but a report the council had commissioned from University of Otago emeritus professor of geography Blair Fitzharris had said, while there would be problems in the future, there was no need to rush.

Cr John Bezett agreed with those sentiments.

The hearings committee voted to bring the work forward, Crs Acklin, Bezett, Brown, Andrew Noone and Lee Vandervis voting against, and Crs Paul Hudson, MacTavish, Staynes, Teresa Stevenson, Richard Thompson, Kate Wilson and Mayor Dave Cull voting for.


Mayor questions tsunami systemhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/160410/mayor-questions-tsunami-system

By Chris Morris on Sat, 14 May 2011

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has questioned the wisdom of the city’s tsunami warning systems, designed to protect residents from giant waves.

Mr Cull was speaking at yesterday’s Dunedin City Council annual plan deliberations, in relation to a submission to last week’s public hearings calling for a modern new siren system in the city.

The submitter, Tsunami Action Group founder Eddie Gray, of Dunedin, was to receive a response from council staff stating a fully operative public tsunami warning system was already in place.

However, Mr Cull questioned the merits of that response when a draft of it was discussed at yesterday’s deliberations, saying the response was “a little bit less than plausible”.

The present tsunami warning system involved sending Civil Defence staff, with sirens mounted on vehicles, into the danger area to warn others, which was probably not the wisest thing to do, Mr Cull said.

Cr Kate Wilson disagreed, saying she had spoken to Civil Defence staff, who advised the warning system was adequate.

Their advice was an earthquake generating a tsunami close to the Dunedin coast would leave no time for anyone to respond, but a tsunami coming from the other side of the Pacific Ocean would allow 14 hours’ warning, she said.

Speaking at last week’s hearings, Cr Lee Vandervis had suggested using cellphone networks to alert residents by text message to an approaching tsunami.

However, Cr Wilson yesterday said evidence suggested the service would be expensive, unreliable and have only small uptake.

Council city environment general manager Tony Avery said a similar scheme used during floods in the Hawkes Bay had failed, when a text-message warning was delivered to phones up to 10 hours late because networks overloaded.

Cr Vandervis persisted, saying any suggestion a modern siren system would suffice “flies in the face of all probable reality”.

He was in contact with a company which said it was capable of delivering a workable service, and believed the idea should be investigated.

“To be looking anywhere else, or putting our faith in sirens … to me is absolutely absurd.

“We need to look at modern communications because this is simply a communication issue.”

Mr Cull asked Cr Vandervis to bring further information about the idea to the council’s planning and environment committee.

Savings but grants of $160,000 given


By David Loughrey on Fri, 13 May 2011

Savings of about $790,000 were supported yesterday, as the Dunedin City Council gave with one hand and took with the other.

The annual plan hearings committee was generous with grants to community groups, many of which the committee heard were undertaking extensive voluntary work to improve the city. At the end of discussion on grants the cost stood at $160,000.

But the committee was less keen to allow changes to a list of savings that stood at $794,000 for the next financial year at the start of the meeting, or $7.1 million over 10 years.

Those savings were found after a February decision called on staff to work with acting chief executive Athol Stephens to find savings for this year’s annual plan, as long as there was minimal impact on service levels.

Cr Teresa Stevenson suggested dropping four of the suggested savings, relating to events funding, walking track brochures, and a physical activity project, but the meeting heard the initiatives had been taken over by other organisations, or budgets were no longer needed.

Cr Jinty MacTavish called for a $4000 cut from a grant for significant trees to be dropped, and her suggestion was backed by other councillors.

Cr Vandervis described the savings as “Clayton’s savings”, but was told by Cr Syd Brown departmental reviews still to come would make far deeper investigations into what could be cut from budgets during the next financial year.

The largest saving for the next year was from water and waste services.

That included savings from using in-house provision of mechanical and electrical services, rationalising chemical buying with joint purchases, and from reducing water pressure where it was higher than necessary.

City environment general manager Tony Avery told the committee those changes were not expected to have a significant impact on services.

Parking fines set to rise


By David Loughrey on Fri, 13 May 2011

Dunedin parking fines will rise by $2 to $12, but motorists will be given an incentive to pay early – a $2 discount.

The city council agreed yesterday to the idea, which it was hoped would encourage people to pay and help reduce an almost $1.6 million total of unpaid fines.

That was despite some questioning about whether the plan would make any difference.

A report to the annual plan hearings committee from parking enforcement team leader Daphne Griffen said the council discussed with the Ministry of Justice the increasing number of unpaid fines lodged with the ministry.

In the past five years, an average of 75,000 fines were issued annually. About 50% were $10 fines, and 18% of those remained unpaid.

A plan was devised to increase the cost of those fines to $12, with a $2 discount if the fine was paid in 28 days.

Cr Paul Hudson said people he had spoken to had “just laughed” when asked if $2 would make a difference.

But acting chief executive Athol Stephens said the issue was vexed.

One reason for the amount outstanding was the ministry never wrote off fines from its list, so an international student who got fines in 1994, then left for their home country without paying, would still be on the list.

The Government would not allow councils to employ private agencies to collect outstanding fines.

City environment general manager Tony Avery said the level of fines was set by the Government, so the council could not follow Cr Hudson’s suggestion of making the fines $20, and the discount $10.

Asked by Cr Jinty MacTavish if he thought the $2 would make a difference, Mr Avery said no work had been done on that, because the limits the Government imposed on the level of fines meant they could not be much higher.

