Archive for category Cycleways

Power poles for the people

Well the report is out, the head has rolled, the fix is in. The saga of the rotting and dangerous power pole network operated by Dunedin City Council-owned Company Delta/ Aurora has come to an end.

Power Pole crashes in wind. Photo credit to Hamish McNeilly: Fairfax NZ LtdSTUFF

Power Pole crashes in wind. Photo credit to        Hamish McNeilly/ Fairfax NZ Ltd

Of note is that it was the Chairman of the company whose head rolled not the CEO, which is as clear an indication as you will get that this was not a management failing. The CEO was actually endorsed by the upper echelons as having done a good job in difficult circumstances. Which is spin- speak for: the CEO was just doing as he was ordered and had found the copy of the Board minutes to prove it. Damn his efficient filing system. Those minutes would have included a copy of the report highlighting the urgent need for a drastic increase in maintenance work on the power poles; that report was presented to the Board six years ago, in 2010; that was the year Dave Cull became Mayor. There was some splutter that the root of the problem was Delta/ Aurora having to contribute $29 million to the Stadium debt. But that payment would not have been necessary if Dave Cull had not committed a $24 million budget for his cycleway project; a budget that went into blowout phase from day one and, if it ever gets completed, will more likely nudge $100 million. If the cycleway does not get finished, then it will be left as a half-cocked disaster. Lose-lose.

The backstory is that, not long after first taking power, Mayor Cull initiated a total overhaul of the structure and personnel of Dunedin City Holdings (DCHL) the governing body overseeing all the Council’s commercial operations. The start of the process was the sudden decision to sell Citibus, one of the companies that DCHL governed. An urgent meeting of city councillors was called for a Friday afternoon; no agenda was advised, no pre-briefing papers offered. But Mr Cull obviously already had the numbers for his cause because, by the time they broke for Friday drinks, Citibus was on the market. After 100 years of history, the Mayor withdrew the City Council from all practical influence in the public transport service of the city in an informal afternoon meeting with not a hint of advance notice of the pros and cons for Councillors nor a consideration for public consultation with the owners – the ratepayers.

There were hints before the move that the City Council had a desire to take over the management of the whole public transport network from the Regional Council and ownership of Citibus may create a conflict of interest. Five years later there is not the slightest hint that Mr Cull was ever serious about that intent.

But that sale was only the start of the process. Soon after the whole Dunedin City Holdings board structure was overhauled. Heads rolled. Heads that had been very astute, in my opinion; certainly men that I would never try to bluff, nor would I ever dare turn up to a Board meeting and tell them I was prepared to compromise public safety to get the profits up. I would have walked out of such a meeting with a cardboard box full of my personal possessions.

At the time I was General Manager of Citibus. From a timing point of view, in terms of maximising company value, it was a very naive decision since Citibus was entering negotiations for a major contract. As part of the sale process, Citibus had to open its books to competitors who requested to go through due diligence for purchase. While the tender bid itself obviously would not be disclosed during due diligence, a lot of operational information had to be exposed. The tender worth over $7,000,000 over seven years was won by one of those companies that went through the due diligence process; they won the contract, from Citibus as the underbidder, by less than $1,000. Then they withdrew from the purchase process and brought their own fleet to town for the contract.

Mr Cull was very defensive about the sale in the press, claiming Citibus was  making huge losses.  In fact Citibus had no problem paying its bills and most certainly never required money from the ratepayers to top it up as was insinuated.

Citibus was structurally a very sound operation, well staffed, well resourced and providing a high standard of fleet, driving staff and maintenance staff. Citibus introduced a living wage policy for its drivers long before it became fashionable in these minimum wage industries. Every time we could muster up another million dollars we would invest further in new fleet and we made impressive progress in upgrading the fleet over the years.

The directors of Citibus set realistic levels of provision for depreciation to ensure that the standards of vehicle maintenance and replacement were never compromised. That level of depreciation meant that the books showed losses. But this was a ratepayer-owned company that set the bar high for all private bus companies to match and we focused on delivering high standards of service and safety to the ratepayers ahead of paper profits. But Mr Cull had a cycleway to build, in spite of the existing commitments to fund major projects like the stadium. He could not afford to risk a big rates increase so soon after being elected, so Citibus was sold after a single meeting on a Friday afternoon.

