ODT 2011.3

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.

29 Sep 2011

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28 Sep 2011

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Cartoon published in the Otago Daily Times on 30th September 2011. Search for recent work by Hayden Smith on the National Library site.

Related:

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Lifting the veil on Haka Peep Show

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/179245/lifting-veil-haka-peep-show

By Chris Morris on Sun, 25 Sep 2011

Provocative public art or ratepayers’ money down the drain? Love it or hate it, Dunedin’s Rugby Haka Peepshow has certainly stimulated debate. Reporter Chris Morris finds out how it happened.

A phallic piece of public art in Dunedin’s Octagon – described as a rented “black penis” by some – has aroused the ire of critics and generated international headlines in the midst of the Rugby World Cup.

Now, the chairman of the Dunedin City Council’s art in public places subcommittee, Cr Bill Acklin, has admitted he did not fully understand what the Rugby Haka Peepshow would look like.

He has also conceded the public needed to have a greater say earlier in the process, so future public art projects could be considered “before anyone has a chance to rubbish it”.

However, Cr Acklin has also defended the decision to proceed with the Octagon artwork, as well as its cost and the secrecy surrounding it, while taking a swipe at fellow subcommittee member – and critic of the project – Cr Lee Vandervis.

His comments came after council staff this week – at Cr Acklin’s request – released minutes of non-public council meetings at which the project was considered, stretching back to March this year.

The minutes showed all three councillors on the AIPP sub-committee – Crs Acklin, Vandervis and Jinty MacTavish – voted against the project, but were outnumbered by non-council members of the subcommittee, which pushed it through.

The minutes also showed the project was then rejected as a public artwork by the council’s community development committee, but approved as a Rugby World Cup project by the finance, strategy and development committee the next day.

That was only after Ngai Tahu offered to increase its share of the cost, reducing the council’s share to $50,000, to be paid from the council’s marketing budget instead, the minutes showed.

Cr Acklin, speaking in detail about the project for the first time, told the Otago Daily Times he hoped the account provided by the minutes “puts everything in perspective”.

He remained angry Cr Vandervis had gone public with claims about the project being a waste of ratepayers’ money “to suit himself”, while the details were still confidential, saying Cr Vandervis was not the only one to have concerns.

“We’re not allowed to comment and because we don’t we’re seen to be the thugs making a mockery of everything, whereas I think it’s the other way around.”

The work by Ngai Tahu artist Rachael Rakena was unveiled on September 9, featuring a “towering black pou” (post or pillar) displaying 3-D video hakas inside, viewed like a peepshow and accepting gold coin donations.

Ms Rakena said at the time it aimed to consider the “commodification of Maori and indigenous sportsmen”, as well as the “sexualisation” of Maori, and included a phallic reference.

The work attracted $80,000 in funding from Ngai Tahu and $50,000 from the council’s marketing budget, and was to remain in the Octagon until the end of the Rugby World Cup before being moved initially into storage at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery (DPAG).

However, it also attracted national and international headlines – and even its own Twitter account – after Cr Vandervis went public earlier this month, criticising spending “to rent a black penis in the Octagon”.

Cr Acklin has already lodged a formal complaint with Mayor Dave Cull, alleging Cr Vandervis’ comments breached council confidentiality rules.

The release of minutes this week meant the decisions could now be debated publicly for the first time, he said. The minutes covered four meetings of the AIPP subcommittee and the community development committee – both of which Cr Acklin chaired – as well as the finance, strategy and development committee chaired by Cr Syd Brown.

The documents showed the work had first been proposed by Ms Rakena at an AIPP subcommittee meeting in March, with discussion at a subsequent meeting in June about the need to find partners to share the $130,000 cost.

Ngai Tahu wanted to support Ms Rakena’s work, and had “tentatively agreed” to spend $30,000, but might increase their share, a council staff report said.

The project was first approved by the AIPP subcommittee at a non-public meeting on July 5, despite Crs Vandervis and MacTavish supporting a move by Cr Acklin, as chairman, to scrap the project.

The councillors were outnumbered by non-council members of the subcommittee, with Suzanne Ellison (Kati Huirapa Runaka ki Puketeraki), Aaron Kreisler (DPAG curator), Debbie Hogan (policy planner), David McLeod (Quadrant Gallery) and Natalie Poland (Hocken Library pictorial collections curator) all voting to block Cr Acklin’s move, and Sue Larkins (University of Otago strategy and planning manager) abstaining.

The subcommittee then voted to commission the project on July 5, with a budget of $130,000, with only Cr Vandervis recording a vote against the move and Ms Larkins abstaining.

However, the subcommittee’s decision was then referred to the council’s community development committee meeting to be held on July 27, the minutes showed.

Cr Acklin said that was because council staff, in the days after the decision, questioned whether the subcommittee had overstepped its authority in approving the project.

The subcommittee could only approve spending of up to $100,000, but it was unclear whether the limit related to the total cost of the project or the council’s share, Cr Acklin said.

That meant the “cautious” decision was made to refer the project to the non-public part of the Community Development Committee (CDC) meeting, where councillors had the power to approve the project as an art in public places work, Cr Acklin said.

Councillors at the meeting then voted to reject the project, instead sending it to the council’s finance, strategy and development committee meeting – to be held the next day – as a possible Rugby World Cup project, minutes showed.

Cr Acklin said yesterday he had already asked for it to be added to the Finance Strategy and Development Committee (FSD) committee agenda as well, because of a “gut feeling” it would be rejected by councillors at the CDC meeting.

Minutes from the non-public part of the FSD committee meeting the next day showed councillors were told Ngai Tahu had offered to contribute up to $100,000, with the council contributing a reduced amount of $50,000.

The money was proposed to come from the council’s marketing budget.

The recommendation was approved 10-3, with Crs Vandervis, John Bezett and Neil Collins voting against the move and Cr Acklin among those to support it. Cr MacTavish withdrew because of a conflict of interest.

A confidential staff report, considered at the meeting, also said Ngai Tahu wanted the council to “consider being the work’s ongoing guardians”.

Cr Acklin said yesterday the minutes showed how the council process had unfolded, and that it was clearly not an art in public places project when approved.

“It was really up to the council to say, ‘Well, do we want to support this or not?’,” he said.

“Obviously, most of the council overall felt it was appropriate to be delivered in that way.”

Cr Acklin said he voted against it as an art in public places project because of its cost, temporary nature and concerns it was a user-pays artwork – something since clarified to be only gold coin donations.

However, he said he voted for it as a Rugby World Cup project because of the reduced cost to the council and the desire to support Ngai Tahu’s contribution to the Rugby World Cup.

“We were trying to find the best for both worlds. I was trying to reduce the cost to council . . . but when Ngai Tahu came back and said, ‘We really want to do this and we’ll take up the biggest cost part, will you be a partner?’, I thought, ‘Well, that’s reasonable’.”

Information about the project was finally released by Mayor Dave Cull after the FSD decision, covered by the Otago Daily Times.

Cr Acklin said it was not until Cr Vandervis’ comments caused confusion about whether the work was an art in public places project that “all hell broke loose”.

The public reaction was also fuelled by the way information was released to the media, meaning the project never had a chance of acceptance, he believed.

There had been “quite a bit of debate” about the shape of the artwork, but those involved had been assured it referred to a deodorant can brand the All Blacks endorsed, Cr Acklin said. It was only when final design drawings were completed there was “a little bit of concern as to the presentation”, he said.

“I suppose the understanding of the work was not that great.

“It was explained to us as being a ‘Rexona’ can, and I assumed that it would have Rexona written on it. It wasn’t until later in the piece that I found out that that wasn’t going on it.”

Asked if that was an oversight or a minor matter, he said, “You could probably call it both.”

He defended the confidentiality surrounding the deliberations, saying the aim was to protect the privacy of artists whose proposals were rejected by the council.

“It’s not because of commercial sensitivity. It’s because of people’s reputations.”

The lack of public input had been “one of my biggest concerns”, but work on the Peepshow project had begun too late to allow public input and meet the Rugby World Cup deadline, he said.

However, the public outcry showed the council would have to find a way to involve the public earlier in the process in future, he believed.

A review of the process had been requested, and would include consideration of how to do that, he said.

“[The subcommittee] needs to somehow bring the community on board at the earliest possible stages.”

23 Sep 2011

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Boycott of Vandervis after “abusive” emailshttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/178881/boycott-vandervis-after-abusive-emails

By Chris Morris on Thu, 22 Sep 2011

Dunedin City Council staff are under instructions not to speak to Cr Lee Vandervis after he gave orders to some staff and described others as “dogs” in a series of angry emails.

Instead, council staff have been told to forward phone calls or emails from Cr Vandervis to their general managers.

The council’s customer services agency staff – who answered phone calls from members of the public – have also been told to divert any attempts by Cr Vandervis to contact staff to general managers instead.

The details were confirmed by Mayor Dave Cull yesterday following inquiries by the Otago Daily Times.

Mr Cull said the instructions to staff came from then-acting chief executive Athol Stephens last week, following a series of “abusive” emails from Cr Vandervis to staff, copied to other councillors and Mr Cull.

The tone of the emails prompted complaints from two staff to Mr Stephens, and two formal complaints – alleging Cr Vandervis had broken the council’s code of conduct – from Crs Kate Wilson and Syd Brown.

Mr Cull released a written statement yesterday along with copies of the emails, the complaints that followed, and the memorandum from Mr Stephens to staff.

Cr Vandervis was reluctant to comment when contacted yesterday, but described the measures as “utterly Draconian” and hoped new chief executive Paul Orders might yet intervene.

He acknowledged using “strong language” in the emails, but said he had already apologised for one of them.

He also placed the emails on his own website yesterday afternoon – after learning the issue was about to become public – saying: “People can judge for themselves.”

The most inflammatory email, on August 16, was sent to Mr Stephens and four senior managers. In it, Cr Vandervis expressed anger at council parking wardens ticketing vehicles in the central city after heavy snow in previous days.

“Staff of the DCC,” he wrote.

“Get our parking wardens off the streets IMMEDIATELY! NOW!!

“Failure to respond by return with the decision to call the DCC dogs off our hapless motorists WILL RESULT IN AN ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE PUBLIC ESCALATION.”

Cr Vandervis’ message – using capital letters, which typically indicated shouting – was followed hours later by an apology to any staff who felt “personally abused”.

“I recognise that I have no right to give staff orders, and that the `calling off the dogs’ phrase was an unacceptable way of suggesting how we might avoid very adverse publicity.”