The committee voted to go ahead with the change, despite Cr Lee Vandervis’ claim it was a “disguised way of increasing the fee”, and Cr Bill Acklin’s suggestion it should be either $10 or $12.

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Planning needed for hockey fundinghttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/160242/planning-needed-hockey-funding

By Chris Morris on Fri, 13 May 2011

The Dunedin City Council has to plan for $1.6 million in hockey facility improvements needed at Dunedin’s Logan Park over the next few years, councillors heard yesterday.

Councillors were considering a request for $72,300 for the 2011-12 year from the Otago Hockey Association, which would pay for the Otago Artificial Surface Trust to meet the loan costs for previous improvements to Dunedin hockey facilities.

However, Cr Paul Hudson reminded councillors of larger hockey costs on the horizon, including $400,000 towards replacing an ageing artificial playing surface – one of two at Logan Park – in the 2012-13 financial year.

A further $1.2 million was expected to be needed for a third artificial turf within five years, councillors heard.

Council acting chief executive Athol Stephens said debate over the council’s share of the $1.2 million cost needed consideration by councillors “sooner rather than later”.

His comment came after Otago Hockey Association president Jenny McDonald told last week’s annual plan hearings the association intended to seek a $500,000 loan from the council in the 2012-13 financial year.

The loan would help pay for the third turf, which would be used for hockey, touch rugby and other sports, she said.

Council community and recreation services (Cars) manager Mick Reece told councillors yesterday Otago Hockey’s governing body was giving a “heads up” for future funding requirements, and a package of improvements and funding requests would be prepared.

The $72,300 grant requested for 2011-12 would meet the ongoing cost of a $500,000 council loan taken out two years ago, which contributed to the $800,000 total cost of a second artificial turf added at the time, he said.

Cr Richard Thomson said Otago Hockey had been proactive in handling its facilities over the years, and the demand for them was clear.

“These courts are going every day, right into the evening, at full capacity. Many teams cannot even practice, they can only play their games, because they [playing fields] are at full capacity.”

He urged councillors to bite the bullet and plan for future funding.

Cr Syd Brown said a detailed replacement programme, including costs, should also be prepared, which could then be used to begin community fundraising towards the overall cost.

However, Cr Lee Vandervis believed the funding issues should be considered by a separate council committee, not as a community grant through the annual plan process.

“It’s been described as a heads up. I feel it’s more of a softening-up … These telephone number budgets need to be itemised, they need to be rigorous, and they need to be brought to a committee where we can do them justice,” he said.

Councillors agreed to continue the annual loan funding of $72,300 for another year, and consider other funding issues through the council’s Logan Park working party.

Council to consider funding own insurance


By Chris Morris on Fri, 13 May 2011

The Dunedin City Council will consider funding its own insurance to avoid a doubling of annual insurance premiums – to $2 million – because of the Canterbury earthquakes.

The idea of self-funded insurance was raised by Cr Lee Vandervis at yesterday’s annual plan deliberations, after acting chief executive Athol Stephens confirmed premiums were set to “double” because of a flood of Christchurch earthquake claims.

The council was paying $1 million in annual insurance premiums for $200 million in “first loss coverage”, which protected its $3 billion portfolio of pipes, plant equipment, buildings and other infrastructure.

However, advice from the council’s insurance broker, FMR, was those premiums would rise due to the hit delivered to international reinsurers by the earthquakes.

The brokers’ preliminary advice to the council was to double its budget for insurance premiums to $2 million for the 2011-12 financial year, Mr Stephens said.

Uncertainty also remained over the excess the council would be required to pay in future before insurers paid out, he said.

Existing arrangements meant the council had a $10,000 excess before the council’s insurers stepped in to pay 40% of the cost of a major natural disaster, with the Government contributing the rest.

However, the excess would also be renegotiated for 2011-12, with no guarantees about the outcome, Mr Stephens said.

That prompted Cr Vandervis to question the wisdom of continuing to pay insurance companies at all, especially if – he suspected – there were doubts about their ability to cover the cost of damage in a major Southern Alpine Fault earthquake.

He said insurance providers appeared to be “panicking” in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, and he asked why the council could not fund its own insurance.

“Why should we be playing the panic game? . . . I think that’s something we should seriously look at.” Mr Stephens said that was a “fair question” and would be discussed with the council’s insurance broker and experts.

However, the council did not provide its own insurance because of the significant value of infrastructure involved, he said.

“I just think as a city, when you weigh up the consequences of a serious event, then we would choose to insure and pay our premiums and carry on, rather than face the chance [of the cost of a major event],” he said.

New Zealand had been seen as a “pretty good bet” by international insurers – many based in Zurich and Munich – over the last 15 years, but they had taken a substantial financial blow as a result of the Canterbury earthquakes, he said.

They were now “pretty scared and worried” about their exposure in New Zealand, and the new premiums would reflect that.

However, the risk of making other local arrangements for insurance could be seen in the fate of the Local Authority Protection Programme (LAPP) fund, which provided 40% cover against infrastructure damage for its members, he said.

The $40 million fund had been exhausted by the earthquakes, leaving 59 councils across New Zealand without insurance cover for infrastructure until at least the end of this financial year, he said.

  • The likely cost of new premiums featured in a staff report on 2011-12 budget changes to yesterday’s meeting, which detailed last-minute savings and extra costs, adding $45,000 to projected spending.