I can make no comment about Delta / Aurora management; I had absolutely no inside knowledge of their operation except that to note that during my time within the DCHL group of companies I never heard a bad word said about their CEO, Grady Cameron. I also know that the men who I faced in my Boardroom then were the same men that Grady faced in his.

But that all changed. The emperor emptied the seats around the Boardroom table and put his own people into them. He sought nationwide to bring his people from out of town. Sharp businesspeople. People who know how to squeeze a bit of extra profit out of a company when his worship might need it for the cycleway cockups and budget blowouts.

A few years later the power poles start falling over. Now we have to ring in the changes. But when you hear that ringing, Mr Cull, ask not for whom it tolls……

 

 

 

6 Comments

Not a pot to piss in

That’s how gran would describe someone who had really reached the bottom rung of our civilised society. It also applies appropriately to the perception of a city that has lost its civilised ablution and waste disposal infrastructure.

I don’t like to claim to be prophetic but you, good loyal reader(s?) will recall my departing words last Thursday when I predicted Cave Dull  would cry ‘budget constraints’ when faced with issues of maintaining our water and waste infrastructure (the essence of our civilisation) while conveniently ignoring the costs of his pet cycling project. You can understand that, from his perspective, no-one (that I recall) ever got a knighthood for their contribution to waste and water infrastructure. Even Thomas Crapper is a mere commoner. Whereas the list of Knights of the Realm is filled with self-serving, tax-squandering bureaucratic twats and our Dave means to be placed high amongst their ranks.

So it is uncanny that in this Thursday’s ODT, front page, Dave says once more ‘we need to have a conversation.’  This time it is not the end of times for South Dunedin, but rather we need, apparently, to start making some serious cut backs in our spending and, you guessed it dear reader(s?) top of this list, at 70% of total cuts to be made, are the water and waste services, including essential maintenance. And the elephant on the list of cost savings is, again you guessed so well done,….. the cycleway project. Not a mention whether all that cost earmarked for the grand cycleway is still absolutely essential.

So what is still simmering away in the background on the great cycleway project? To save you trolling through DCC archives, let me clarify that there are in fact thirty-seven (37) sub routes identified in the great Dunedin cycleway scheme, just have a look at this link. The priority #1, you will recall, was the South Dunedin cycleway network which contained six sub routes. And, if you want a laugh, just have a look at the “Lower cost excl. contingencies” column. Someone popped in, just as the thin edge of a fat wedge, that this 25 km project could, without unforeseen contingencies, theoretically cost $497,000. We expect a few unexpecteds, of course. But at the halfway mark of 12 kilometres the cost was up to $5.5 million dollars. As Peter Sellars would have said, that’s an awful lot of pies. So then they stopped to start the fix up of all the cock-ups, and the cost has gone over the six million dollar mark. That’s an awful lot of contingencies. Now they are halfway along the Dunedin to Port Chalmers route with no idea how to get the job finished. They suddenly realised there is no easy way to put a cycleway along the second half of the route. Yes it might have been a good idea to work that out before they did another half-cocked job, but half-cocked jobs seems to be our DIY Mayor’s modus operandi. He might say we are looking in hindsight, we might ask why he did not use a little foresight. Can you even imagine what the “contingency” cost will now be to get from halfway to Port Chalmers to all the way to Port Chalmers? But following the six South Dunedin routes, only partially completed and still waiting to be fixed up along Portobello road, and the four harbour circuit routes, also still to be finished, there still remain on the plan:

8 x Northern city routes,

6 x Hills routes

3 x Town belt routes

6 x Dunedin – Mosgiel routes including Dunedin to airport and Dunedin to Outram

1 x Dunedin to Central Otago and Southland route
Dunedin city cycle network

I wouldn’t have thought there would be much cost in a Town Belt cycle network, just a sign saying “road closed to all cars.” Put a 1.5 metre cycle track right through the Town Belt and there is no room left for a car width.