However, days later, Cr Vandervis emailed another staff member questioning the “dysfunctional” management of council parking facilities and labelling the council “a self-serving bureaucratic culture with little specific expertise”.

“If we can’t run something as basic as a parking monopoly efficiently, is there any business that we can run properly?”

Cr Wilson, in her complaint to Mr Cull, said the emails had “detrimentally affected” relations between councillors and staff, while Cr Brown said the “totally unsatisfactory” behaviour had prompted him to lodge his first formal complaint in 13 years.

Cr Vandervis wrote back noting he had already apologised once for his first email, but defended the “goading” emails to other staff as a response to “stonewalling” over information he sought.

Mr Cull said yesterday the code of conduct complaints remained “unresolved” as Cr Vandervis acknowledged breaking council rules, but had refused to make another apology to staff and councillors.

Cr Vandervis appeared to believe he was “entitled to be abusive to staff if he does not get the answers he wants”, Mr Cull wrote in his code of conduct report to Monday’s meeting.

Mr Stephens had acted to ensure the council met its obligation as a good employer, by protecting staff from abuse, but Cr Vandervis would still have access to the same council information through general managers, Mr Cull said.

Mr Orders had also been asked to review guidelines for contact between councillors and staff, “to ensure we all have a clear understanding of what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour”.

Cr Vandervis’ latest run-in with the rules came after the ODT yesterday reported he was complainant or recipient in all six recent complaints alleging breaches of council standing orders.

Costings being sought for Settlers’ tower

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/178884/costings-being-sought-settlers-tower

By John Gibb on Thu, 22 Sep 2011

Costings are being sought from contractors to add a controversial new viewing tower to the $35 million Otago Settlers Museum redevelopment project, but the tower seems unlikely to proceed.

Documents obtained by the Otago Daily Times, and dated last month, show a building firm has been seeking costings from subcontractors for the construction of stage 4 of the redevelopment, which involves the development of a new northern entrance and redeveloped atrium, foyer, and shop area.

The documents also inquire about a second, combined price for stages 4 and 5, the latter involving the viewing tower, with an earliest possible start date for stage 5. A third price also sought would indicate the additional cost to add stage 5 to the stage 4 contract, at the latest possible date.

The documents state stage 5 is “to be completed by December 1, 2012” and notes that “the client [the Dunedin City Council] may not wish to proceed with stage 5”.

Other documents list items for pricing, including for structural steel, carpentry, electrical services and painting, including of the lift car ceiling, as part of the tower concept.

The Dunedin City Council has previously approved the first four stages of the project, but has not approved the earlier-proposed lift-equipped viewing tower, which has been criticised as costly and unnecessary.

Approached about the tender documents, Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis, who is strongly critical of the proposed $8.6 million cost of stage 4, and also of the tower concept, said he was convinced the tower would not go ahead.

He believed the tower proposal was being used as a stalking horse, an unacceptably costly item to deflect the attention of fellow city councillors from the high costs of the museum’s fourth stage.

He said in an interview yesterday the tower proposal was not being seriously promoted and understood it had been “resoundingly” opposed by city councillors before the past council elections.

Nevertheless it was “totally unsatisfactory” that the tower proposal had not already been ruled out, he said.

Asked whether the tower proposal was being actively pursued, city council general manager community life Graeme Hall said he had, in fact, been concentrating solely on the first four stages of the redevelopment.

Any proposed tower had not gained council backing and clearly could not proceed without approval, Mr Hall said.

Council managers have also been asked to help find multimillion-dollar savings.

The Otago Settlers Museum Board yesterday excluded the public to discuss an item involving fundraising efforts for the redevelopment project.

Other council news:

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Vandervis at centre of ‘tit-for-tat’ rowhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/178742/vandervis-centre-tit-tat-row

By Chris Morris on Wed, 21 Sep 2011

The salvoes keep coming as Dunedin city councillors point the finger at each other – and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull – over allegations of inappropriate behaviour and broken council rules.

The Otago Daily Times has learnt six complaints alleging breaches of the council’s standing orders were lodged by councillors in recent weeks, five of which are yet to be resolved.

The standing orders included a code of conduct establishing the expectations of the city’s elected representatives, and punishments – ranging from an apology to suspension from some posts – for breaches.

All six complaints involved Cr Lee Vandervis, either as the councillor making the complaints or as the target of them.

Cr Vandervis yesterday confirmed he had lodged two complaints in recent days – one against Cr Bill Acklin and the other targeting Mr Cull.

The complaint against Cr Acklin was a response to public comments made by Cr Acklin when he filed a complaint against Cr Vandervis last week.

Cr Acklin, when contacted by the ODT last week, confirmed he planned to file a complaint alleging Cr Vandervis had breached standing orders by discussing confidential information about the art work Rugby Haka Peepshow in the Octagon.

Cr Vandervis said yesterday his response claimed Cr Acklin had not followed proper process, by “going to the media first” to discuss his complaint.

Cr Vandervis said he had also lodged a complaint against Mr Cull, because of the way the mayor had handled “a whole bunch of issues”, including points of order raised by councillors during council meetings.

Cr Vandervis had already complained – unsuccessfully – about Cr Syd Brown two months ago, but was still awaiting an outcome following his two subsequent complaints.

Crs Acklin, Kate Wilson and Brown had all fired back in recent weeks, complaining about aspects of Cr Vandervis’ conduct, he said.

Cr Vandervis – despite filing half of the complaints – yesterday described the “tit-for-tat” moves as “a big ugly red herring”.

“All this code of conduct stuff is really just tit-for-tat bitchiness around the council table, and I don’t welcome it because it’s a distraction from the real issues.”

A “standing orders matter” was listed for discussion in the non-public part of Monday’s full council meeting, but Cr Vandervis – who was at the meeting – declined to discuss it.

He referred questions to Mr Cull, who said when contacted he couldn’t comment “at the moment” about any of the complaints, and would not confirm or deny whether one was directed at him.

“Obviously, if there is a complaint against me, it won’t be dealt with by me.”

Instead, any complaint against him – if there was one – would be assessed by deputy mayor Cr Chris Staynes.

If accepted, it would be referred to the council’s conduct committee for further action, with Mr Cull’s place as committee chairman – alongside Cr Staynes and an independent person – taken by another councillor, Cr Staynes said.

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DCC now security for stadium loanshttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/178713/dcc-now-security-stadium-loans

By Chris Morris on Wed, 21 Sep 2011

The Dunedin City Council, and ultimately the city’s ratepayers, are now the security for about $150 million in loans needed to pay for the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

However, a claim by Cr Lee Vandervis the move has also granted a $20 million contingency fund to spend on other undisclosed stadium extras has been rejected.

Councillors at this week’s full council meeting voted 11-4 to approve changes to the constitutions of Dunedin Venues Ltd and Dunedin Venues Management Ltd, the council-owned companies charged with owning and operating the stadium.

The changes – opposed by Crs Vandervis, Paul Hudson, Jinty MacTavish and Teresa Stevenson – allowed the companies to issue uncalled shares to the council worth $170 million, to be called in only if needed.

Cr Richard Thomson, deputy chairman of the council’s finance, strategy and development committee, said the move did not mean money would change hands. Instead, it allowed the council – and ultimately the ratepayers – to act as security for the two companies’ stadium-related loans.

The loans were sourced by Dunedin City Treasury Ltd and then on-loaned to the companies, but DCT needed security to obtain the funds from its sources, Cr Thomson said.

“Otherwise they wouldn’t lend it to them.” However, the uncalled capital approved by the council provided access to about $20 million more than the $150,459,000 in stadium-related debt to be held by the two companies.

That included $105 million in stadium construction debt and other costs associated with the stadium.

The gap prompted Cr Vandervis to claim at Monday’s meeting the extra $20 million was an “unspecified contingency” fund for stadium extras.

Councillors had also voted at Monday’s meeting to defer $6.3 million worth of stadium maintenance spending for five years, yet still cover the money as part of the $170 million uncalled capital arrangement, he said.

Speaking yesterday, Cr Vandervis said the whole arrangement was “bizarre”.

“There is obviously room for extra spending, starting with the $20 million contingency and then going on to the … maintenance fund.

They’ve said they’re going to defer it … but it’s actually added into this amount.” Finance, strategy and development committee chairman Cr Syd Brown could not be reached for comment yesterday, but at Monday’s meeting he labelled Cr Vandervis’ comments “quite mischievous”.

“This is a security arrangement only with the Dunedin City Treasury. It’s not awarding any capital to the [companies].”

Cr Thomson said yesterday the contingency built into the arrangement was simply a business practice that made “perfect sense”, and the money was not earmarked for anything.

It meant there would be no need to repeat the same legal process in future “if there were some reason, further down the track, why the stadium might wish to borrow some money”, he said.

However, the companies would still be prevented by their statements of intent from borrowing large sums without prior council approval, he said.

The measures approved on Monday meant the companies’ directors needed to be unanimous before requesting extra capital, and give 90 days’ notice to allow the council time to make arrangements or consider alternatives, a report by council finance and corporate support general manager Athol Stephens said.

Cr Thomson said the arrangements could see a request for some of the uncalled capital sometime in the future – for example, if the stadium ran a continuing operating loss and needed extra capital to cover loan costs.

If that happened, “I imagine [the council] would have to borrow it”, he said.

However, the situation would be no different if the council owned the stadium itself, rather than through a company structure, he said.

“You could say that exposes the council to risk, and the answer is ‘yes it does’, but it doesn’t expose them to any more risk than if they owned the stadium.

“You’d still have to find that money.”

Cr Thomson said he hoped that scenario was unlikely, but the answer would only come in several years when the stadium’s “novelty value” wore off.

“The risk for the council has always been that the stadium won’t make sufficient money to cover its expenses, and in that situation the risk is no greater now than it was yesterday.”

Letters to the editor, 21 Sep 2011

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Mon, 19 Sep 2011

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Octagon artwork provokes

http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/editorial/178165/octagon-artwork-provokes

Editorial on Sat, 17 Sep 2011

If art is meant to be provocative the Haka Peep Show in Dunedin’s Octagon well and truly succeeds on that score. The mayor, David Cull, might be supporting the installation but it is a safe bet many Dunedin residents like neither the work nor the council spending on it.

Serious questions are also being raised over the process of approval and confidentiality. What were councillors and council staff thinking when they put $50,000 towards what is obviously a phallic work of art that would stand prominently in central Dunedin?

Why, when the art in public places subcommittee looked at the matter, did the money come out of marketing budgets? When did the public ever get the opportunity to comment?