That included an extra $184,000 to cover Carisbrook operating costs until the end of the year, reduced debt servicing costs of $595,000 and staff savings of $794,000 a year for 10 years, and tweaked capital spending plans, among other items.

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Council refuses further $25,000 for ‘Elsie Evans’http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/160243/council-refuses-further-25000-elsie-…

By David Loughrey on Fri, 13 May 2011

The final push to get the former harbour ferry Elsie Evans back in the water got stuck in the mud yesterday, when councillors baulked at the idea of granting another $25,000 for the project.

That concern was increased by Otago Harbour Ferry Inc not having taken up an offer of help from the council economic development team to put together a business plan.

Organisers plan to restore the former Otago Harbour ferry as a working launch carrying sightseers around the harbour and making ferry trips.

Originally built in 1901 for the Timaru Harbour Board to transfer pilots to incoming vessels, the 13m-long launch ended its days as a ferry in 1954, and spent 17 years lying under a macrocarpa hedge at Waihola before being saved. It became clear earlier this year the organisation was struggling to get the final $55,000 it needed to finish the job, after raising nearly $380,000.

While volunteers had attracted almost $50,000 from the Dunedin City Council, the council was not keen to provide more help until the vessel was in the harbour.

Otago Harbour Ferry Inc was set up in 2004.

Since the project began, the council has contributed a service grant of $20,000, a suspensory loan of $20,000, and community grant scheme funding of $7500.

The organisation asked the council annual plan hearings committee for a grant of $25,000, and for the council to release $10,000 from last year that had been withheld.

Cr Lee Vandervis went in to bat for the project, which he said was necessary to complete the loop created by the cycle route around the harbour, allowing cyclists to return to their starting point by water.

“This $25,000 is going to be some of the better value we get from grants.”

But Cr Kate Wilson was concerned she had not seen a business plan for the vessel once it was in the water.

Cr Chris Staynes agreed, and said the $10,000 had been withheld because of a lack of a business case.

He said there was also no guarantee the money would get the boat in the water.

One of the assets of the organisation was an engine it had bought for the vessel, which turned out to be too big, and too heavy to use.

The sale of the engine had been attempted, but had not been successful.

Councillors agreed to grant the project $12,000, as long as the organisers worked with the economic development team to put together a business case.

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Council decides to sell Carisbrookhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/160081/council-decides-sell-carisbrook

By David Loughrey and Ellie Constantine on Thu, 12 May 2011

The historic Carisbrook ground was read its last rites yesterday, after its demise came quickly.

The Dunedin City Council discussed the issue yesterday as part of its annual plan deliberations.

There was just a brief debate before the final decision was made to sell it. The ground’s end became clear when the new, roofed stadium was finally approved in 2009.

Public consultation was held last year, and while there were plenty of people who wanted to keep the facility as a sports ground, the discussion was held in the context of a council warning it would cost almost half a million dollars a year to maintain.

In January, the council voted to proceed with the sale of the property, including the car park next door, as industrial land, subject to final consultation during the annual plan.

City property manager Robert Clark told the council at the time there were willing buyers for the site, with a reasonable possibility the city would break even on the $7 million it paid for the ground.

While a number of people who wrote on the subject for the plan wanted to keep Carisbrook as a sports ground, no councillor called for that to happen yesterday.

Cr Syd Brown moved it be sold “forthwith”, a motion seconded by Cr John Bezett.

Cr Lee Vandervis raised concerns it might be needed as back-up during the Rugby World Cup, but he was assured it was to be used as a training ground at that time, and would not be handed over to new owners until after the event.

Mayor Dave Cull said the council’s January decision stipulated what could not be done at the site, including big box retailing, but that still left the way open for something other than industrial use if that was wanted.

The motion was carried unanimously.

Former sports broadcaster Iain Galloway said the decision was “sad but not surprising” news.

The historic ground had been his “second home” for more than 80 years.

“[I] just hope there is still a possibility it may end up in sporting or recreation hands,” he said.

Former All Black Tuppy Diack said it would be “very, very sad to see it go”, despite being a supporter of the new stadium.

“Dunedin had to do something in the stadium line and that’s given us a real point of difference,” he said.

He hoped a fitting tribute would be made to Carisbrook within Forsyth Barr Stadium and that the historic ground would continue life as a sporting facility.

Carisbrook’s playing field and turnstile building in Neville St are registered as category 1 historic buildings which would have to be protected in any developments. New Zealand Historic Places Trust Otago-Southland area manager Owen Graham had no comment about yesterday’s move.

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Dramatic U-turn on road planhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/160080/dramatic-u-turn-road-plan

2010-2011 Annual PlanBy Chris Morris on Thu, 12 May 2011

Dunedin city councillors have made a dramatic last-minute change to plans for John Wilson Ocean Dr, by axing a proposed upgrade and instead voting to keep the road closed to vehicles.

Councillors at yesterday’s annual plan deliberations voted overwhelmingly 10-2 against keeping funding of $487,519 for the upgrade in the proposed 2011-12 budget.

Instead, they threw their weight behind an alternative – suggested by Cr Lee Vandervis – to remove the funding and keep the road closed to vehicle traffic.

It was the latest twist in the long-running saga over the future of the road, which has continued on and off since it was closed in 2006 to allow construction of the Tahuna outfall.