The original “budget” (stop snickering you at the back), was $27 million. Council has already put us on notice that the real cost may be closer to $100,000,000. That’s a hundred million dolleroes in case your eyes watered with all the zeroes. Who will ever forget Dave Cull’s statement (ODT Letters to Editor response, 7-11-15) that a 3-400% cost increase was NOT a budget blowout, it just means that the project would cost three to four times more than he originally thought. That sort of sums up that this project is happening, come hell or high water (but that is a sore point with him building a cycle network over the South Dunedin area which he also claims will soon re-claimed by the rising water table).

And so when Dave Cull draws up his hit list of projects that may be deferred or abandoned in order to meet the budget, it is the urgent maintenance on the water and waste pipes of the city that tops that list. The city plumbing, he presumes, is just a whimsy. What, in his mind, is so strategically critical that it is a non-negotiable item on the city’s plans is that we can in future ensure that cyclists have a separate lane up to the top of every bloody hill in Dunedin as they return home on a cold, blustery winter’s evening after a hard day’s toil. That and that they can cycle to the airport to catch their flight.

So there it is; keep voting in the same Council, dominated by the Greater Dunedin Party (ironically the GDP) of Cull, McTavish etc, and this cycle project will continue to suck the money from essential city infrastructure. We may, in twenty years of this policy, become “the city of cycles” if that is their objective, but we will also be a city smaller than Invercargill and  our water and waste pipe system will be as crippled as was Christchurch’s after the quake; but for Dunedin there will be no emergency Government bail out for what was nothing other than Council neglect.

Dunedin campaign_1 Dunedin campaign_2

 

 

 

2 Comments

its only money

“Just slip it in when no-one is watching.” purred Henny.

“Do you  really think no one will notice a four hundred percent increase in the cost of your cycleway?” queried Cocky.

“Our cycleway, Cocky, ours. And our legacy for generations to come, always remember that during the unpleasantness ahead.”

“Of course Henny, of course you are right as always; its just….. well.. it is an awful lot of money.”

Listen to me. We will put it in the agenda for the meeting during the rugby world cup finals and most people will be too distracted to give it too much attention.  There will be the odd stirrer but if we just present the facts honestly then they will quieten down. Trust me, Cocky I have studied these people.

“So, we just say, ‘sorry but there will be a four hundred percent budget blowout’?”

“No, no no, no, you silly thing……..

firstly we soften it to a three to four hundred percent increase. Have you got that?”

Cocky nodded sheepishly.

“Then we tell them it is because they have changed the parameters of the project. We are simply responding to their feedback, as a truly democratic council. Yes?”

“Yes” Cocky whispered

“And finally we say it is not an actual increase yet, but we are just alerting them that if they want us to proceed to the standards they demand, then this is what it will cost; but only if that budget is approved; sometime in the future. And that, little Cocky, is what these rugby people would call a slam dunk.”

“So the project may not actually proceed then?” asked Cocky

“Of course it will proceed; it is already proceeding. It is only necessary to tell them about the increase in advance so they cannot complain afterwards. But they don’t vote on the budgets, we do. And the money will follow the project as night follows day; because to stop would be to admit we should not have started and none of the councillors will admit to that. Please just trust me, Cocky.”

And so it came to pass. The notice of the budget blowout was presented to the Council Infrastructure and Networks Committee by Ruth Stokes, DCC General Manager of Infrastructure and Networks on the Thursday before the All Blacks’ semi final  with South Africa. It was duly noted by the Committee and the decision made to proceed with the more expensive designs. Whether further funds would be made available would be voted on in coming years, according to Mrs Stokes.

And when the Mayor was duly challenged through the press, he responded (letters to the Editor ODT Sat 7 Nov) that this was not a 3-400% budget blowout, it was simply that the project would cost 3 to 4 times more than they originally thought.

That is a response of which George Bush would be proud. If there is a difference between a blowout of 3-400% and an increase in cost of 3 to 4 times, then it lives only in the marshlands of a muddled mayoral mind.