The best art through history often caused shock, was sometimes thought disgusting and came to be appreciated many years later. There are even some who, after initial dislike, have come to appreciate the harbour molars, but many others still consider Dunedin’s harbourside bloated by $45,000 eyesores.

But, it is hard to see the Peep Show ever being seen as highly significant art even if it does challenge on some levels. Unfavourable reactions do not of themselves make the art worthy. Art that appals frequently has no lasting impact.

Artist Rachael Rakena, from Massey University, has said the work, which is in the shape of a deodorant brand advertised by the All Blacks and houses 3-D video works of four haka performed by prominent Maori, “considers the sexualisation and commodification of Maori and indigenous sportsmen, through the use and exploitation of their masculinity and their culture”.

Fair enough. Although many might consider such sentiments ridiculous, these are the types of issues with which artists might well wrestle. But placing what is obviously, in one way, a giant penis in the Octagon is inappropriate.

Those, including the artist, who are surprised at the vehemence of the anti reaction must live in a different world from the wider public. Perhaps, and without all that public funding, it could have been placed in an art gallery where patrons have the choice to go. It is right in residents’ faces in the Octagon.

There are other matters worth questioning. The $50,000, with part of another $80,000 coming from Ngai Tahu, is an especially large amount of money for what is only a temporary installation. And the ownership of the piece still remains clouded, not a satisfactory state.

Cr Lee Vandervis, who resigned from the art subcommittee two months ago when the committee supported spending $100,000 on “renting” the Haka Peep Show – it has since been funded from marketing budgets and with support from Ngai Tahu – surely has the right to speak out about it.

The public has the right to know how the council came to spend the money on the work. Elected members need to be accountable for their spending, even if councillors and staff too often seem to think $50,000 is small change.

There are times when matters must remain confidential, notably when revealing contract negotiations could cost ratepayers dearly. But too often subjects are confidential so they can be controlled, because they might be embarrassing or as a veil to cover individual councillor responsibility.

One wonders how much support for the Peep Show came because of councillor and staff attempts to be sensitive to Maori matters and their desire to go along with Ngai Tahu. However, whatever the topic or issue or with whomever they are dealing, they have to be clear and hard-headed.

As it is, they look foolish in agreeing to the placing of a phallic sculpture in the middle of the city and to spending on a project bound to antagonise ratepayers. The chairman of the art subcommittee, Cr Bill Acklin, meanwhile, looks ridiculous in accusing Cr Vandervis of breaching confidentiality on a matter of such obvious public interest.

While how exactly funding for public art made its way into a marketing budget is unclear, there is a certain irony in what has happened. The Peep Show is causing such reactions that publicity is beginning to extend well beyond Dunedin, making it into the US-based Huffington Post website as well as New Zealand newspapers. Whether that is good publicity, however, is another question.

Dwyer: Frolicking through the town

Excerpt from Paul Dwyer’s blog on Fri, 16 Sep 2011

http://www.odt.co.nz/rugby-world-cup-2011/blogs/178190/dwyer-frolicking-throu…

Public transport

So Auckland fell apart on Friday night – there’s a shock! The rest of New Zealand, to be perfectly frank, doesn’t really care, we can run a perfectly good tournament without you. (But sort it out by the time I get there.)

Take a leaf out of Dunedin’s book – don’t have any transport then it can’t let you down – walk!

It’s not often I agree with Vandervis. In fact, I never do. But what is the $100,000 black phallic symbol all about? If we ever sort out ownership, perhaps we should melt it down and use it as fillings in the Molars on Portsmouth Dr.

Sat, 17 Sep 2011

Overseas reaction concerns artist

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/177968/overseas-reaction-concerns-artist

By David Loughrey on Fri, 16 Sep 2011

The creator of the phallic work of art causing ongoing controversy in Dunedin says she is disappointed the “humour aspect” of the story is being picked up overseas.

Artist Rachael Rakena said yesterday of the strong reaction to the work: “I suppose it is to be expected.”

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull yesterday repeated his support for the Haka Peep Show and “the pleasure it has generated around the city”.

But arts commentator Peter Entwisle said while it did have some merit as a work of art – a light-hearted work that was “fun and ribald” – in the context of Dunedin’s financial state it was always going to raise the ire of citizens.

Mr Entwisle also said Maori needed to be “thick-skinned and broad-minded” about the use of their culture, as did all other cultures.

The work of art, in the shape of the container used in a Rexona deodorant brand connected to the All Blacks, is a “towering black pou [post or pillar]” that houses 3-D video works of art featuring four haka performed by prominent Maori.

It attracted $50,000 of Dunedin City Council money, and $80,000 from Ngai Tahu.

The work was placed in the Octagon late last week, and Rakena has said it “considers the sexualisation and commodification of Maori and indigenous sportsmen through the use and exploitation of their masculinity and their culture, in the media”.

She said the shape was a phallic reference.

It has caused ructions within the council over funding and confidentiality issues, and the story has ended up on the US-based Huffington Post website, accessed by millions, as well as New Zealand newspapers.

Mr Cull said yesterday it appeared the feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive, and I’m grateful to Ngai Tahu for offering us the opportunity to share in this thought-provoking art work”.

On questions raised about ownership and the return on investment, Mr Cull said it was not usual for the council to look for a return on its marketing investment which, traditionally, was expected to raise the city’s profile and prompt people to visit the city.

Mr Entwisle said if he had been sitting on the committee that agreed to the funding “I would not have voted the money for it, because in the circumstances, it was bound to get people’s backs up”.

Rakena yesterday said she had received positive feedback about the work. She had not anticipated the controversy over the cost, which was a council concern.

Asked whether All Black Dan Carter selling underwear was not sexualisation, and the use of Scottish imagery in Highlanders’ advertisements was not commodification, Rakena agreed it was.

The haka, though, was specific to Maori, she said, and the work was a response to research she had done on the way of indigenous sportsmen were dealt with.

  • A complaint has been filed against Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis, alleging he broke Dunedin City Council confidentiality rules, it was confirmed yesterday.

Cr Bill Acklin said he sent the complaint to Mr Cull on Wednesday.

His complaint claimed Cr Vandervis had committed a “blatant breach” of the council’s code of conduct by discussing confidential aspects of the Haka Peep Show, Cr Acklin said, adding the issue was not about “a tit-for-tat between me and Vandervis”.

Cr Vandervis dismissed the move on Wednesday, saying if Cr Acklin “doesn’t like things to be transparent, maybe he should look for another job”.

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Councillors’ row over art work escalateshttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/177816/councillors-row-over-art-work-escalates

By Chris Morris on Thu, 15 Sep 2011

A row is escalating between two Dunedin city councillors over the controversial Haka Peep Show art work in the Octagon, as tit-for-tat complaints of broken council rules begin to mount.

Cr Bill Acklin yesterday confirmed he would lodge a formal complaint with Mayor Dave Cull, alleging comments by Cr Lee Vandervis about the project breached the council’s confidentiality rules.

It would be the third allegation of a breach of council rules directed at Cr Vandervis by another councillor in recent weeks, all of which were still being investigated by Mr Cull, the Otago Daily Times has learned.

Cr Vandervis also filed one complaint alleging Cr Syd Brown had broken rules several months ago, although that was dismissed by Mr Cull, the ODT was told.

Details of the other complaints were confidential, with parties involved declining to comment, including Mr Cull, who yesterday said he needed to remain impartial.

Cr Acklin’s latest complaint came after Cr Vandervis on Monday said he had “resigned in disgust” two months ago from the council’s art in public places subcommittee, after it was decided to spend $50,000 from the Rugby World Cup marketing budget on the art work.

Cr Acklin, the subcommittee chairman, yesterday labelled Cr Vandervis’ behaviour “absolutely disgraceful” and said he “absolutely” intended to lodge a complaint with Mr Cull.

Cr Vandervis had “absolutely no respect” for council rules, people or projects designed to improve the city, and was “doing whatever he can to be destructive and make a mockery” of council projects, Cr Acklin said.

“It’s a shame his resignation from [the] art in public places [subcommittee] wasn’t a resignation from council.”

A review of the council’s standing orders was already under way, and Cr Acklin said he wanted harsher punishments allowing councillors to be dismissed for deliberately disclosing confidential information.

The council’s standing orders included a code of conduct establishing the expectations of the city’s elected representatives, and punish- ments – ranging from requiring an apology to suspension – for breaches.

Cr Acklin said dismissal was not a punishment available to the council at present, “but it should be”.

“If anybody on council betrays the trust of council through exposing confidential information deliberately … then to be quite frank I think it should mean dismissal.”

However, Cr Vandervis was dismissive when asked about Cr Acklin’s comments, saying he was “trying to keep things under wraps that have no reason to be under wraps”.

It was “bad luck for Cr Acklin” rules allowing the dismissal of councillors were not permitted, he said.”The rules are the essence of democracy.

“If he doesn’t like things to be transparent, maybe he should look for another job,” Cr Vandervis said.

The Local Government Act only required councillors to resign if convicted of a crime that carried a possible prison sentence of two years or more.

Mr Cull confirmed standing orders were being reviewed – something that had been planned since the start of the term – but he would be “very surprised” if rules could be changed to allow more dismissals, except following “very serious” offences.

The latest stoush came after Cr Vandervis gate-crashed a meeting in Mr Cull’s office earlier this year, prompting Mr Cull to describe his behaviour at the time as “highly unusual” and “unacceptable”.

Cr Vandervis yesterday insisted it remained “business as usual” between councillors, despite describing their collegial relations as a “quite pathetic front”.

Cr Acklin disagreed, saying relations remained good between all other councillors – except Cr Vandervis.

“Cr Vandervis is standing out like a big sore toe as trying to be some sort of rebel … If he doesn’t get his own way he throws his toys out of the cot.”

Mr Cull also questioned Cr Vandervis’ approach: “I’m not sure that I can perceive any constructive purpose to some of his apparent behaviour.

“But that’s just an observation.”

Related articles:


Lee_vandervis_6

Cr resigns ‘in disgust’ over ‘rented’ arthttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/177441/cr-resigns-disgust-over-rented-art

By Allison Rudd on Tue, 13 Sep 2011

Dunedin ratepayers have spent $50,000 to rent an art work, Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis says.

He said yesterday he “resigned in disgust” from the council’s Art in Public Places subcommittee two months ago when the committee supported spending $100,000 on artist Rachel Rakena’s 3-D video art work Haka Peep Show, which was unveiled in the Octagon on Friday.

The art work, in the shape of a deodorant can brand the All Blacks endorse, is described by Ms Rakena as being a “towering black pou” (post or pillar), which also has a phallic reference.

After Ngai Tahu said it would contribute about $80,000 to the art work, the council voted to spend $50,000 from the Rugby World Cup marketing budget on the work. Mr Vandervis said he also opposed that decision.

His understanding was the art work, which was still owned by Ms Rakena, would be in the Octagon for the duration of the Rugby World Cup and would be returned to her afterwards.

“We’re paying $50,000 to rent a black penis in the Octagon? What’s that all about?”

Mayor Dave Cull said last night he did not know who owned the art work.

“Does it matter? … Cr Vandervis’ comment is irrelevant. The work has been part paid for by the Dunedin City Council for the benefit of the region.”

Mr Vandervis was being “particularly mischievous” in raising the issue, he said.

When asked last night who owned the art work, Otakou runanga chairman Edward Ellison replied: “Good question. It is the artist’s work. I imagine she owns it.”

He said he was not aware Ngai Tahu was claiming ownership, although he said he “suspected the city council would have a strong claim on it” because they had contributed financially.

Ms Rakena said she did not own it – “unless no-one else wants it, and then I’ll have it”.

The project had been completed in a very tight time-frame and contracts were still being drawn up. But she said she was expecting the city council and Ngai Tahu would own it.

Cr Vandervis said he had not publicised his resignation from the subcommittee because he thought the subcommittee had not funded the art work and he thought the issue had gone away.

He said he was “agog” when the project came to the council again with the suggestion it be funded from another budget.

Asked about Cr Vandervis’ decision to resign from the Art in Public Places subcommittee, Mr Cull was dismissive, saying Cr Vandervis had resigned “because he found participating in the decisions of the committee too challenging”.

An annoyed Art in Public Places subcommittee chairman Cr Bill Acklin said last night anyone who talked about subcommittee discussions had “seriously breached” council rules.

Discussions on any projects the subcommittee decided not to fund were “100% confidential”.

“As far as I am concerned, this art work was funded from the Rugby World Cup budget and is nothing to do with the Art in Public Places subcommittee. Anyone who says otherwise is seriously breaching confidentialities”.

Lee_vandervis_3

Nod for funds to brace buildingshttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/177429/nod-funds-brace-buildings

By David Loughrey on Tue, 13 Sep 2011

Dunedin heritage building owners may next year get financial help with earthquake strengthening, both through an increase in the council’s heritage fund, and a targeted rate system.

The decision followed sharp words among councillors at a recent meeting as they fought over funding for their areas of interest.

Cr Lee Vandervis has been involved in earthquake strengthening through his role as chairman of the heritage buildings economic reuse steering committee.

A report to the finance, strategy and development committee, from heritage policy planner Glen Hazelton, called for to provide information on a targeted rate to assist building owners to strengthen their buildings against earthquakes, suggested a variety of options.

But Cr Vandervis argued the committee should just give the council’s heritage fund another $120,000 a year, on top of the $80,000 in the fund at the moment.

The fund was “run as tight as a drum”, Cr Vandervis said.

“Are you suggesting we increase rates to fund this?” Cr Fliss Butcher asked.

Cr Vandervis replied the idea was “not a pet project”, but a “desperate attempt” to save buildings.

Cr Butcher suggested the money could come from the Art in Public Places budget, which had a “loose” $100,000 that had not been spent.

That suggestion did not go down well with Art in Public Places committee member Cr Bill Acklin.

“It’s not loose,” he said of the budget.

The committee voted for a targeted rate for earthquake strengthening, allowing building owners to borrow money for the work and repay it through rates, with the debt remaining with the property, rather than the owner.

The rate would be at no cost to the council.

It also voted for the extra money for the heritage fund, though committee chairman Cr Syd Brown noted the decision would have to be approved as part of next year’s annual plan.

Letter to Mayor Dave Cull

http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/your-say/176292/letter-mayor-dave-cull

By Calvin Oaten on Mon, 5 Sep 2011

Hello Dave,

Well, you do have an interesting life. The F&S meeting today will be another nail in the coffin of the city’s financial body.

I read with interest the latest manipulations proposed by the ‘Gurus’ of the money tree in the suggestions to increase the authorised capital structures of both DVL and DVML. DVL is to be set at $160million $1 shares and DVML at $10million shares. In both instances these increases will be uncalled.

This, however, places a legal obligation for the shareholder/s to come forward with the cash should circumstances arise requiring it. It does however, provide collateral security against which monies can be borrowed up to the amount of the authorised capital should it be required.

In the case of DVL, it seems to me that this action anticipates doing just that. This means that the DCC’s commitment to the stadium has progressively risen from the $91.4m in 2008 (consisting of $85m plus $6.4m capital maintenance fund) to $98m to $139m, to $144m to $147m in the current Plan.

Now we can see that there is likely to be a need for an additional $13m a figure coincidental with a so called gap identified. In all, an increase of almost 100% since first mooted. So much for the “on time on budget” mantra of the CST chairman. I suspect that these moves confirm that the so called ‘private funding’ of some $45m (incl. the Govt $15m) which the public were led to believe was part of the construction capital is in fact to be treated as operational revenue for DVML.

Coming to DVML, the increase in capital to $10m will enable it to carry debt to cover non budget features such as large screens, temporary seating, signage, catering, and sundry ‘goodies’ deemed necessary to the operation of the stadium. Well, why not? Then of course there is the already indentified loss of $900,000 to host the RWC, which will have been increased by the addition of more matches due to the CH CH earthquakes.

Of course there is no talk whatsoever, about how or where the extra money to service all of this additional debt is coming from, other than the expeditious use of time. We now hear of forty years instead of twenty to pay down the debt. We also hear of an additional $115m in interest as a result of this.

Dave, when oh when, are you going to call a halt to all this nonsense. DCHL is on its knees, the city is technically bankrupt, the excavators are furiously digging the hole deeper as we speak, the money people within have gone completely berserk and still you are in denial. Please don’t tell us again that “your concerns have turned out to be justified; now we have to deal with it.” Just do it!! Stand up and shout ENOUGH!! this must stop.

The dopey council won’t support you – except for Lee Vandervis – but at least the public will be awakened. As mayor your voice is power, if you will only use it.

Declare that immediately after the RWC, that the stadium must be closed. DVML closed down. All expenditure stopped. Pending a full investigation by a totally independent panel, a clean out of the whole culture existing at present by requesting written resignations from all senior and intermediate management together with their reapplications for their positions (if continued) and a review of all activities.

The new CEO is coming at an opportune time to take a valid part in all of this. Let’s hope he would be up to it. Dave, you have two years to turn this mess around, doing the pain now might just improve your chances of re-election. Do nothing, and the city won’t need a mayor, the only growth industry will be for “receivers”.

You know this Dave. I know you have the intelligence to analyse the debacle you have been landed with. Do you have the intestinal fortitude to handle it? Let’s see it, and soon.

Peter_harris

Project Gateway on holdhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/173876/project-gateway-hold

By David Loughrey on Wed, 17 Aug 2011

Project Gateway – an initiative that has cost the Dunedin City Council $3.5 million over the last decade – will be put on hold and “reviewed” after results that have fallen well short of initial goals.

Despite early hopes of attracting 60,000 visitors a year, creating 555 jobs and opening up a market worth $21 million, council economic development unit manager Peter Harris said it had instead sparked sales of about $4.6 million, and helped create “around 34 jobs”.

The project, the overall cost of which was released to the Otago Daily Times, has been criticised as a failure, but Cr John Bezett said that was not the case. The deputy chairman of the council’s finance, strategy and development committee said the project’s goals had instead “evolved”, and the money spent had been used to help local businesses.

Mayor Dave Cull said the initiative “may have been successful at the time”, but was less so of late, which was why it was being reviewed.

The project was set up in 1998 by Dunedin International Airport Ltd, a report from Mr Harris to a recent council finance, strategy and development committee said.

In 1999, the council adopted and expanded the initiative, in partnership with the airport, Tourism Dunedin, the Otago Chamber of Commerce and the University of Otago.

Questions were raised about the project’s goals from early on in the process, with the Otago Daily Times asking in 2000 whether they were realistic.

Cr Lee Vandervis said at the committee meeting the project had been an “unqualified lack of success”, with goals that were unattainable.

Mr Harris responded that despite best efforts, “some things work; some things don’t”.

His report said the project’s goals had “morphed” from earlier goals.

Air freight possibilities had been pursued “without success, due to airline reluctance to detract from the Christchurch airfreight hub”, while a Queenstown air link had been pursued through Mainland Air, “but the trial they ran did not attract sufficient demand to retain the service”.

Detailing grants provided, he said 96 companies had been provided grants totalling $230,000 in the period 2001-08.

The percentage of visitors from Australia to Dunedin had risen 22% between 2004 and 2010.

“Some of the original goals have proven to be very challenging, and those issues that can be addressed are being dealt with on an ongoing basis by DIAL [the airport company] and Tourism Dunedin.”

Asked what businesses used the funding for, he gave examples of those which: travelled to meet a client putting out a $1 million tender; exhibited at an industry conference in Queensland; hosted key Australian customers in Dunedin; and visited present and prospective Australian customers.

Cr Bezett said the idea of Project Gateway had been to engage with Australia’s east coast, mainly Sydney.

“Over the years, it has evolved into something different.”

Dealing with the “very, very volatile” airline industry had been “frustrating”.

Freedom Air, at its height, had filled between 22,000 and 23,000 seats in one year, which was “very good for us”.

There had been 14 or 15 flights a week, but “that has dwindled.”

Lee_vandervis_5

Museum marketing costs during closure criticisedhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/173498/museum-marketing-costs-during-closur…

By John Gibb on Mon, 15 Aug 2011

Otago Settlers Museum Board member Lee Vandervis, who is a critic of museum redevelopment project costs, has also taken issue with the museum’s promotional spending.

Mr Vandervis is a Dunedin city councillor and a council appointee on the board of the council-owned museum.

At a recent board meeting, Mr Vandervis noted the museum building had been largely closed to the public for much of the past year, because of disruption caused by the museum’s $35 million redevelopment project.

The museum complex has also been completely closed to the general public since May 1.

The museum’s latest annual statement of financial performance showed $46,000 had been spent on marketing.

Mr Vandervis expected this would have been lower, given the closure. He said in an interview that, given the difficult overall debt situation faced by the city council, even modest sums in council budgets should be closely scrutinised in order to make savings.

Council community life general manager Graeme Hall told the board the marketing spend was in fact lower than the $62,000 budgeted for the financial year, ending on June 30.

Museum director Linda Wigley said museum exhibitions were now closed but the museum was actually continuing many of its programmes, including its education service.

The museum still needed to advise the public about its activities and the redevelopment progress, she said.

No vote for electoral review

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/173358/no-vote-electoral-review

By Debbie Porteous on Sat, 13 Aug 2011

Dunedin city councillors voted this week against reviewing representation arrangements for the council this triennium (period of three years), and for retaining the single transferable vote electoral system for the 2013 elections.

The report to the meeting said the council carried out a review of representation arrangements before the last local body election, and was not required to undertake a review this triennium, but had the option to do so if it wished.

Cr John Bezett said it was too soon for another review.

Other councillors said they did not want to spend the estimated $50,000 a review would cost.

A motion from Cr Bill Acklin not to go ahead with a review at this stage was carried, with Cr Lee Vandervis the only councillor in favour of a review.

Bevan_dodds

Loans for dividends will continuehttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/173226/loans-dividends-will-continue

By Chris Morris on Fri, 12 Aug 2011

Dunedin City Holdings Ltd will still have to borrow money to fund reduced dividend payments to the Dunedin City Council.

DCHL chief executive yesterday confirmed loans would continue to help fund some of the $18.2 million annual dividend expected to be paid to the council each year, beginning in 2012-13.

The exact amount would depend on the performance of DCHL and its subsidiary companies in the years to come, he said.

“How much will need to be borrowed we can’t say,” he said.

His comments came after Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull last month said DCHL was in an unsustainable position after borrowing to maintain its dividend payments to the council in the past.

DCHL’s annual dividend payments to the council would have to reduce, beginning in 2012-13, from $23.2 million to $18.2 million, while $3 million going to Dunedin Venues Management Ltd would cease, he said.

That prompted Cr Lee Vandervis to yesterday claim even the reduced dividend payment of $18.2 million to the council was unaffordable, as DCHL would continue to borrow up to half of the money. That was because the reduced dividend payment agreed by the parties was still about “double” the DCHL’s after-tax profit, he claimed.

The shortfall in DCHL dividends to the council and DVML, totalling $8 million, was more likely to be $13 million each year if loans were not used to fund them, he argued.

“They can deliver the dividend by borrowing, but they can’t actually make the money.”

However, DCHL’s last annual report showed the group made a net profit for the year of $18.1 million in 2010.

And, asked to respond, Mr Dodds said dividend payments came from the cashflows of individual companies in the group, not the “accounting profit” listed in DCHL’s annual reports.

Mr Dodds said loans also weren’t taken specifically to pay dividends to the council, but were used to fund certain company activities and “it’s more like it [the loans] come out in the wash”.

Payments were made by the companies to DCHL, and then passed on by DCHL to the council, he said.

The reduced dividend agreed was “acceptable” to the DCHL board and the borrowing required to help fund it was “something the companies could withstand”, he said.

“That’s based on a view of the businesses where they are right now,” he said.

Related articles:

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 Council could pull pin on projectshttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/173064/council-could-pull-pin-projects

By Chris Morris on Thu, 11 Aug 2011

Millions of dollars of Dunedin City Council capital spending planned for the next few months will again go under the microscope, which could lead to projects being delayed or cancelled.

Councillors are trying to plug an $8 million hole in the council’s annual budgets from the 2012-13 year, triggered by a shortfall in dividend payments from Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DCHL).

Councillors at yesterday’s full council meeting called for a report identifying projects – like the Dunedin Town Hall upgrade – that could have their spending delayed for the rest of the 2011-12 year.

That was despite warnings the council could face a judicial review if it makes sudden changes to spending plans having already approved them following public consultation.

The debate came after Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull last month revealed an $8 million shortfall in DCHL dividends, prompting renewed concerns about council spending and debt.

The concern also turned a purely procedural item at yesterday’s meeting into a political battlefield.

A report by council acting chief executive Athol Stephens sought approval to draw down $66 million over the 2011-12 year to fund the council’s capital spending plans.

Loan requirements were based on a budget already approved by councillors following public consultation during annual plan hearings earlier this year, and the request for authorisation was made each year.

However, Cr Lee Vandervis urged other councillors to vote to block the loans, which he argued would derail the year’s capital spending and help reduce council debt.

The move would “hit the brakes” on projects he opposed, including parts of the Otago Settlers Museum and Dunedin Centre/Town Hall upgrades and the redevelopment of Logan Park.

“We can stop the train at this point or we can simply let it rumble on,” he said.

The suggestion triggered debate lasting more than an hour, with Cr Richard Thomson criticising Cr Vandervis’ “sledgehammers and nuts” approach while Cr Syd Brown warned sudden changes without further consultation would lead to a judicial review.

Cr Syd Brown warned sudden changes without further consultation would lead to a judicial review.

Loans would only be drawn down as required throughout the year, rather than all at once, and voting to grant authorisation to Mr Stephens would not prevent changes to individual projects in the meantime, he said.

Failure to do so would mean the council “would have to renege on paying our bills”, he said.

Cr Bill Acklin also stressed the loans were for a list of projects that “has been consulted on, the public have submitted and we have made decisions on”, and were not for new spending.

Mr Stephens said the public might need to be consulted again, using a special consultative procedure, before decisions were made to axe or delay significant projects.

Portions of the Town Hall and Tahuna wastewater treatment projects could still have some spending delayed or cancelled, but that was “very much a political decision” for councillors.

Council managers were already preparing a list of savings ideas, prompted by councillors’ concerns over the DCHL dividend shortfall, he said.

The report would include possible changes to capital spending during the rest of 2011-12, which, if approved, would allow funds to be carried forward to next year’s budget and help ease the pressure that year, he said.

Results were expected in three weeks, but Cr Jinty MacTavish yesterday called for a separate report focusing on possible capital spending savings in 2011-12.

That was supported by other councillors in a 12-2 vote, with only Crs Acklin and John Bezett voting against the move after arguing it was unnecessary.

Councillors also authorised Mr Stephens to draw down the loans during 2011-12, despite Crs Vandervis’ pleas, and despite Crs MacTavish, Paul Hudson and Teresa Stevenson joining him in voting against the move.

Councillors also agreed to remove wording in a recommendation of Mr Stephens’ report, that the $66 million in loans would be repaid over 20 years.

Removing the wording would ensure the council could in future consider extending loan repayments over a longer period, as suggested by Mr Stephens earlier this month.

Lee_vandervis_6

Vandervis seeks cut to museum project

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/173054/vandervis-seeks-cut-museum-project

By John Gibb on Thu, 11 Aug 2011

Otago Settlers Museum Board member Lee Vandervis yesterday took issue with the about $8 million cost of the museum redevelopment’s final stage and asked if savings could be made.

Cr Vandervis is a Dunedin city councillor and a council appointee on the board of the council-owned museum.

“People have come to realise the state of DCC debt is quite a bit more serious than previously thought,” he said at yesterday’s board meeting.

He asked if there was “any way we can offer some sort of savings in stage four”.

Work is continuing on the $35 million redevelopment project’s third stage, which focuses on redeveloping the museum’s original brick Burnside building.

Council officials said tender documents had already been sent out for the fourth and final stage, which aims to provide a modern northern entrance and to attract visitors from the highly popular Dunedin Railway Station nearby.

In a later interview, Cr Vandervis said the projected $8.6 million cost of stage four was “$8.6 million of money we don’t have”.

As a “builder’s son” he was sceptical so much money was needed.

He also challenged the aesthetics of the proposed new entry, which he termed “a great triangular wedge of glass”.

Its large size and appearance would detract from the museum’s existing “lovely old heritage buildings”.

Asked if the entry would attract railway visitors, he said: “You don’t have to spend $8.6 million to put a sign in.” Tenders for stage four close later this month and November 1 is the scheduled start date.

Council community life general manager Graeme Hall was hopeful the market was “going to be competitive” over the tenders.

At the meeting, Mr Hall acknowledged the council’s fiscal concerns and said potential cost savings had to be identified in all its projects, including stage four of the Settlers Museum project.

Museum board chairwoman Dr Dot Page defended the appearance of the proposed final-stage building work and said it had also been carefully costed, and the overall project remained on budget.

Stage four included other important functional spaces and involved much more than just an attractive entry.

There would also be significant administrative and commercial areas, including a museum shop and cafe, which would help generate income for the museum, Dr Page said in an interview.

In discussing the board’s latest annual financial report (until June 30 this year), another board member, Richard Thomson, asked about a favourable variance of $240,000, arising from unbudgeted interest earnings on Government grant funds held for the redevelopment.

He asked if it was appropriate that this extra income be offset against further city council funding earmarked for the redevelopment.

Such extra interest income had already been factored into redevelopment fundraising efforts, Mr Hall replied.

Mr Hall is to bring a financial report to the next board meeting, clarifying the role of the interest income in the project’s overall funding.

Dave_cull_4

DCHL reviews release expected

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/173052/dchl-reviews-release-expected

By Chris Morris on Thu, 11 Aug 2011

The Dunedin City Council was giving little away yesterday after meeting behind closed doors to discuss Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DCHL)’s annual $8 million dividend payment shortfall.

However, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull last night told the Otago Daily Times copies of two reviews examining DCHL’s structure and performance were expected to be made public today.

The move comes after councillors discussed the two reviews -including one by independent reviewer and company director Warren Larsen – in the non-public part of yesterday’s full council meeting.

The debate came after Mr Cull last month confirmed a projected $8 million shortfall in DCHL annual dividends beginning in 2012-13, which included a $5 million drop in payments to be received by the council each year.

Council staff had indicated before yesterday’s meeting both reviews would be made public after the meeting, albeit with some sections blacked out because of concerns about privacy and commercial sensitivity.

That prompted debate at the beginning of the public part of yesterday’s meeting, with Cr Lee Vandervis arguing discussion of the Larsen review should be moved into the meeting’s public section because of the public interest in it.

Other councillors disagreed, with Cr Richard Thomson and Jinty MacTavish both saying they wanted more of the blacked-out sections reinstated into the versions to be made public.

To do that, both reports needed first to be discussed in their entirety in private, to determine exactly what could then be made public, Cr Thomson said.

Mr Cull, speaking afterwards, said councillors had agreed to make more of the report public as a result, with copies expected to be released later today.

He would not comment about any other decisions reached at yesterday’s meeting, saying other details remained confidential, but would consider what else could be made public today.

He also declined to comment when asked what role Cr Paul Hudson – also the DCHL chairman – played at the meeting, as did Cr Hudson himself when contacted last night.

DCC plans self-cover

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/171917/dcc-plans-self-cover

By David Loughrey on Thu, 4 Aug 2011

Insurance companies refusing to cover Dunedin’s infrastructure because of post-earthquake fears about their own exposure are not turning down business.

“They are saying we will take your business, but you will have to pay for it,” city council financial controller Maree Clarke said.

Mrs Clarke reminded councillors at last week’s finance, strategy and development committee meeting the council had no infrastructure insurance. For instance, if a train hit the railway bridge beside the Dunedin Railway Station, as happened in 2008, there would be no cover.

Dunedin has begun work to insure its assets itself after a debate on the issue late last week.

The council voted to set aside up to $100,000 for a consultant to evaluate the city’s risk and work out the maximum possible loss the city could face.

That was despite an argument by Cr Richard Thomson that the work could be done by each council department, as staff should know the cost of their assets.

It emerged recently the city’s $2.4 billion network of above- and below-ground infrastructure assets had been left without insurance after the Christchurch earthquakes.

International reinsurers, worried about their own exposure, refused to offer new cover for underground assets, while council staff refused to pay inflated premiums for reduced cover for above-ground assets.

The council is instead considering self-insurance to cover 40% of any repair bill, a requirement for obtaining 60% support from the Government.

Cr Thomson asked what might come out of spending $100,000 that the council could not “guess for ourselves” with the knowledge staff already had.

“We will be left with uncertainty, regardless,” he said.

Mrs Clarke, who presented a report on the issue to the meeting, told councillors the money would not necessarily all be spent, but staff “want the facility there”.

“We don’t have a good feel for what our exposure to risk is,” she said.

Each department had done work but needed to know the maximum loss to which the council could be exposed.

Acting chief executive Athol Stephens said the real issue was around probability, and what sort of damage earthquakes of different strengths could inflict, considering aspects such as the age of assets.

Cr Thomson asked whether staff had questioned the insurance companies about “non-earthquake insurance”, as risks apart from earthquakes had not increased.

Mr Stephens said that had not happened, but would.

After the September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, “people said we would never get insurance cover back again”.

“Within a couple of years, people were back in the market,” Mr Stephens said. “We think the market will start to respond, eventually.”

Cr Thomson said he would prefer staff to consider the matter, but Cr Lee Vandervis said despite not being a supporter of bringing in consultants, in this case, it was “such a specialised area” that one was needed.

The committee voted to approve a carry-forward budget from a finance department surplus of “up to” $100,000 for the work, and approved setting up a strategic risk fund for self-insurance for infrastructure assets.

An update on the issue would come to the committee on October 17.

Paul_orders

$84,000 spent to recruit council CEOhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/171831/84000-spent-recruit-council-ceo

By Chris Morris on Wed, 3 Aug 2011

The hunt for a new Dunedin City Council chief executive could be the most expensive recruitment drive in the council’s history.

The council paid just over $84,000 in the search for a replacement for chief executive Jim Harland, with more than half the money going to a private firm charged with finding the best candidates, it has been confirmed.

Figures released to the Otago Daily Times showed the council spent $84,326.46 before settling on Welshman Paul Orders.

The spending included $48,000 paid to recruitment company EQI, which undertook the search on the council’s behalf, and also covered the cost of flights, accommodation, advertising and legal bills.

The spending was nearly $20,000 more than the $66,571.90 spent in 2009 recruiting David Davies as chief executive for Dunedin Venues Management Ltd, the company formed to run Forsyth Barr Stadium and other venues.

However, Cr Lee Vandervis – an ardent critic of council spending on consultants – declined to criticise the latest recruitment bill yesterday.

He told the ODT he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the bill made Mr Orders’ recruitment the most expensive in council history, but accepted the international recruitment drive came with significant costs.

“I’m not keen on using consultants at all, but there are a few key areas in which the city simply doesn’t have … any expertise.

“Given that we got a result where we had some serious, decent people to choose from, I am actually happy that this was one thing that was done properly.”

He was aware the bill was nearly $20,000 higher than for Mr Davies, but said it was “a different ball game”.

Details of the latest recruitment bill were released by Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull last week after a request under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

Mr Orders and his family were not expected in Dunedin until at least next month, and possibly not until early October, meaning relocation costs were not yet available, Mr Cull said.

The council paid relocation costs of $21,000 to cover Mr Davies’ move to Dunedin.

Mr Orders’ remuneration would begin at $350,000 a year, with his package including work-related expenses such as telephone, broadband and Koru Club membership costs, and on-site parking, Mr Cull said.

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Mayor fends off criticism

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/171499/mayor-fends-criticism

By David Loughrey on Mon, 1 Aug 2011

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has stuck to his claims the board of Dunedin City Holdings Ltd was responsible for formally acknowledging it could not provide the money required by the city to pay its debts.

Mr Cull has also fended off criticism by Cr Lee Vandervis, who on Saturday claimed the mayor was “misrepresenting the truth” about council debt, and when he discovered the extent of the problem.

The issues resulted from Friday’s announcement DCHL would not be able to come up with $8 million of annual dividends to help pay for multimillion-dollar spending in the past few years.

That figure was made up of a $5 million-a-year shortfall in the DCHL dividend, and $3 million from DCHL provided for in Dunedin Venues Management Ltd’s (DVML) statement of intent, a figure that was “not sustainable”.

DCHL chairman Cr Paul Hudson said late on Friday council finance and corporate support general manager Athol Stephens had attended all company meetings, and it was his job to keep the mayor updated.

He also said Mr Stephens had advised the holding company recently he had no further need for it to supply the $3 million for DVML, as he had achieved the result through other means.

Mr Cull responded he still believed it was the responsibility of the DCHL board to “inform the council formally of anything they want to inform it of”.

He said it did not change the situation if the $3 million could be found elsewhere.

“That doesn’t change the fact that DCHL has said ‘we can’t sustain the dividend stream’ the council budgeted for on the basis of what DCHL said they could manage.”

Cr Vandervis on Saturday responded to calls to all councillors for comment on the issue, and used the situation to attack Mr Cull. He accused him of “misrepresenting the truth”, by saying he was only now aware of a situation Cr Vandervis said he and others had been aware of for years.

He said it was time for Mr Cull to “come clean and tell us what the whole story is – the whole debt issue”.

He said his fellow Open Democracy candidate Calvin Oaten had been saying since 2007 DCHL would not be able to deal with the burden of propping up the council.

“I was saying similar things in 2006.”

The shortfall was not an $8 million a year shortfall, but closer to $13 million a year, because supposed profits from the Forsyth Barr Stadium were “illusory”.

‘What he’s claiming is this is something new; he’s just found out about it.”

But Cr Vandervis said Mr Cull knew about the issue, had known about it for a long time, but was still voting for spending on issues like the Logan Park redevelopment.

“Mayor Cull basically pushed this all through council.

“I was gobsmacked when Mayor Cull and his cabal all voted for those things.”

Mr Cull responded it was his efforts that were behind setting up the liaison committee to get to the bottom of the issue.

He had said at forums like the Stop the Stadium Town Hall meeting in 2009 the companies were being put at risk. There had been growing concern about the issue, but the council had not been able to get “clear, consistent information from DCHL”.

Also referenced in this article:

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Stadium roof passes its snow loading test

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/171153/stadium-roof-passes-its-snow-loading…

By David Loughrey on Fri, 29 Jul 2011

The Forsyth Barr Stadium’s roof behaved “exactly as it was supposed to behave” in recent snowfalls, and was designed for much heavier, Carisbrook Stadium Trust chairman Malcolm Farry said yesterday.

That issue, almost a year after the Stadium Southland roof collapsed in a heavy snowfall, and the design and payment for the plaza outside the venue, were some main points of discussion about the project yesterday when the Dunedin City Council finance, strategy and development committee received the 16th report on the venue’s progress.

The report included an update on private-sector funding, being raised by the sale of seating products and sponsorship, which Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive David Davies said had passed the $43 million mark.

Mr Farry was asked by Cr Colin Weatherall whether the stadium roof had “performed as expected” in the recent snowfall.

“I have received a report and the answer is yes,” Mr Farry replied.

He said last night there had been a “routine report” after the cold weather, which said the snow had slid off the roof, as it was supposed to.

“Of course it’s been designed to take a much more significant snow load than what we had.”

Cr Vandervis asked about the lights at the stadium, which he said were on day and night during the period, and asked whether that was to melt the snow.

Mr Farry described that as “interesting speculation”.

Mr Farry said contractors were working “day and night” to finish the project, and testing of the lights was ongoing.

At the meeting, Cr Kate Wilson asked whether councillors could see designs for the plaza area outside the stadium.

“We haven’t seen it,” she told Mr Farry.

Cr Wilson said despite councillors not having any input into the design, it was “very, very important” the public should see what it was getting.

Mr Farry said last night a “very attractive” design had been completed, which would be made available.

Cr Vandervis also asked about the plaza, and why it had taken so long for cobblestones and tiling tenders to be organised.

Contractors had called him and said the timetable was tight and there were penalties of $3000 a day for lateness.

Mr Farry said he was not aware of the penalty clauses being referred to.

“We are used to tight timetables.”

The report to the committee said the plaza area had been handed over to the University of Otago, and construction had started”Cost-sharing between the parties is the key issue for resolution.”

Mr Farry said the decision-making process for the area had involved the council, the Carisbrook Stadium Trust and the University of Otago.

“It took some time to get agreement of the final design and costings of the plaza,” he said.

“There’s a discussion going on about where the costs fall.”

Building work was “always under pressure”, but would be completed in time for the Rugby World Cup.

“It won’t look like a construction site.”

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Council shows true grit to appease Lindsay Road residentshttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/171144/council-shows-true-grit-appease-lind…

By Debbie Porteous and David Loughrey on Fri, 29 Jul 2011

Residents of Lindsay Rd who were unable to drive from their homes for four days during this week’s snowy weather got some relief yesterday when they woke to find their shady cul de sac had been gritted.

Francis Ramsay, whose story of being stranded in her home since Sunday because of ice in the cul de sac appeared in the Otago Daily Times yesterday, said she was “very, very pleased” it had been done, although surprised after the council insisted it could not afford to grit every street in Dunedin.

The partly disabled 77-year-old said she was able to drive to the supermarket for some supplies. It was “a bit nerve-wracking getting out”, but she was all right once she was out of the cul de sac.

Another resident said her partner was finally able to get his van down the road. They had had to call on family all week to come to the edge of the thick ice, which they had to walk over, and pick them up. She was annoyed the street was not gritted until a story appeared in the paper.

Mrs Ramsay’s story gained the attention of Cr Neil Collins, and at a finance, strategy and development meeting yesterday he asked whether the council “surely can do much better than that”.

But Cr Lee Vandervis, deputy chairman of the infrastructure services committee, responded it was “asking for a really major event” to get a grit truck to areas like Lindsay Rd. He said he had seen grit trucks struggling to get up Stuart St.

“It’s seriously not a simple task getting anywhere near some of these places.”

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Planned development under firehttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/171148/planned-development-under-fire

By David Loughrey on Fri, 29 Jul 2011

A proposed residential development near Aramoana, in Dunedin, has come under fire from neighbours and other opponents, as developers seek to establish sites for three new homes in one of the city’s more sensitive areas.

The spectre of the Aramoana aluminium smelter, a widely unpopular project nearby that was defeated in the early 1980s, arose as residents argued the project could radically change the nature of the area.

The developers, Lex Anderson and Hilda Craighead, have applied for resource consent for a three-lot residential development at Te Ngaru, about 3km on the Dunedin side of Aramoana.

But late confirmation the development would be three, not five residences, as many opponents first thought, appeared to placate opponents somewhat.

A Dunedin City Council consent hearings committee heard conflicting evidence recently on the risks to the project of rockfall, from what was either “a cliff face” behind the proposed development, according to opponents, or “steep land”, according to proponents.

And the land itself was either a water-logged area fed by winter streams, or a dry sandy space suitable for development, depending on which side speakers were on.

The application received 11 submissions, eight opposing, two neutral and one in support.

The committee chairman was Cr Colin Weatherall, with members Cr Jinty MacTavish, Cr Lee Vandervis, and Trevor Johnson, of the Chalmers Community board.

Council planner Howard Alchin recommended the proposal be declined.

His report noted the site contained a “significant cliff formation” was located in a sensitive habitat in the north-coast coastal landscape conservation area; was in a rural zone; and presented a challenge in terms of providing services.

Senior planner John Sule said there was not just one issue being dealt with, and the application was “pretty complex”.

The applicants’ consultant, Allan Cubitt, disagreed.

He said there had been confusion about the application, as it was understood by some to be a four- or five-lot development, but was only a three-lot development.

Geologist Mike Robins said land at the site was “not exactly a cliff. It’s steep land”.

There was no evidence of rockfall, or of landslip.

CPG marine and coastal engineer Maurice Davis, a former harbour board employee with significant experience in the Aramoana area, said there was no recorded event where storm surge had an effect in the harbour, and the site was tucked away behind a headland.

The effects of climate change on the shore at Te Ngaru would be minor, the only issue being sea-level rise, but he could find no basis for declining the application because of the issue.

The Otago Regional Council opposed the development because of the possibility of rockfall, and collapse of the cliff face during an earthquake.

Melva Davidson spoke for residents of four homes in front of the development, and said concerns had largely been allayed by the confirmation lot four would not go ahead.

She was concerned about waste water from three building sites, which may increase flooding recently experienced.

Resident Claire Carey told the committee the application was for an activity not allowed in the zone, and the committee should listen to the views of its own experts when they made rulings on zones.

The meeting closed late in the afternoon, after Mr Alchin softened his stance somewhat, and said he may accept one house on the site.

The committee began deliberations after the meeting closed, with a decision due soon.

Council ponders remedy for port

http://www.odt.co.nz/your-town/port-chalmers/170959/council-ponders-remedy-port

By David Loughrey on Thu, 28 Jul 2011

Concerns Port Chalmers heritage buildings are being damaged by the shaking they receive when heavy vehicles pass through the town’s centre will be voiced, but when, to whom, and how, is yet to be decided.

At the end of a lengthy Dunedin City Council debate on Tuesday, it was decided to gather more information so a more “diplomatic” and accurate approach could be made to the right authority.

The issue has been a concern for some time, and was raised during discussion about transport issues at a planning and environment committee meeting.

Cr Lee Vandervis said the speed of logging trucks on the main street was a concern, but the meeting was reminded by Cr Syd Brown the road was not a council road, but the responsibility of the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

Any changes had to be approved by that organisation, and the council could only make applications for change.

He suggested the NZTA should be approached to consider speed and traffic calming measures for safety reasons, which transportation planning manager Sarah Connolly said would be a more “diplomatic” way of approaching the matter.

But Cr John Bezett said the issue was damage to buildings from vibrations caused by heavy vehicles, not necessarily the speed of trucks.

“We want some action,” he said.

“Shouldn’t we write to the appropriate authority and say `we want action now’?”

Committee chairwoman Cr Kate Wilson said chief executive Athol Stephens should write to Port Otago or trucking companies, but Mr Stephens said the issue was not necessarily speed, but issues like trucks braking on the road.

Cr Brown moved Mr Stephens write to the NZTA raising concerns about the issue, but the meeting decided to get more information for its next meeting, so a more accurate assessment could be made, before contacting the correct authority.

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Link bridge plan shelvedhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/170831/link-bridge-plan-shelved

By David Loughrey on Wed, 27 Jul 2011

Nine options for a bridge to connect the Otago harbourside to central Dunedin – including a new proposal that would take pedestrians from the Queens Gardens to the harbourside – received almost no support from city councillors yesterday.

Instead, councillors moved to let a report on the matter lie on the table, a decision that may mean a long wait before the long-standing issue is resolved.

For some years, the railway lines that cross Rattray St beside the Chinese Garden have been viewed as a barrier to redevelopment of the harbourside, as they cut pedestrian access from the southern end of the city.

In February, the council announced a proposal for a pedestrian and cycle bridge from beside the Chinese Garden to Thomas Burns St, described as “the missing link” for the harbourside.

Plans for two options were unveiled, a functional option, similar to the railway station bridge, at about $1.5 million, or a “landmark” structure, that would cost between $2.6 million and $3.5 million.

A new pedestrian link over the Jetty St overbridge was also raised, but was scrapped during annual plan hearings in May, following questions about the safety of a new footpath.

At that time, staff were directed to “identify and evaluate all possible options for providing connectivity across the railway corridor and Thomas Burns St”.

That report was presented to the planning and environment committee yesterday.

Apart from the Queens Gardens bridge, crossing Cumberland St to Thomas Burns St, which staff ranked the highest in terms of safety and other benefits, the report included the landmark bridge option, enhancements to the Jetty St bridge, a Rattray St underpass, a pedestrian cycle bridge north of the Otago Settlers Museum and an at-grade crossing of the railway line.

Transportation planning manager Sarah Connolly said the idea of the report, which did not include costings, was to look at all possible options for councillors to consider, including some that were “out there” in terms of suitability.

At the meeting, Cr Paul Hudson said the crossing was in the “nice to do” area, rather than being essential.

He said he would have to be convinced the idea was necessary before he could support funding.

Cr Syd Brown moved the report lie on the table, with no further work undertaken on the matter until the “first cut” of the budget for the next financial year was completed.

He said the future of the harbourside was still the subject of deliberations, and the outcome of those would affect decisions on what was needed.

Cr Lee Vandervis seconded the motion, and it was carried.

Call for policy flexibility

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/167913/call-policy-flexibility

By Chris Morris on Wed, 6 Jul 2011

Building owners and experts want more flexibility from the Dunedin City Council as it considers a new policy to improve the earthquake resistance of Dunedin’s ageing buildings.

The council’s hearing panel has also moved to allay fears the policy could spell the end for some of Dunedin’s historic churches, by signalling changes to some requirements.

The panel, chaired by Cr Kate Wilson, yesterday considered 23 submissions on its proposed policy on dangerous, insanitary and earthquake-prone buildings.

The policy would update the council’s 2007 policy and encourage building strengthening to improve public safety.

Among provisions is a requirement for building owners to upgrade properties to 34% of new building standards, once certain trigger points – such as a building’s age, condition or another upgrade project – were activated.

The Otago Foundation Trust, which owns all Presbyterian churches in Dunedin, has warned parishes would be unable to pay for strengthening work, and might be forced to abandon or demolish buildings.

Panel members deliberating yesterday, however, agreed to changes, including raising one trigger point for strengthening work – based on the value of other significant improvements also being carried out – from $100,000 to $400,000.

The change could alleviate some church concerns and those of the University of Otago, which also worried about the cost of building work, council chief building control officer Neil McLeod said.

However, there was agreement yesterday churches should not be exempt from the policy, despite claims of static or declining congregations.

Mr McLeod said he had joined large crowds at Knox Church more than once, and claims of small congregations were “not a good argument”.

“What you are essentially saying is it’s not acceptable to kill 1000 people, but it is acceptable to kill 100.”

Cr Wilson also told the hearing many churches would already meet the 34% requirement, while council staff said those requiring work might not face large bills.

The debate came after six submitters presented their views yesterday, with several calling for greater flexibility in the council’s approach.

Feldspar founding director Joff Riley, a civil engineer, construction manager and heritage building owner, said as many of Dunedin’s valuable heritage buildings as possible needed to be retained.

However, parapets and facades should be the focus, ensuring they – and the public below – were safe “sooner rather than later”.

That sort of work could be completed with relative ease and at low cost, he said.

Owners should be allowed to carry out smaller, staged upgrades, moving gradually towards 34%, or the council risked owners opting to leave their buildings to deteriorate, he said.

Building investor Greg Paterson, of Flat Iron Investments Ltd, warned the policy could have “a huge economic impact” on Dunedin, which had a low socio-economic base, a rising rates burden and a low earthquake risk.

Many older buildings with only limited strengthening work – below the 34% level – performed “quite well” during the Christchurch earthquakes, even if they now needed demolition.

Encouraging work on parapets, facades and verandas first would provide “the best bang for your buck” and avoid delays.

Structural engineer Lou Robinson, of Hadley and Robinson Ltd, also wanted incremental improvements, but did not believe different buildings should be treated differently.

Securing church gables could be enough to ensure churches met the 34% requirement, and the work could be “easy” and relatively inexpensive, he believed.

Elsewhere, assessments were needed to identify which buildings needed work, rather than just focusing on securing all of George or Princes Sts, he believed.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust representatives also addressed yesterday’s hearing, which came after written submissions received earlier by the council had been divided, a staff report said.

Some believed the policy was too permissive, and wanted more strengthening in a shorter time frame, while others wanted less strengthening for older buildings.

Yesterday’s deliberations – by panel members Cr Wilson, Cr Lee Vandervis and Dr Tom Moore – saw parts of the policy tweaked before the hearing was adjourned.

Deliberations would resume next week, at a date to be confirmed, before an amended policy was presented to councillors for approval.

Barry_mackay

Fears for churches as hearings beginhttp://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/167734/fears-churches-hearings-begin

By David Loughrey on Tue, 5 Jul 2011

Dunedin’s policy for earthquake-proofing the city’s ageing building stock will be scrutinised, amid warnings about the future of the city’s historic churches.

Public hearings on a policy that could have significant ramifications for owners begin today, with a debate on whether the proposed policy is too restrictive or too permissive.

Those presenting submissions include the University of Otago, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and the Otago Foundation Trust, which owns all Presbyterian churches in the city.

The trust raised fears its parishes, which had static or declining memberships, would be unable to pay for strengthening work.

Hearings committee chairwoman Cr Kate Wilson yesterday said people died in churches in the February earthquake in Christchurch, and she hoped to hear about possible options to fund the work.

A review of the Dunedin City Council’s 2007 policy on dangerous, insanitary and earthquake-prone buildings began last year, but took on a new urgency after the Christchurch earthquake in February.

The review was completed in April, followed by public submissions, and a hearing today will consider the 23 submissions received.

It will take place before Cr Wilson, Cr Lee Vandervis and Dr Tom Moore, who has international experience in the area and was nominated by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand.

A report to the committee from council heritage policy planner Glen Hazelton and chief building control officer Neil McLeod said submissions fell into two categories.

Some believed the policy was too permissive, and wanted more strengthening to occur in a shorter time frame.

Others believed the policy was too restrictive, and wanted lower levels of strengthening for older buildings.

“Each different element will have repercussions for public safety, economic viability, heritage, and the overall look and feel of the city.”

The University of Otago’s submission, from property services director Barry MacKay, said the Christchurch earthquake had increased the urgency of protecting Dunedin.

The council’s amendments to the policy were “reasonable and timely” but the university was concerned about the cost of building work.

The Otago Foundation Trust board, the registered owner of all Presbyterian Church properties in Otago and Southland, said buildings such as First Church “immediately come under the influence of the policy” as category one historic buildings.

The board and the Presbyterian Synod believed that for category one historic buildings and other church buildings that fitted into the category of historic, “any requirement to bring the relevant buildings up to current minimum earthquake requirement standards is not possible without seriously compromising the architectural integrity and aesthetic heritage value of those particular buildings”.

Parishes “may be forced to abandon or demolish the buildings concerned”.

Cr Vandervis said there were solutions for strengthening that were simple and cheap.

The hearing will be held in the Otaru Room of the Civic Centre from 9am today.

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Dysfunction or show of ‘co-operative spirit’?http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/167424/dcc-dysfunction-or-show-co-operative…

Sat, 2 Jul 2011

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Monday’s council meeting was not the most fractious in the last few years, but it certainly struggled at times under the weight of what appeared to be tensions that exist around the council table.

It was not helped by a move to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, and a single microphone that meant hearing was difficult and that Cr Teresa Stevenson refused to use despite being told to by Mayor Dave Cull.

Cr Fliss Butcher has been sniping at Mr Cull regularly since she returned to the council this year.

After walking out on the new council’s first meeting in October, having lost out on any major council appointments under the new mayor, she launched a scathing attack on Mr Cull’s committee selections, accusing him of political and gender bias.

In November, it emerged Cr Butcher had applied for a leave of absence on health grounds.

In May, she said a serious breakdown was behind her decision to cut back on the amount of council work she was undertaking, including missing a number of meetings.

Last month, the third-term councillor said she would not seek another term but wanted to “shake a few cages” before she left.

On Monday, Mr Cull lost patience with Cr Butcher, saying: “I’m the one who allows people to speak; do you wish to speak?”

Cr Stevenson often cannot find another councillor to second her motions, meaning they lapse, and she is often pulled up for failing to follow meeting protocols, an issue that clearly irritated Mr Cull – more than once – on Monday.

Cr Lee Vandervis regularly raises the hackles of councillors, with his speech on debt and council finances described by Cr Colin Weatherall on Monday as a “diatribe”.

Cr John Bezett also took exception to Cr Vandervis’ input on Monday, calling a point of order on the grounds of “repetition” – claiming Cr Vandervis’ speech criticising the council’s budget had been heard before.

Mr Cull did not accept that was a point of order, but did caution Cr Vandervis against repeating himself.

Some of the meeting’s evident acrimony has a history.

Last month, Cr Bezett accused Mr Cull of “rushing over” an agenda item to make sure a previous decision, backed by Greater Dunedin councillor Jinty MacTavish, stayed in the council’s annual plan.

There have been rumblings behind the scenes at the council that Greater Dunedin councillors Mr Cull and Crs Kate Wilson, Richard Thomson, MacTavish and Chris Staynes hold private meetings to caucus issues before public meetings, so the five votes at their disposal could help provide a majority.

Mr Cull responded to similar claims in the past, challenging opponents to spend time checking who voted for what, rather than making accusations, and he noted this week none had risen to his challenge.

Councillors had widely differing views on what occurred at Monday’s meeting.

Many mentioned the lack of a proper sound system, and a number mentioned the behaviour of particular councillors by name, but only off the record, as adding to disruption at meetings.

Another issue suggested as a problem was Mr Cull’s relaxation of a rule of standing to speak at council meetings, with the argument councillors were less disciplined in their approach, and more likely to chip in with comments when they were sitting down.

Some thought a hypothetical new arrival in the public gallery would have seen democracy at work, with robust debate on some contentious issues, but resolution at the end of the meeting on the way forward.

In particular, a compromise agreement that solved debate over the timing of the council’s response to climate change, and a decision to reconsider the John Wilson Ocean Dr issue, both of which went through 11-3, were raised as proof by a number of councillors that, despite any tension, the council was able to compromise and move forward.

Whether reopening a debate that has been dragging on for years and that many have said should have been solved one way or the other a long time ago is a marker of success or quite the opposite will have to be left up to the reader to decide.

The council’s decision to make a decision on climate change, then change that for another decision, could raise similar questions.

Mr Cull described councillors at the meeting as “displaying an admirable co-operative spirit”.

What the councillors say

Councillors were asked their views on Monday’s council meeting, the sort of – at times – acrimonious behaviour round the council table, why it was in evidence, and what, if anything, needed to be done. These are the responses:

Cr Fliss Butcher placed the issue square in the lap of Mr Cull.

“I think Dave Cull is finding it hard to chair meetings, and keep councillors in line,” she said.

That was despite what she said was Cr Teresa Stevenson’s inclination to “push the boundaries” at meetings.

Cr Butcher said she had raised the issue of Greater Dunedin meeting outside the council during a non-public meeting.

“I’ve been told by the mayor that’s not correct.

“I’ll take that on trust.

“It certainly feels like that at times.”

Cr Colin Weatherall agreed there was “a slight degree” of antagonism at council meetings, both between individuals and groups.

That, in turn, did create a degree of dysfunction.

He would not name names of councillors that were disrupting meetings with their behaviour on the record, but said there was “a lack of good debate, at times”.

“The mayor is working extremely hard,” Cr Weatherall said.

“We need to return to showing a little bit more respect to the role of the mayor, and the chair of meetings.

“Some of us are not making it easy at times.”

For Cr Neil Collins, the issue was one of “a bit of fractiousness between one or two personalities”.

“I think it’s something Dave Cull is trying to put a lid on.”

“It’s always going to happen when you get strong personalities in a room together.”

Cr Collins said Mr Cull had to “rise above” the personal comments.

Cr Syd Brown borrowed a quote from writer and psychotherapist Dr Barton Goldsmith, a quote he said he carried around with him in his folder.

“People who have self respect do not need to put others down to feel better about themselves.

“By maintaining your poise you keep your dignity as well as your focus and the respect of those around you.”

Cr Brown said he did not want to comment on the way his colleagues presented themselves.

But councillors were elected to represent the community, required the support of at least seven other councillors to get a majority, and “burning bridges through personal attacks” did not help in that respect.

But Cr John Bezett said he did not agree the council was dysfunctional.

“It’s a council of individuals who have got their own ideas about what they want to achieve while they are on council.

“While I say individuals, there is no question there is a political party there, with the Greater Dunedin team, though I don’t see that as disruptive or causing any real division at all.”

He was aware of talk of caucuses being held by Greater Dunedin, but Mr Cull had said publicly that did not happen, and Cr Bezett said he believed that.

“We do have individuals who may be disappointed they are not getting their message across.””I don’t have that problem.”

Cr Kate Wilson said the council had all the makings of a good council, but needed to keep personality politics out.

“We need to work collaboratively for the good of the city.”

On the issue of Greater Dunedin, of which she was a member, Cr Wilson said the organisation had not articulated well it was not a political party, but a group of individuals who wanted to achieve things for the city.

Cr Andrew Noone said Monday’s meeting was “not too dissimilar to a lot of other meetings in the last six months”.

“There’s a bit of healthy tension around the table. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as democracy prevails.”

Cr Richard Thomson said he felt the council was working well, as it had during the annual plan hearings and deliberation.

“That was actually a really positive process.”

Councillors could disagree strongly around the table, but still work together away from it.

Cr Bill Acklin felt the same way.

He said Monday’s meeting “went a lot smoother than others have”.

In particular, issues like climate change and John Wilson Ocean Dr, both of which were contentious, had been dealt with collaboratively despite the strong views people held about them.

And Mr Cull agreed.

Despite the “battle lines” that had been drawn on those two issues, councillors on both sides had worked together to the point the meeting was a “watershed” for co-operation.

As mayor, he expected councillors to act within the rules, and in a professional way.

Deputy Mayor Chris Staynes pointed to the two issues he said were resolved.

“Sure there was fractiousness at the meeting.

“There will always be a bit of fractiousness, a bit of playing to the gallery.

“That’s what council is all about.”

Cr Jinty MacTavish said she thought aspects of Monday’s meeting showed signs it was a group of people who could work together.

She also mentioned the climate change and John Wilson Ocean Dr issues.

“That’s not to say I enjoy all aspects of everyone’s behaviour at all times.

“But I think Monday was a good starting point.”

Cr Bill Acklin said he thought the meeting was, in comparison to meetings held in the past, “a lot smoother”.

“There was a lot more working together with combinations of people who haven’t up till now.”

There were “a couple of councillors stirring”, he said, but issues had been resolved.

And Cr Lee Vandervis agreed the council had improved in terms of the relationships of elected members.

After three years away, he said the contrast between Mr Cull and former mayor Peter Chin was noticeable.

“To me, it’s much more respectful between councillors.”

On criticism of his style by other councillors, he said that had decreased markedly, with points of order levelled against him now fewer than in the past.

“It used to happen four or five times a meeting.”

Teresa Stevenson did not respond to messages left.

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