Councillors continued the debate at yesterday’s deliberations, but it appeared a flood of submissions received in recent weeks, most calling for the road to remain closed to vehicles, had won the day.

Several councillors conceded they had been swayed by the feedback, after the council had earlier approved the $487,519 upgrade – subject to annual plan consultation – to make the road safe for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and others.

The change of direction came only after council staff sought legal advice yesterday morning, which confirmed a late change was lawful despite having already consulted the public and identifying a preferred option.

Cr John Bezett said he was happy to recommend the money remain in the budget, and test support for it through a vote, to honour the council’s previous commitments.

He argued the council had already sought public input on the road’s future during a two-day hearing, which saw a 50-50 split between those wanting the road reopened to vehicles and those who argued it was a better facility closed to vehicles.

The recommended upgrade was the option that resulted, and “I’m not sure why people are changing their views now”, Cr Bezett said.

He said any last-minute change to remove the funding would not end the debate, and the council needed to stick to its previous decisions.

“People are sick and tired and they want council to make up their minds … we are not going to win this one. Whichever way we go there are going to be winners and losers.”

Cr Richard Thomson argued against the spending, saying he had previously thought the road’s closure to vehicles was “ridiculous” but had changed his mind after using the vehicle-free road to recuperate from a back operation in recent months.

It was a “substantially more enjoyable” experience than the last time he used the road to recuperate from a back operation, when the road was open to vehicles, he said.

“I have moved from an atheist to an agnostic, and I’m afraid now I’m a believer.”

His views won support from councillors including Cr Jinty MacTavish, who said feedback on the proposed upgrade was “absolutely loud and clear”.

“It’s saying spending on this is not what they want us to be doing.”

Cr Kate Wilson stressed the road would remain open to people, just not vehicles, if the funding was removed.

However, Cr Bill Acklin – a member of the council’s John Wilson Ocean Dr hearings committee – said the community had been split over the future of the road at the earlier hearing, with 50% of submitters wanting some sort of vehicle access.

The proposed upgrade had aimed to ensure the growing number of pedestrians using the road remained safe if it was reopened to vehicles, he said.

“[The] $487,000 here is not about cars, it’s about people.”

Cr Bezett’s resolution to retain the funding was lost 10-2, winning support only from himself and Cr Acklin. Cr Vandervis’ resolution to remove the funding and keep the road closed to vehicles was then carried with majority support.

Councillors support removal of shark nets


2010-2011 Annual Plan By Chris Morris on Thu, 12 May 2011

Shark nets are likely to be removed from Dunedin’s beaches, after city councillors voted overwhelmingly in favour of ending the long-running programme.

The vote came on the first day of Dunedin City Council annual plan deliberations yesterday and after submissions calling for an end to the nets at last week’s public hearings.

Councillors yesterday voted 9-3 in favour of removing them, and saving the $38,000 annual cost of placing the sets of 100m-long nets off St Kilda, St Clair and Brighton beaches each summer.

That came after arguments in favour of ending the programme by Crs Lee Vandervis and Richard Thomson, among others, and despite opposition from Crs Paul Hudson, Bill Acklin and Syd Brown, who voted against the move.

Cr Brown conceded he might be too close to the issue, as his cousin and a school classmate were killed by sharks during a period that saw five people attacked – three of them fatally – off the Dunedin coast in the 1960s and ’70s.

However, he was not swayed by evidence presented by submitters last week about the environmental impact the nets were having on other marine wildlife, saying councillors were elected to protect the city’s residents first.

None of the evidence presented to councillors changed the fact no attacks had occurred since use of the nets began, and removing them was taking a risk he was not prepared to support.

Cr Acklin said surf life-saving clubs had not submitted to this year’s annual plan, and may have presumed the money for the nets – which was already included in the draft plan – was to remain.

He suggested those councillors who voted against removing the money – including himself – would not be held responsible if another shark attack occurred after the nets were removed.

Cr Hudson said the surf lifesaving clubs should be consulted before the nets were removed, as many were affected by the decision but might not have followed the annual plan process.

However, other councillors argued the nets were past their use-by date and Cr Vandervis recommended their use cease.

His move won support from a majority of councillors, including Cr Thomson, who said the nets protected a small area of the beaches, did not stop sharks coming into the beaches and were ineffective at catching dangerous shark species.

It appeared water users and even one of Dunedin’s five shark attack victims, Levin businessman Barry Watkins, also wanted the nets removed, he said.

“For all those reasons, I think they should go. They just have a placebo effect and shouldn’t be giving people a false sense of security.”

His arguments won support from other speakers, including deputy mayor Chris Staynes and Crs Jinty MacTavish, Teresa Stevenson and John Bezett.

Cr Bezett said he might have a different view if councillors were considering expanding the nets to completely shield the beaches, “but we’re not”.

What was in place was totally ineffective, and “I think the time has well passed that we should be supporting them”, he said.

Councillors voted to end the programme, with the public, clubs and other groups to be advised about the change.

The decision to remove funding for the nets would be confirmed when the 2011-12 annual plan was adopted.

Bid to review settlers museum fails


By David Loughrey on Thu, 12 May 2011

The Otago Settlers Museum narrowly missed having the final stage of its redevelopment reviewed yesterday.

But the possibility any delay could drive up the cost of the project, or jeopardise the government funding on offer, convinced a majority of councillors it was not a good idea.

Cr Lee Vandervis moved a review should go ahead for stage four, the glass entranceway to the building, which will have room for reception, a shop, and a gathering space.