To summarise: stage 1 of the project for South Dunedin was budgeted at $4.5 million for 25 km of cycleway. By the time it got to 12 kms the cost had reached $5.5 million. So they had to stop and have a think about how to spin that one. Then, because what they did do was such a cock-up, much of it still had to be dismantled and patched up. The transport manager responsible for the logistics of the roll-out suddenly resigned while on a three month holiday in Europe, sacrificial goat is a delicacy in Europe, and he has been replaced by someone from the NZTA, which organisation also appears hellbent on putting cycleways through state highways. Normally the buck stops with the GM, but the man is always wrong and Ruth Stokes, GM infrastructure and networks, lives to fight another day.

And the reason that the original budget of $24 million will rapidly head northwards to $100,000,000 and beyond, is officially noted in the council minutes as being that we, the ratepayers, have demanded the more expensive option. We the ratepayers are therefore responsible for the budget realignment with the new parameters.

Mayor Cull is now saying, “All of our original designs and budgets were based on being total cock-ups, just like the South Dunedin sector. But now you people are demanding the non-cock-up version! Well why didn’t you say so in the first place? But if you are now going to exercise your democratic rights to change the rules and demand a ‘non cock-up’ design, well then my rate-paying friends, that is going to cost you; and cost you big-time. Democracy does not come cheap you know. Let this be a lesson to you all.

But, at the same time, may I nonetheless acknowledge your courage in demanding that the Sir David Cull Cycleway is internationally applauded as the finest example of an urban cycleway on the planet. And we will certainly need this cycleway as, with the interest bill on our projected Council deficit, half of you won’t be able to afford to run a car in ten years time.

Then this cycleway will be seen as truly visionary. Fifty thousand brave citizens cheerfully cycling through rain, sleet and a brisk sou-sou-easterly, up misty hill and down frosty vale,  as I pontificate with self-satisfied smugness, that I am leading the good fight against pollution in our fair city. You, ruddy of cheek and riddled with pneumonia, will be doing this because nothing short of the finest non-cock-up cycleway on the planet is acceptable to you. $100 million? $200 million?  Who cares? It is just money. A vision such as ours should not be sullied by talk of money.

And then, all going according to plan, I, David Charles Cull, will bend my knee to Her Majesty’s sword and receive the appropriate royal recognition for my vision and leadership.”

And I for one will look forward to that. I hear the Rt. Hon. Sir Jerry has a rather tidy backhand.

2 Comments

For whom the electoral basket waits….

I decided the shiny new stainless-steel knee needed to be taken through its paces and so I set off for the west harbour pathway on a beautiful, almost-Spring Saturday afternoon. What a pleasant experience it turned out to be. I was walking the track but walkers, joggers, family groups and cyclists were all very well-represented. All getting along on the same pathway safely and courteously.  I might yet be attracted to cycling, the jogging option is highly unlikely, stainless steel is less pliable than cartilage. One cyclist even gave his bell a little ring as he passed.

I differentiate this pathway from the ‘cycleway debate’ on two grounds. Firstly that this west harbour pathway is primarily a community recreational facility for all foot-powered users. And secondly because it is located on spare land adjacent to the busy roadway and railway tracks and does not try to put cyclists into an antagonistic situation with motorists on a potentially dangerous roadway intended primarily for motorists.

And so my hour-long experiment demonstrated that walkers, joggers and cyclists can all get along very well together on a shared pathway.

I noted in an ODT article, 20.8.15, from Councillor Calvert that 3 years ago the City Council first approached the NZTA for its recommendation on making the SH1 roadways safer for cyclists. Following that process the Council resolved, in May 2013, to agree to the recommended use of the eastern footpathway for cyclists. From my observations on Saturday, this seems a perfectly workable idea. Well done Council.

“But I like not this idea.” said Henny Penny.

“We like not this idea” said Cocky Locky, “bring us another idea.”

So plan B was brought which incurred the sacrifice of hundreds carparks along SH1 and the putting of a cycleway directly onto the busy roadway separated from the sixteen wheels of a truck and trailer by a cement ledge with little more protection for cyclists than a line of paint.

“I like that idea” said Henny Penny.

“We like that idea” said Cocky Locky.

“What about the motorists and the businesses and the hospital and the university who will then be deprived of essential carparks?” asked Cr Vandervis.

“Get out of my meeting” said Cocky Locky.

“Oh, Cocky, you are my strong white knight,” purred Henny.

So South Dunedin, stage one, is completed; at $6 million dollars it is quite a bit over the $4.5 million budget. And now starts stage 1b: undoing much of stage one. Ripping up the brand new ‘traffic calming’ islands; re-sealing roads to cover up confusing paint lines; two-way intersections that were changed to one way now being reverted to two-way.

“Well that’s turned out to be a bit of a lock-up, Henny. Buses and fire engines can’t get down streets; hardly anyone using the cycle lanes and the damned floods making it all look a bit pointless” said Cocky. “So what do we do now?”

“Blame someone else” said Henny Penny.

News break: ODT 24.08.15: Gene Ollerenshaw, the Council’s transportation group manager who oversaw the rolling out of the bungled South Dunedin network, resigns.

Ollerenshaw is conveniently well out-of-the-way on a 3 month family holiday in Europe at the time of resigning. No comment.

‘That should quieten down the rabble, Henny.” Said Cocky as he gazed contentedly over the window ledge, surveying his kingdom. “By the way, I wonder if that guillotine-like structure over there in the Octagon has resource consent?”

 

 

Leave a comment

Trust the Greens, they know what they are doing….

Throughout the cycleway debate we have been confronted with an arrogance from the green political lobby both within the Council and within the NZTA, who promote and partially fund the retro-fit of cycleways into our motorised communities. Last October, Cr Kate Wilson represented our City at a conference in Nelson, The 2WalkandCycle Conference, to receive an award for being the Council that most easily bent over to receive the will of the NZTA as regards implementing cycleways (Officially titled the NZTA Cycle friendly award). The official wording of our Council’s achievement is “The commitment to improved  cycling displayed by the Mayor and Councillors of Dunedin since 2012 is fast making Dunedin the leader for high-quality cycling infrastructure in New Zealand. In particular, their commitment to installing separated lanes on SH1 through central Dunedin has already inspired other cities around New Zealand to seriously consider separated lanes. The City Council recognized local expertise and explicitly directed Council staff and NZTA to include cycle advocacy group SPOKES Dunedin in the SH1 working group.
The Dunedin SH1 separated cycle lanes project is quite possibly the most significant breakthrough for urban cycling in New Zealand history. This marks a turning point where Councils are willing to support high level separated facilities, even at the expense of on-street parking loss.

Cr Kate Wilson proudly returned from the Nelson Conference with her silly little tax-funded trophy and with a giggle of pride presented it to the beaming Mayor at a Council meeting. This naive arrogance must be based on believing that the NZ Transport Agency is the ultimate intellect in deciding the road layouts in and around our cities. The NZTA have an annual budget of $1.7 billion dollars to ensure all the expert staff, well-funded research and access to the best overseas case-studies; so surely they must know best; and if they award Dunedin Council with being the most cooperative Council in implementing their will then that means we must also be right on track with the best thinking that $1.7 billion can buy. Yes?

Roto o rangi road near Cambridge NZ

Roto o rangi road near Cambridge NZ

So, how about this little project that NZTA Cycling division recently implemented near Cambridge? Lots of people love cycling in Waipa; pleasant terrain, pleasant climate. So attached is what the finest transport minds in the country came up with.

Yes you are seeing it as NZTA cycling manager, Dougal List, conceived and implemented it. A standard two lane road with centre line was divided into three lanes, two of them for cyclists and the centre lane, just 3 paces wide, to be shared by motorists traveling in opposite directions. It is a rural road; so in order to make this new layout ‘safe’ for truck drivers and motorists travelling in opposite directions along this centre single car lane, Dougal reduced the speed limit to 60kmh. Two cars or trucks, or combination of both, travelling towards each other along this single lane at 60kmh each is supposed to be safe? Is this really the intellectual outcome of a $1.7 billion budget?