He said the “rather fantastic glass triangle” design could not be justified, and called for extra time to be set aside to write a report with other options.

His idea was backed by Cr Syd Brown, who asked whether a more cost-effective design could be found.

Octa managing director William Cockerill said half a million dollars of savings had already been found, though he was not prepared to say that would be a final figure until tenders were finalised.

He said if stage four was stopped or redesigned, a major redesign and major construction work in other areas of the building would have to be done to compensate for the changes.

About $30 million of the $38 million project had been committed, he said.

Cr John Bezett was clearly angry the idea had been brought up so late in the annual plan process, and said it was not fair the public had not been able to have its say.

Cr Jinty MacTavish argued a report could be done in a short time, and might just reassure councillors they were heading in the right direction.

But Mayor Dave Cull said although it was important to reconsider projects if they could be done better, it was too late in the spending process to change the project.

The motion was lost seven votes to four.

City’s tsunami early warning system deemed ‘sadly lacking’


2010-2011 Annual Plan Sat, 7 May 2011

Dunedin needs to do more to prepare for a tsunami, a group advocating for a new early warning system in the city has told Dunedin city councillors.

Tsunami Action Group founder Eddie Gray, of Dunedin, said the city was “sadly lacking” in an early warning system, which could provide crucial minutes or seconds for people to escape an incoming wave.

The city had old and inadequate portable sirens, which would be used to alert people to danger, and also lacked appropriate signage and an escape plan to direct people away from any threat, he said.

Instead, the city should be investing in modern sirens to be positioned in areas where there could be a tsunami threat.

Earthquakes and tsunamis were impossible to predict, but preparations could help minimise their deadly impact, he said.

“We either protect our people in Dunedin here or we could pay the cost of it.”

Better education of the population was also needed to teach people what to do when an alert was activated, he believed.

Existing civil defence arrangements were “just a joke” and would be inadequate in the event of a tsunami, which could threaten the lives of 1500 people – and injury to 3500 more – in low-lying Dunedin suburbs, he said.

Cr Lee Vandervis agreed existing sirens were “a joke”, but wondered whether cellphones could be used to send text message warnings more efficiently and cheaply than sirens.

Mr Gray disagreed, saying money could be saved, but many elderly people living in areas under threat “wouldn’t know what they [cellphones] were, let alone how to use them”.


Council refusing to reveal bonus paymentshttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/159004/council-refusing-reveal-bonus-payments

By Chris Morris on Thu, 5 May 2011

Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis says he is “gobsmacked” council staff are refusing to release information about bonus payments within the organisation, for fear of upsetting a union.

The Otago Daily Times has sought information about bonus payments within the council dating back a decade – including spending this year and whether rules were being complied with – but received a written response rejecting the request.

Council human resources manager Bruce Miller said that was because the information was subject to collective bargaining between the council and the Southern Local Government Officers Union.

The union represented hundreds of council staff and was involved in talks to come to a new collective agreement.

The request for information was made under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, but Mr Miller said in response the Employment Relations Act “constrains our communication with staff during negotiations”.

“I will be happy to provide full answers to the questions once negotiations have been completed.”

Contacted about his decision, Mr Miller was also unable to say when the bargaining would be concluded and the information would be available.

The decision has been referred to the Office of the Ombudsman, but was criticised by Cr Vandervis.

“I have been absolutely astounded what they [council staff] are prepared to say is simply not to be had … We get this all the time,” he said.

Cr Vandervis planned to ask staff about the decision, but believed the electoral platform of improved transparency used by some candidates – including Mayor Dave Cull – last year appeared not to have changed much.

“I’m gobsmacked – absolutely gobsmacked.”

Mr Miller’s decision to withhold information about bonus payments came after he released some details of previous years’ payments in January.

Responding to an ODT letter to the editor, he said bonuses over the previous five years amounted to about 0.5% of total salary expenditure, and aimed to encourage and retain high-performing staff.

About one-quarter of staff received a bonus each year, worth on average $680 but as little as $20 in non-cash items or as high as payments of between $3500 and $5000, which went to “two or three” people, he said.

“The value to the city vastly exceeds the value of any recognition given,” he said.

In 2008, then-council chief executive Jim Harland confirmed the council paid nearly $700,000 in bonuses in the previous four financial years – $228,000 in 2007-08, $145,000 in 2006-07, $168,400 in 2005-06 and $156,800 in 2004-05.


Riccarton Rd fight warning for DCChttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/157399/riccarton-rd-fight-warning-dcc

By Chris Morris on Sat, 23 Apr 2011

The Dunedin City Council should brace itself for a second “unpleasant” debate over the future of Riccarton Rd, but should not resile from the fight this time, a city councillor says.

The warning came from Cr John Bezett at this week’s council infrastructure services committee meeting, as councillors voted to approve a $2.6 million plan to upgrade Riccarton Rd.

The upgrade – known as Option B – aimed at improving safety on the narrow road for residents, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.

It is the latest step in the long-running saga over Riccarton Rd, which stretches back more than a decade and has divided opinion and pitted some residents against the council.

Option B was the more expensive of two options considered, and would see the road widened to 7m, with two 1.5m-wide shoulders, and would require the purchase of private land to make room for the work.

Council staff had recommended a cheap $1.8 million upgrade – Option A – which would have seen less road widening along the 4.2km section from Gladstone Rd to State Highway 87, without the need to buy private land.

Both options received a mixed reception when presented to a public meeting in Mosgiel last month, but Option A was rejected by the Mosgiel Taieri Community Board earlier this month, with majority support for the more expensive option.

At this week’s committee meeting, the majority of councillors voted to proceed with Option B instead of Option A.

That was despite hearing budget constraints meant Option B could take longer than Option A, which would have been carried out in incremental steps and completed by 2020, councillors were told.

Mosgiel Taieri Community Board chairman Bill Feather said the board still supported Option B as the best approach, even though board members were “insistent” the work should be completed as soon as possible.

“We are dealing with safety concerns with this road … there’s not really a timeframe – it’s now,” he said.

However, Cr John Bezett sounded a warning, saying residents unwilling to sell slices of their land to the council, to allow the project to progress as planned, meant there was “a definite possibility of stalling this”.

Council transportation operations projects engineer Evan Matheson said the council would apply for a notice of requirement and attempt to negotiate with individual landowners in the first instance.

However, powers available under the Public Works Act might be needed to force “compulsory acquisition” of land from residents unwilling to sell, he acknowledged.

The value of the land would in that case be determined by an independent valuer, but the process would involve a “potentially quite long” timeframe of up to three years, he said.

There was also the potential for “major unknown costs” for the council associated with working through that process, council senior policy planner Paul Freeland added.

Cr Bezett said councillors should “all be aware” they were starting down a potentially long road by approving Option B, and should be prepared for the process to become “unpleasant”, but urged them to stick to the resolution regardless.

“At some stage some committed council has got to say enough is enough and stick to a resolution if it gets unpleasant.”

This week’s meeting was the second time the council had considered use of the Public Works Act.

Debate had been split between those – including the council – who wanted the road upgraded to improve safety, and some residents who suspected the council was pushing to convert the road to an arterial route for heavy traffic.

Opponents of the project had vowed to fight the project all the way to the Environment Court.

In late 2009, the council published a notice of requirement to acquire – by negotiation or force – private land along the road needed for a planned $5.4 million upgrade of Riccarton Rd.

However, the notice was withdrawn in May last year, after a panel of commissioners asked for substantial changes to the road’s proposed development plan, and the New Zealand Transport Agency indicated it would not fund the modified work.

At the time, the drawn-out process was estimated to have cost $250,000, with the NZTA funding 65% of the bill.

At this week’s committee meeting, chairman Cr Andrew Noone said the more expensive option was “the way to go”, but acknowledged community “frustration” at the length of time it had taken the council to consider the road’s future.

It was possible the council could in future accelerate the pace of work, although that – and the extra funding required – would be a matter for future annual plan deliberations, he said.

Mayor Dave Cull said Option B would be the safest for cyclists, and had his support because of that, while Cr Colin Weatherall said the debate had been “pretty torturous” and urged councillors to proceed.

Cr Fliss Butcher supported Option B “reluctantly”, as she worried widening the road could encourage more heavy traffic to use it instead of other available routes.

Cr Lee Vandervis worried about the costs involved and supported Option A, suggesting Option B could be built later if required.

Following the debate, councillors voted to approve Option B.

Twists and turns

  • Debate over future of Riccarton Rd stretches back a decade; council wants upgrade to improve safety, but some residents are opposed, fearing increased use as heavy-traffic arterial route.
  • DCC intention to reclassify it as an arterial road signalled in 2003 study; reiterated in 2006 transportation strategy; suggested again in proposed plan change in 2009.
  • February 2009, 36-year-old refuse collector killed after being struck by a passing van; the second fatality on the road in 16 months. DCC 2009 safety audit finds road’s narrow width and lack of road shoulders threat to cyclist and pedestrian safety.
  • Several plans for road’s development proposed, culminating in November 2009 when council publishes notice of requirement for planned $5.4 million upgrade.
  • Residents opposed, vowing to fight in Environment Court; plan scrapped and notice withdrawn in May last year, after commissioners seek substantial changes to plan and New Zealand Transport Agency indicates it would not fund modified plan.
  • List of new options for upgrade whittled down to two – Options 8 and 9 – last September; Renamed Options A and B.
  • Mixed support at Mosgiel public meeting last month; Mosgiel Taieri Community Board backs more expensive Option B.
  • Councillors vote for Option B at this week’s infrastructure services committee meeting; warned land purchases would be required, as would a notice of requirement, and possibly forced acquisition of land using the Public Works Act.

Activity campaign endorsed but councillors slow off markhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/157142/activity-campaign-endorsed-councillo…

By Chris Morris on Thu, 21 Apr 2011

A new $110,000 marketing campaign promoting active lifestyles in Dunedin has the support of the Dunedin City Council, even if it prompted some councillors to break out in a nervous sweat yesterday.

The “MoveMe” promotion has been developed in the past two years, supported by $110,000 in council funding, and aims to encourage active lifestyles by promoting Dunedin’s recreation opportunities.

Councillors at yesterday’s community development committee meeting were presented with the glossy results, including modelled photographs of active residents and details of a seven-week walking plan participants could sign up to online.

Most councillors were quick to endorse the project, but some began to squirm when it was suggested they sign up.

Cr Fliss Butcher led the charge, saying councillors should all sign up as one team to support the initiative.

“We’re putting money into it … Maybe we should put our mouths where our money is,” she said.