Dutch cycleway with single car lane

Dutch cycleway,  Fiesstrook, with single car lane

What was he thinking? Dougal said the road layout gave additional priority to cyclists and encouraged drivers to share. Apparently it was based on seeing this Dutch cycle lane. Why is it that our cycleway enthusiasts automatically think that if it is done in Holland, then it must be right? The Netherlands is the planet’s poster country for cycling. A total of 16,500,000 bikes represents an impressive 98% of population; almost one bike for every person in the Netherlands. And yet on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index ranking for average exposure to PM2.5 (dangerous fine particles in the air) the Netherlands ranked 152nd worst out of the 178 countries in the year 2014. If I was the transport planner in the Netherlands I would not be thinking cycling through that airborne mist of respiratory-destructive particles was to be encouraged. And if I was looking at the attached photo from a NZ perspective I most certainly would not be thinking ‘that looks a great idea for safe traffic management, we must set those up throughout NZ.’

Roto rangi road everted back to normal.

Roto o rangi road reverted back to normal.

Outrage by locals when they saw the single lane for two-way motorist traffic resulted in the new lines, which were painted on Thursday 23 July 2015, being repainted on the following Saturday. Roto-o-rangi road was reverted to a two-lane road. It was extremely lucky there was not a collision in the short time the lanes were changed. Presumably all road users, including cyclists, just pretended the new lanes were not there and reverted to common sense road rules. So NZTA did an embarrassing back flip, but how did it ever get to the point that it got approved in the first place? Dougal and the cycle advocates apparently just got their way and the local Waipa Council had also been aware, in advance, of the trial. I wonder if they were wanting to get NZTA’s award for most gullible council at this year’s conference. But now Dougal is saying: “We’ve seen that there has been strong public reaction to it and that the layout isn’t right for that location and we’ve reacted quickly to that feedback.” He is the well-paid expert on this subject, why did it take common sense feedback before he could see what a stupid idea it was. And what does he mean that this is the wrong location for a layout with a single 2-way car-lane with two separated cycle lanes on either side? Where in New Zealand does he still think might be the right location? Probably Dunedin, he has got a pretty docile Council here and if he saw our Portsmouth Rd ‘trial’ in Dunedin and saw that DCC got away with that, he can surely get away with this lunacy in Dunedin.

It is not that I do not get the environmental cause. I am very concerned about the pollution of our waterways and landfills. I am concerned that in less than a 1,000 years humans in Aotearoa/ New Zealand have been responsible for the extinction of so much million+ year old flora and fauna, including the extinction of the planet’s largest bird, the Moa, through destruction of habitat and unsustainable hunting. Intensive dairy-farming today is causing me concern for the quality of our vital waterways. And beyond New Zealand, the same happened with other mega fauna in Australia when the Aboriginals arrived and wherever Homo sapiens migrated throughout Europe, Asia and America. I am concerned about our growing reliance on genetically modified crops when we have allowed so many natural crops to become extinct.

I get it all, but the “Greenpeace” and its “Green Party” organisation owns this political landscape and that organisation is, regrettably, dominated by people who say and do totally illogical things. Like the cycling decisions above. Like trying to persuade us that more and more wind farms, with the accompanying pollution crisis from mining Neodymium, are the green future for energy to replace oil. Anyone serious about finding environmental solutions to our challenges have to disassociate themselves from the Greens and that is the worst impact of the Greens. By being so illogical in their fanatically advocated ‘solutions’, they are actually counter-productive to solving the pollution and species extinction crises.

Homo Sapiens has been the most destructive species on the planet over the last fifty thousand years. The destruction took a quantum leap with the introduction of farming about 10,000 bc. whereby more and more intensive farming allowed for exponential population growth. And that, my fellow Sapiens is the genie we cannot put back in the bottle, unless we make a universal decision to revert back to a hunter gatherer culture and 90% of us volunteer for euthanasia for the sake of the deserving 10%, the health of the planet and its other species.