She proposed a recommendation to that effect.

Committee chairman Cr Bill Acklin quickly suggested adding the words “should they wish to” to the recommendation, but Cr Butcher refused to budge.

She argued the exercise required would be something all councillors were already doing anyway: “Right?”

Cr Acklin’s response: “Some of us probably not as much as we should be.”

Cr Lee Vandervis said councillors should take up gardening instead of the MoveMe programme.

“I personally find waving a chainsaw in my spare time does it for me … We don’t need this pile of paperwork to understand the garden is really an ideal place to go.”

Cr Acklin then moved to outflank Cr Butcher, saying two separate votes would be taken: one to approve the promotional campaign, and a second to approve councillors’ participation in it.

The division was “just in case” councillors wanted to vote against participating themselves, but still wanted the programme to proceed, he said.

Cr Butcher then agreed to add the word “encouraged” to her recommendation, letting councillors decide for themselves whether to sign up later.

New home for visitor centre


By David Loughrey on Tue, 19 Apr 2011

Dunedin’s iSite visitor centre is about to move, but it will not be returning to its old home in the Municipal Chambers.

Its move to a new home at 26 Princes St, next door to its current position, will allow the city’s Community Gallery to move back to its original Princes St premises.

A report to yesterday’s finance, strategy and development committee by assistant city property manager Rhonda Abercrombie said the cost of the move back to the Municipal Chambers would be up to $80,000.

That was an unbudgeted expense, because when the Dunedin Centre redevelopment was approved no allowance was made in the budget.

The McRobie Studios space in Princes St had become vacant, and was a more economic option for the visitor centre.

Cr Lee Vandervis asked if the result of millions of dollars being spent on the Municipal Chambers was that it was now a worse option for iSite, and was told while it was not impossible, plenty of work would have to be done for a return.

As well, the window space available in the Princes St premises meant the space was far better for the centre than the Municipal Chambers.

The report included the railway station as an option, but the cost would be at least $100,000.

Mrs Abercrombie said the council had been approached by cafe and bar operators keen to use the Municipal Chambers space.

The committee voted to move the visitors centre, and return the Community Gallery, which suffered a slump in occupancy when it was moved temporarily to Moray Pl.


Safe building ideas soughthttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/156115/safe-building-ideas-sought

By David Loughrey on Thu, 14 Apr 2011

The dates are set and the process is about to begin to make Dunedin a safer place in an earthquake.

While planning for a review of the Dunedin City Council policy on dangerous, insanitary and earthquake-prone buildings began last year, it took on a new urgency after the Christchurch earthquake in February.

The council yesterday announced it had completed its review, and the document was available for inspection and submissions from the public, with the submission process to end on May 27.

The council is expecting the review to raise “adverse reactions” from building owners, as dealing with the problem will not be cheap.

The city will also have to provide financial assistance, with a recent report on the policy by heritage policy planner Glen Hazelton and chief building control officer Neil McLeod recommending incentive funding of $200,000 a year from 2012-13, with a phased increase to $400,000 after 2015-16.

Cr Kate Wilson was last month voted chairwoman of the hearings committee for the review, with Cr Lee Vandervis and an appointee with an engineering background as the other two members.

Cr Wilson said yesterday the third member was yet to be appointed.

From public submissions, the council was keen to get an idea of “best practice”, or how to do the earthquake strengthening work well, and prioritise what really mattered.

“This is about saving people in an earthquake, not saving buildings,” she said.

But if people knew about ways of working collaboratively on aspects of the work, such as strengthening facades, the council was keen to find out about it.

Three “drop-in sessions” have been organised, with a May 2 session at the Port Chalmers Library, and two sessions on May 3, one at the Clarion building in Princes St, and another at the Gasworks Museum in South Dunedin.

Staff and council representatives would be available to discuss issues related to the policy.

A hearing is scheduled for the week beginning June 4 to consider submissions.


Citibus sale on agendahttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/155807/citibus-sale-agenda

By Chris Morris on Tue, 12 Apr 2011

The sale of underperforming Dunedin City Council company Citibus Ltd – which has lost $800,000 in the past two years – has been revealed as the topic of last week’s controversial non-public council meeting.

However, it remains unclear whether the company is in the process of being sold, and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has again refused to comment on “speculation” ahead of a possible announcement next week.

The meeting was held with the public excluded last Monday, amid allegations by Cr Lee Vandervis of illegal and immoral behaviour which culminated in him walking out towards the end of the meeting.

Councillors were sworn to secrecy and Mr Cull refused to discuss the meeting immediately afterwards, citing “considerable commercial sensitivity”. That sensitivity meant nothing further could be revealed for a fortnight, he said.

However, the Otago Daily Times learned yesterday the meeting was called to discuss selling Citibus, the council-owned bus company.

It was not known what decisions were made, and minutes released late last week showed only that a single item relating to “Dunedin City Holdings Ltd matters” was discussed, with the public excluded.

Those present included Mr Cull and councillors, council staff, three senior DCHL representatives and lawyer Michael Garbett, of Anderson Lloyd, the minutes showed.

DCHL is the council’s parent company for a group including Citibus and five other companies.

Last month it was reported Citibus had earned $4.371 million in 2010, but posted a loss of $434,000 before tax, having previously posted a before-tax loss of $372,000 for 2009.

That meant a loss of $806,000 over two years, while the company also owed $4.05 million to Dunedin City Treasury, DCHL’s financial services arm, as of December 31, the six-month results released in March showed.

And, just last month, it was reported Auckland-based Ritchies Transport had secured several weekday bus routes and school runs, previously held by Citibus, from the Otago Regional Council.

DCHL chairman Paul Hudson could not be contacted late yesterday, but told The Star the loss of the contracts, together worth about 20% of the company’s business, was “a concern”.

However, Mr Cull would not be drawn yesterday when asked to confirm whether the sale of Citibus was discussed at last week’s meeting.”I can’t confirm anything and I can’t comment on it. My position, as [that of] all councillors will be, is that the issue that we discussed is confidential for very good reasons,” the mayor said yesterday.

“We won’t be making any comment until such time as that’s no longer the case.”

Last week’s meeting remained commercially sensitive, and would be so for another week, when there could “quite possibly” be an announcement “depending on what transpires”, he said.

In January, rival bus company operator Kayne Baas, the director of Dunedin Passenger Transport, expressed a desire to buy the company and return it to profitability.

Contacted yesterday, he said he knew “absolutely nothing” about any deal, and insisted: “They haven’t spoken to us.”

He declined further comment.

The prospect of council asset sales was also raised by Cr Kate Wilson in January this year, ahead of pre-draft annual plan deliberations, as one way of helping reduce forecast rates increases.

She declined to comment yesterday when asked about a possible sale of Citibus.

DCHL chief executive Bevan Dodds also declined to comment, saying last week’s discussions were held in confidence and “frankly, that’s where it stays”.

Cr Vandervis said when contacted he would “like to” divulge details of last week’s meeting, but conceded there might be genuine reasons of commercial sensitivity for withholding the information.


‘Disgusted’ Vandervis storms out of meetinghttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/154758/disgusted-vandervis-storms-out-meeting

By David Loughrey on Tue, 5 Apr 2011

The public may have to wait another fortnight to discover the subject of a non-public meeting yesterday involving the council’s group of trading companies.

The issue, which has sparked controversy because of the level of secrecy involved, was of “considerable commercial sensitivity”, Mayor Dave Cull said yesterday.

“The consequences of speaking about it before we should would be considerable.”

Last week, an agenda was released for an extraordinary meeting of the council with the subject “Dunedin City Holdings Ltd Matters”.

DCHL is the parent company for a group including Aurora Energy, Delta Utility Services, Citibus and City Forests.

The public was excluded “to allow the council to carry on without prejudice or disadvantage negotiations including commercial and industrial negotiations”.

Since the meeting was called last week, Mr Cull has refused to say why it was being held behind closed doors.

He said divulging the reason for the meeting, or explaining why the public was excluded would make it clear what the meeting was about.

On Friday, Cr Lee Vandervis claimed holding the meeting without a report for councillors to consider first was “illegal and immoral”.

He claimed, under the Local Government Act, a report was required with agendas 24 hours before a meeting, and that period had to be on a working day.

Cr Vandervis said he was being “marched into a meeting” not knowing what was being talked about, when others did.

Contacted last night, Cr Vandervis said he was under strict instructions not to discuss yesterday’s meeting.

However, he said he was so “disgusted” by the process, as well as some of the statements made during the meeting, he “stormed out” towards the end of the meeting.

“We were asked to make what I believe was far too big a decision, with no report, with no opportunity to reflect, and without due proper process.

“I’ve been told I’m not allowed to say anything about it at all.

“You’ll find out in the fullness of time.”

DCHL has been in the news recently because of concerns, raised by Mr Cull, about its ability to pay its share of stadium-related debt.

Its representatives recently told the council that paying the dividends could hamper its ability to take advantage of money-making opportunities which may come up.

Yesterday, Mr Cull said releasing the information at this stage would be “negative – and not just financially”.

“I just can’t divulge anything other than that.”

Asked when it would be released, he said: “I would have thought in the next fortnight.”

Asked about Cr Vandervis’ concerns, Mr Cull said a legal opinion on the issue had been sought before the meeting, and it had backed the course of action the council had taken.


Vandervis annoyed no meeting reporthttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/154403/vandervis-annoyed-no-meeting-report

By David Loughrey on Sat, 2 Apr 2011

Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis says holding Monday’s extraordinary council meeting with no report for councillors to read beforehand is both “illegal and immoral”.

The extraordinary meeting will be held on Monday afternoon, and Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DCHL), managing body for the city’s trading companies, is the sole agenda item.

The public has been excluded from the meeting, and Mayor Dave Cull has refused to say why.

Cr Vandervis said yesterday his understanding of the Local Government Act was that a report was required with agendas 24 hours before a meeting, and that period had to be on a working day.

But no report had been received.

“My beef is being marched into a meeting not knowing what is being talked about, when clearly others do.”

In an email to Cr Vandervis on Thursday, governance manager Sandy Graham said acting chief executive Athol Stephens had advised “given the very fluid nature of the commercial negotiations being carried out by DCHL, any report tabled prior to Monday’s meeting was likely to be out of date”.

Asked about Cr Vandervis’ complaints yesterday, Ms Graham said the Local Government Act allowed the council to call extraordinary meetings with short notice where matters to be discussed were such that normal requirements of meetings could not be met.

Mr Stephens backed her response, and said Ms Graham was “well versed in the requirements of the law as it relates to the calling of meetings”.

“The council needs to have the ability to call meetings instantly.”