Either that or we use our gifted problem-solving intelligence to find some better solution. What we need is for the mainstream political parties to all incorporate policies that fund the scientific research and tap into the surplus employee resource to create a cutting-edge ecological sustainability industry, developed and fine-tuned in our own environment and then exported to the world. But placing two cycleway lanes one either side of a single size car-lane for two-way car traffic is not part of the solution, my silly little green friends.

Leave a comment

build the cycleways and they will come?

Mayor Dave Cull published an article in the ODT on 3rd June outlining his plan for attracting more people, businesses and investment to Dunedin. He makes the assessment that the people we need to attract are those in the creative and research intensive areas like IT, design, the biomedical arena and the arts. Probably a case of post-rationalisation based on the hi-tech successes of Ian Taylor and Michael Macknight. I think I would feel more comfortable if these men said themselves that they have committed to Dunedin as a result of the support and decisions of the Dunedin City Council.

And some would propose that the reason we so desperately need to seek new businesses is because the Council has failed to support and retain the considerable number of businesses that have disappeared, along with their employees, over the decades. Anyone in business knows it is far more economical to retain clients than it is to attract new ones after you have lost old ones, and the same applies to a City Council and the businesses that it relies to on for much of its income.

But given that we have lost a lot of industry and we do need to attract new businesses to Dunedin, Mayor Cull then makes the jump that the four cornerstone criteria for such people in making their decision on where on the planet to live are:

  1. great educational facilities for their kids
  2. thriving arts scene
  3. access to recreation and outdoors pursuits
  4. cycleways.

Interestingly three of his four strategic cornerstones have nothing to do with Council.

1. Our educational facilities are stand-alone institutions operating under staff and boards of trustees into which the Council has no input. 

2. An artistic culture is an outcome of artistic people doing their own thing in their own time and in an unstructured creative environment; creativity is not an outcome of bureaucratic meetings and strategic plans. 

3. Access to outdoor pursuits quite simply means the national roads into the Otago hinterland; most recreation is provided by the self-organised Clubs of residents.

And that leaves the elephant in Mr Cull’s article, cycleways, his pet project. And there is simply no rational support for him placing cycleways ahead of all other Council activities as the primary Council-controlled project to appeal to potential residents.

I asked one reasonably recent arrival from Europe to Dunedin, who works in a professional role, what were the attractions of Dunedin? They were:

  1. Low cost of living
  2. Accessibility to world-class ski fields
  3. Slower pace of life
  4. Architecture, culture, history.

Yes, a survey of one, but that is one more than Mayor Cull provided in his article and it does throw a whole new perspective of priorities that seem to make more sense than Mayor Cull’s list. Of equal interest is the main annoyance of that person from having lived here for a few years which is:

  • No Council focus on the Council basics of efficient public transport, keeping the city clean etc, but a lot of focus on personal agendas of individuals.

Again a survey of one, but an opinion that I, as a long-term resident, cannot argue with.

And the other issue I have heard regularly expressed and noted many times reported in the ODT  is the bureaucratic roadblock that the Dunedin City Council puts in the way of people wanting to set up or expand businesses in Dunedin. Time and money are the enemies of business development. Bureaucracy that is designed to fill the time that bureaucrats have to deal with the issue presents the bureaucrats as adversaries to submitters.

But we cannot turn that clock back so we are now faced with the stark reality that we need to attract new residents and new businesses to Dunedin; so if Mayor Cull can hypothesise about what they want in a city let me also hypothesise in this ‘Diary of a potential resident.”

Diary: With two children fast approaching school age and realising that in Auckland I was spending most of my day either at work or commuting to and from work with my wife working nights and weekends to help pay the mortgage, our family time and quality of life was far from the ideal kiwi dream. But I had design and manufacturing skills in a high-tech industry and client contacts that would enable me to start my own business; if we sold our home we could use the capital gain as our startup funding and market my products internationally. Hopefully in a less expensive real estate market we would still be able to put a deposit down on a home. We started to plan; with the skills and contacts I had built up over the years from 3 person startup I could realistically build up a business of 10+ staff within 3-5 years. Dunedin was one city on our shortlist. We had already researched the real estate sites and homes seemed very affordable; we researched education facilities for the children and Dunedin rated strongly at primary, secondary and tertiary level. Dunedin was the gigatown so was well set up for internet access  and they were very closely located to Central Otago, we would love to start having time to go skiing again, this time with the children. So I flew down to have a closer look.

First thing I noticed was how clean and well-maintained the streets and footpaths were. A good start. I bought a bus day pass and was impressed with the flexibility and convenience of the mini-bus service that gave me a chance to see more of the city. On the way I downloaded a timetable app that I saw promoted on the bus. I got off the bus at St Clair and walked along the beachfront where I  was impressed with the  promenade and restaurants and also the hot salt water pool. I saw on my mobile that a bus was arriving in four minutes so I returned back to town for a general walk around. In less than two hours I actually saw an awful lot. 

I liked the balance of old and new architecture in the city. The main street was also well stocked with shops and cafés. That night as I walked back from a café to the hotel, the streets were well-lit, I noted plenty of security cameras and I even passed two security staff walking around. 

Next morning I visited a real estate firm and realised that I could easily afford to live within 5-10 minutes of the CBD. I could even live out on the rural Taieri Plains where I was assured the temperature was 3 degrees warmer, and still only be 20 minutes from the CBD. This was starting to look good. I took a look around the university and the schools we had researched and was very happy with the presentation of those schools and, more particularly, their pupils. 

Then I called into the city council offices. The staff member at reception was pleasant when I asked if I could speak with someone about the prospect of setting up a small, hi-tech products manufacturing business in the city. Within 20 minutes I had an appointment with a liaison officer. From the outset this liaison officer clearly was demonstrating that he was on my side and his role was to help me through the process of getting all required consents. First he listened to me as I explained what was needed for my business to start-up. Then he gave me an outline and explanation of the issues as regards by-laws and the set-up process. Then between us we started to talk through options to minimise the time and cost to get the business underway. This was a most productive and satisfying meeting, we exchanged business cards and he advised that he was now my contact point at the Council and he would do further research for me and be ready for my decision. I left that meeting and picked up a rental to drive to Queenstown from where I would fly home. I was really looking forward to seeing Central Otago again but as I drove out of Dunedin I thought ‘what a great little city; clean, well maintained heritage buildings and streets, no traffic congestion and minimal commuting time; an innovative and user-friendly public transport system, plenty of good cafés and shops, two interesting museums and art gallery, a safe feeling and a really helpful Council liaison officer. Who could ask for more?’

We have enough confusing lines painted and over-painted on our streets already, enough traffic lights, concrete street islands and yellow posts along our streets. More than enough cycleways for the few people who ever use them. I make a point of observing each day the number of users of the cycleways. I passed two the other evening along the one way street north, well it was peak hour traffic. They were all helmets and hi-viz, hunched protectively over their bikes as an 18 wheeler truck and trailers passed within a metre or so. You can understand their discomfort; a painted white line is minimal protection. Then a short distance past that I saw a young guy casually riding along the footpath on his bike, baseball cap and casual clothes; he comfortably passed two pedestrians walking side by side without any effort on the part of any of them. To a casual observer they hardly noticed each other. Seemed the more logical place for cycling to me.

When it comes to streets, the Council should just concentrate on fixing the potholes and making sure the drains can cope with sudden torrential downpours. Then they need to stop procrastinating on the public transport system. Herds of huge buses rolling nose to tail along our main street with hardly a dozen passengers between them must be sending some message? I note in today’s ODT, the ‘new solution’ to the bus problem is that from 1 July there will be an extra 230 bus services using the same large buses. How on earth does that help the problem of a procession of buses rolling through the city with hardly anyone on them? Add more to the procession? Unbelievable.

A Mayor who withdraws City investment in the fossil fuels industry as a climate-change protest should not be turning a blind eye to this publicly-funded gross waste of fossil fuels and unneccessary emission of fumes through our streets. It is time for a public transport system designed for Dunedin in the 21st century, not a hangover from the mid 20th century.

But maybe like so many greens, it is more about protest than practice.

So we are left with the cornerstone of our Mayor’s growth strategy being to build cycleways and they will come. How scatterbrained can someone be?

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: