Archive for category Dunedin Council

If "cycleway" was the answer, what was the question again?

As we conclude the second decade of the 21st century, let me review Dunedin’s major project of the decade, the great cycleway network. 

Background: In line with a national and international trend, increased use of bicycling was being strongly promoted by the cycling fraternity in Dunedin as a preferable alternative mode of transport to private motor vehicles.

The rationale behind the cycleway project was in three parts: a) Increasing cycling in Dunedin will help reduce the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution as our contribution to the global fight against the greenhouse effect and sea rise.

b) That the existing situation which integrates cyclists and motorists is so dangerous for cyclists that it discourages recreational cyclists from using their bikes for commuting. A safer cycleway would, in the DCC calculation, lead to 10% of residents (13,000) choosing cycling as their primary means of commuting.

c) The central SH1 carriageway should be for the passage of traffic, not for stationary parked cars. Removing the parked cars on one side of the SH1 provides ample space for a cycleway thereby safely accommodating all moving traffic. Car park buildings are a far more efficient design for parking than along the SH1 route.

I am not a cyclist (hills and weather) and consistently challenged the logic behind the project but, in the end, the politicians managed to get their ‘public consultancy’ process to agree with them and they did what they always intended to do. Now that the cycleways are well up and running right through the centre of the city it is appropriate to review. So as I recall :

In Dunedin city, the elected councillors began with a cycleway network around the southern suburbs of Dunedin city. The objective being that within ten years, 10% of residents would choose cycling as their primary mode of travel.

The next priority of this plan was to create a separated cycleway along both of the one way streets in Dunedin which are also the State Highway 1 bypass for heavy transport vehicles and cars avoiding the main street. This is now done and as a bonus the recently introduced e-scooters were allowed to share this space, a privilege denied to the mobility scooter users.

At the completion of the project (at least I hope it is the end) I would like to review the situation:

a) It is far too simplistic to put forward cycling as a solution to pollution. The Netherlands is the planet’s poster-country for cycling with a total of 16,500,000 bikes representing an exceptionally impressive 98% of population. And yet on Yale University’s 2014 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; New Zealand ranked #1 for clean air in the same survey. If our cycleway logic was based on being a contribution to the planet’s reduction in carbon in the atmosphere, then it was a pathetic gesture in the true sense of the word.

b) The need for investment in cyclist safety quoted the three cyclist deaths over the last 16 years which have occurred on the State Highway 1. Two were in collision with large trucks, one of which was at the intersection of Anzac Ave with SH1 another was a cyclist swerving to avoid a collision and the third was when a motorist mistakenly turned the wrong way at an intersection. The cycleway was proposed as the solution to avoid accidents. Three fatal accidents in sixteen years, while tragic for those involved, is hardly an epidemic; and nothing will ever prevent genuine accidents.

Subsequent to the completion of the city inner city cycleways, a 2019 survey published in the ODT 14/12/19 showed that cyclists are the largest source of vehicle accidents presenting at Dunedin Hospital ED, with e-scooters, the other user of cycleways as the second highest category. If safety was the objective, the cycleway solution has been a failure and the reason was always obvious. As with the Dunedin experience, the national statistics show that over 70% of cycling accidents occur at intersections where safety is dependent on all road users obeying the road rules.

As for the assumption that the cycleway would result in 10% of commuters (13,000 people) adopting cycling for commuting, that is as wrong as it could be. The official NZTA cycleway statistics, published in August 2019 showed: a) Great King St,  the jewel in the cycleway crown running through the heart of the university precinct, recorded a zero increase. b) The Victoria Rd cycleway, the ‘visionary’ concept of linking south Dunedin to the city by cycleway: a 7% decrease. c) Daily average cycle count in July was 130 from six different counters around the city; that of course does not account for the same cyclist being recorded on two or more of the six counters on the same day. And with all cyclists at least making a return journey, lets be generous and say there were 65 cyclists on average a day during that month.

c) The DCC observation that car park buildings are a more efficient parking option than roadside parking on SH1 may be valid, but that is purely academic since they have not built, nor do they have even preliminary plans to build, any car park buildings to replace the parking space conceded to the cycleway. The impact has only being to push commuter parking further out from the city and create a new residential parking problem. 

In summary, the Dunedin cycleway ‘project of the decade’ has made zero impact on both local and global carbon levels; has not increased use of cycling nor made it a safer option; and it has not provided more efficient parking solutions for motorists. All of these outcomes were predictable and publicly predicted at the time that we were being ‘consulted’. So as we sign off the decade, we can only ask,’if cycleway was the answer, what on earth was the question?”

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Build it and they will come.

The Dunedin City Council is betting another $60 million on the gamble that nearly half of us will switch from cars to buses and bikes within five years. But is that sending good money after bad?

The DCC 2013 Transport Strategy document sets their goal that, by 2024, 40% of us (51,000 people) will be commuting either by bike, bus or on foot as our main mode of transport (P.30 Strategic Approach-Overview). The proposed $60 million conversion of the Central Business District’s main thoroughfare into a single lane for motor vehicles and a dedicated cycle way to allow a larger pedestrian zone is the next stage to prepare the city infrastructure for this target(click to enlarge).

On foot realistically means those residing in the inner city, mainly students plus a few inner city apartment dwellers. Cyclists would primarily be those living on the flat suburbs and connected by the cycleway network from South Dunedin to North and around the harbour. The bus network has the greatest catchment area of all the hill and outer suburbs of the city.

The DCC transport survey of 2013 found that 14% (18,000 people) walked to the city as their main mode of transport. That is unlikely to change without a major jump in student population.

DCC Cycleway proposal had a target of 10% (13,000) using bikes for commuting. So that leaves a balance of 16% (20,000 people) as the DCC target for bus commuters.

In August 2019, after the route changes were made and bus hub completed, ORC General Manager Operations Gavin Palmer issued a media release stating patronage on the Dunedin network number of trips was now 2,500,000 pa for the year ended June. Converting that to equivalent regular commuter numbers you have to halve the figure because it includes the return journey for the same passenger. Then divide that by 260 (5 days a week for a year) and we currently have 4,800 full time commuter passenger equivalents pa. That figure reasonably aligns with the DCC 2013 transport survey above that says 4% (5142) use the bus to commute; however it also shows that no growth has been made in the past five years).

Also in August 2019 NZTA released the results of the cycleway usage. The jewel in the cycleway crown, Great King St running right through the heart of the university precinct records a zero increase. The Victoria Rd cycleway, the ‘visionary’ concept of linking south Dunedin to the city by cycleway recorded a 7% decrease. The daily average cycle count in July was 130 from six different counters around the city; the peak day in the survey was 236. That of course does not account for the same cyclist being recorded on two or more of the six counters on the same day. And with all cyclists at least making a return journey, let’s be generous and say there were on average 65 cyclists in July rising to a peak of 120 cyclists on the best day of the survey. NZTA concede that these results are ‘not startling”; that is an understatement.

Apparently the DCC is still confident, despite these actual results, of achieving their Transport Plan Goal since they have recently committed to the pedestrianisation of the CBD project. So we need to review the logistics they face in this challenge.

With the bus target of lifting from 4800 current regular commuter equivalents to 20,000 within five years, those additional 15,000 passengers will have to be transported from their suburb to the city during the 7:00 – 8:30am peak departure times. With an average 20 minute trip from terminus to CBD, that would require over 160 buses on the road during that peak time service. And again on the afternoon return journey. The good news is that they would have to be running convenient 10 minute services to achieve that; the bad news is that at any one time there would be 50 buses trying to get into the CBD bus hub which has only ten set-down bays.

And with cycling, the DCC still have to achieve a growth from around 120 cyclists on the best day of the current survey to a regular daily figure of 13,000 by 2024. And in addition to the increased usage, they would have to build bike parks to accommodate these 13,000 bikes within convenient walking distance to their individual destinations. And in addition the streets would still have to cope with the other 60% of residents in cars as well as delivery vehicles, emergency service vehicles, work vehicles and out of town vehicles.

The redesign plan for the CBD area is so the DCC can have the appropriate infrastructure in place for when the 13,000 cyclists and 160 buses carrying 20,000 people start arriving daily into the CBD Bike Park/ Bus Hub. The current Councillors are so convinced that this 2024 vision will be realised that they have now endorsed a budgeted $60 Million project to convert our main street to a town plaza in preparation for it. That is a big gamble based on the ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy.

The DCC people involved are betting their jobs and their reputations on it, but of more concern is that they are using ratepayer money to buy the chips.

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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……

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

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The seat of civilisation

So what is it that absolutely defines civilisation? That tipping point when our species moves from uncouth barbarian to civilised being? Let me jump, with no further ado, to the answer: it is plumbing.

I remember making that decision back in 1978 while watching what was the original reality TV show when twelve couples and three children were placed in a re-created iron age village. These original Greenies were frothing with romanticised anticipation of the opportunity to demonstrate that man and the planet were so much healthier back in the pre-industrial ages and life itself so much more satisfying.

It was hilarious. One of the first tasks, being practical people, was to arrange for their communal latrine. There is nothing more ‘back to nature‘ than taking logadvantage of an already fallen log as the communal lavvy seat and digging a trench beside it for the containment of the communal waste. Job done, now for a well deserved communal dinner. They spotted a hen and thought that will do nicely. I would have kept it for the eggs but what do I know about sustainability, I bow to the wisdom of the village earth mother who they elected (I forgot, they did that just before designing the ablutions block). Eventually, after an extraordinarily clumsy hen-butchering effort during which, I suspect, the hen decided to pretend to be dead just to get it all over with, they had their chicken dinner. And so to bed for the first self-satisfied night (not intended as a euphemism, but may well be)  in their communal bed-hut.

And, in the middle of the night, the chook got her revenge. Oh dear, you have to be so careful with chook; it can be dodgy if not butchered and cooked correctly and this chook was a long, long way from being undodgy. It was probably still technically alive when they ate it. So as their second mistake dawned on them (their first mistake was the design of the latrine, but more of that later) it became clear why such romanticists were, forever after, referred to as the greens; nothing to do with the colour of grass, everything to do with the colour of the faces of this lot as they stumbled barefooted in their hemp undies to where the fallen tree lay and then fought like primal beasts for the spot with the least bark upon which to place their soft white bums while they communally sprayed arse-gravy into a far-too-shallow trench.

And so morning dawned on these twenty seven very unwell greenies. Their first day in the iron age now seemed as romantic as a newly married couple waking with a stinking hangover and a squashed turd in the bed. And they just realised they would no longer have eggs for breakfast. It all went downhill from there, apart from the trench filled with arse gravy which just sat there attracting flies and awaiting their return.

And so, in spite of the subsequent impact of the internet into our lives, my conviction remains unwaveringly that the tipping point between civilisation and barbarism is with our ability to instantly turn a pile of poo into a shiny white bowl of clean, clear water with a hint of citrus. Thomas Crapper was, to my mind, the founding father of our civilisation.

I raise this now because it is our local body election year and the time for us to elect our village leader upon whom we will depend to ensure our latrines are well plumbed and that we are not served dodgy chicken. So first let us reflect on our current village earth elder, Dave Cull. What did we know of him when we elected him? Well he was a TV presenter and a published author on all things DIY. Handy about the house. Knows a few things about pipes and drains, the fundamentals of our civilisation. Perfect. The sort of good practical bloke to whom you can give a miner’s hat with torch and leave him to happily wander through our sewers and mud ponds to ensure all is well. 

FloodThen came the big flood of June 2015. What happened? Even I know that floods occur when drainage inflow exceeds the outflow. The official response came quickly. A prophetic mayoral announcement in the local newspaper, headlined, “End game for South Dunedin” or something similarly dramatic, put the blame squarely on mother nature and her annoyance with our failure to remain in the Iron Age where we belonged. “The seas are rising” said the wise old one, “we are being punished for offending Gaia with our toxic fumes. We will have to have a conversation about abandoning South Dunedin, either that or find a few virgins to sacrifice”. A year later after many hundreds of paid hours of ‘investigation’ we find that the cause was, as the common man said at the time, the failure of Council staff to sweep up the autumn leaves off the streets, check the pumps and clean out the mud tanks before the rains came.

The Otago harbour tide gauge has shown an average annual rise over the past one hundred years of 1.28 millimetres. The current level is almost the same as it was forty years ago. The problem is confirmed as being that the mud tanks, put in after we reclaimed the harbour shallows for housing, were simply too full of mud. They need regular cleaning out. In spite of having a DIY expert as Mayor, this did not happen. Under questioning from Radio NZ the mayor spluttered that it wasn’t his fault, the system was designed to cope with a one in fifty year flood and this flood occurred within the fifty years. Excuse moi?? The last South Dunedin flood was ten years ago so did our DIY mayor think he had another thirty nine years before having a bit of a look at them?

Well just for the record, long before we could ever be accused of excessive carbon emissions, Dunedin experienced regular major floods that did not have anything to do with any fifty year deal with mother nature. In the first century of our city’s history it was North Dunedin that suffered the wrath of the gods of flooding. Major floods, with the Leith River bursting its banks, occurred in: February 1868, January 1870, February 1877, November 1883, December 1911, August 1913, April 1923, March 1929, November 1933, April 1944, September 1946, February 1955.

But there were no Mayoral proclamations during that century saying ‘we need to have a conversation about the end game for North Dunedin”. The North Dunedin flood protection just got better and better as experience was built up. In the late 1950’s the water channel from George Street to Great King Street was straightened with a high velocity concrete channel. Boulder traps were built upstream of George Street and in the late 1960’s  a larger boulder trap built upstream of the Malvern Street bridge. North Dunedin is now safe and happy.

So South Dunedin just needs a basic programme of sweeping up leaves before they wash into drains, clearing out the tanks before each rainy season and making sure the pumps in the pumping station are working. It may even require a bit of channeling work like the Leith did or more sea-wall construction. Then, Dave, I really do not think we are needing to ‘have that conversation about the end of days’.

But what we really need is a total review of Council priorities (which means who we choose on the upcoming village earth-mother elections). For the South Dunedin mud tank problem is just the start of our city plumbing issues. If our mud tanks were neglected because they are out of sight out of mind, when was the last time the mayor went for a wander through our sewers? The job we elected him for. The preservation of the very basis of our civilisation. And what is the state of the water pipes to feed our showers or fill our baths. Close behind the essential need to have a civilised crap, is the need to have a nice hot bath or refreshing shower on demand. It is for good reason that we have the age-old maxim, cleanliness is next to godliness.

Truth is, the plumbing of our city is old, very old. Some sections of piping are an ancient hundred years old when clay pipes may not have been as robust as today’s standards and our population was half what it is today. Would the Dave Cull that we thought we knew from TV’s Home Front tolerate that? As author of such riveting reads as “NZ backyard DIY Projects” and “Kitchen Essentials“,  our plumbing should have been a DIY job right up his alley, so to speak. Condition critical. Priority #1. But it is not. In this city, under this mayor, priority #1 is that a couple of dozen middle-aged men can park their SUV’s in South Dunedin on a Sunday morning, put a black pudding down the front of their Lycra’s and pedal off on one of the city-wide routes that will take them to the cafe of their choice for a latte and slice of cheesecake. ‘Yoghurt not cream thank you, my body is a temple’.

We are now being fed alerts from Council that the budgeted $20-30 million earmarked for the cycleways could well head northwards to $100 million and this money “will be found” quote/unquote. And the city plumbing can wait a few years until we have completed our priority of building end to end cycleways through the city.

What we need to do is take Dave Cull and his Council, feed them some dodgy chicken and make them spend the night sitting bare-arsed on a log in the dark. That should re-set their priorities for a civilised society in Dunedin.

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There’s nothing like a cock fight

 

Two roosters in the henhouse is always going to provide a bit of pre Christmas entertainment. And so it was with the last Dunedin City Council meeting for 2015. A fitting finale to an awful lot of clucking, puffing and ‘sky is falling’ from this Council this year. The issue on the table this time was the drafting of the Council’s new Procurement Procedures Manual. Cr Vandervis was persistently requesting assurance that the Manual would prevent in future the sort of skullduggery from Council Managers that he had experienced as a former contracted supplier to the Council; that is, specifically, the need to ‘cosy up’ to the manager and slip him/her a back-hander to get a contract. Cr Vandervis was seeking assurance from the presenter of the draft document that a procurement manager who would be put in place to provide accountability for the actions of individual managers who were putting tenders out to contract. He wanted a timeline for this appointment and he was refusing to be fobbed off by the bureaucrat-speak with which he was being fobbed off.

That was the signal of a cock fight challenge for the mayor (with a small m) who halted proceedings while he gathered himself for the response and was immediately comforted by a couple of black hens who clearly steeled him for his bout. Suitably prepared he then indignantly announced that Cr Vandervis could not make such allegations in council without evidence. The mayor’s indignation might have had a tad more substance had it not been that a Council Manager had been caught last year selling off, and pocketing the proceeds of, 150 odd cars from the Council fleet over a long number of years. A scandal that saw the manager involved take his own life and 5 council staff including three senior managers resign for failure in their duties of diligence and also saw the Council pay $1.5m for the forensic audit of the scandal. An impartial observer would think that Cr Vandervis had substantial cause to put the structure of the Procurement Procedures Manual under the microscope in respect to its ability to address historical problems in avoiding Council staff impropriety.

Cr Vandervis then reminded the mayor that he had presented the evidence, privately to him directly and to two different Council CEO’s, of his own personal experience in paying a back-hander to a Council manager in the past to win a council contract. Since this would also involve Cr Vandervis as a party to an illegal action, one would assume it is not an allegation he would make lightly.

Silkie bantom rooster

Silkie bantam rooster

At this suggestion that he had prior knowledge and evidence of the allegation, the little bantam mayor leaped up with puffed feathers and ordered Cr Vandervis from the meeting (again). And followed it up with the dramatic “you, sir, are a liar” which he must have picked up from a re-run of an old, B grade black&white movie.

 

 

Aseel fighting cock

Aseel fighting cock

Cr Vandervis purposefully gathered his papers and walked from the meeting with a self-assured strut that left the hens, who were all watching proceedings furtively, with no doubt that he would return to fight another day. The mayor observed the departure with a very subdued and unconvincing crowing; even he could see the cock-fight was far from over.

But the entertainment value aside, once again the mayor demonstrated deplorable chairmanship skills in failing to manage an outspoken member of Council. Once again he abused his authority by resorting to evicting Cr Vandervis from the meeting of elected Councillors, thereby denying the rights of those ratepayers who elected Cr Vandervis to represent their views. This was little more than an admission that he could not match Cr Vandervis in a debating chamber and made the mayor look very weak.

It was not really a difficult situation for an experienced Chairman. The mayor needed only to state that proposing and discussing such verbal allegations as fraud in a public forum would put the Councillor and the Council at risk of legal consequences and request that Cr Vandervis should put his allegation formally, in writing, to the Chief Executive, along with his evidence, to be properly investigated. The mayor could then assure the Councillor that once documented in Council minutes there is a paper trail for the process now that will prevent any further ‘I said/he said’ allegations on the issue raised.

This leaping to his little bantam feet and dramatically evicting an elected Councillor from the Council debating chamber really has to stop.

 

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Plant a tree, man

“Cocky, Cocky, the most exciting news…” spluttered Henny

“Tell me?” responded Cocky, eyes wide with anticipation.

“Its official! its from the most impeccable source; the Parliamentary Environment Commissioner’s Report no less. They have confirmed our astute predictions and it’s better than we could have ever hoped.” Henny was simply beside herself with excitement.

“What did they say?” Cocky leapt up and down on his perch with anticipation.

“Global warming is here to stay! South Dunedin is doomed, just as we predicted; over 2,600 homes, 116 businesses and 35 kilometres of road. Isn’t that simply the most wonderful news? Oh Cocky, I am so so excited I think I have just laid an egg, probably a double-yolker.” 

“So what do you think we do now Hen?

“Oh we will have so much to do Cocky it is hard to know where to start. Imagine it ! Imagine the meetings; the new committees set up; the new chairmanships allocated; all the reports, the consents hearings, the amendments to the District Plan. Just imagine Cocky!”

Yes another “official report” designed to spook the population about the impending doom for the planet has been produced by who knows who at who knows what cost. And, on cue, our City Council henhouse is all full of feathers, dust and squawking as announced on the front page of the ODT on 20 November with the mayor seeking government emergency handouts for a disaster that has not happened.

So is global warming happening? Of course it is; the climate is in its natural recovery phase from the last ice age. It would be really scary if the climate stopped changing because that would be unnatural. The question to ask is, is this current climate trend unusual? is it unnatural?

Temperature Trends

Global temperature 450,000BC to 2013

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.01.40 PM

Global mean temperature 1998 to 2013

The chart on the left trending global temperature trends over the past 425,000 years showing the natural cycle of ice ages and inter glacial periods. Clearly we are, today, in a predictable inter-glacial warming period. We are at the same level the planet was 410,000 years ago and again 240,000 years ago. But we but still well below the  earth’s temperature 340,000 years ago and again 135,000 years ago. As far as we know, there were no combustion engines back then.

And if we focus on the most recent 15 years, there is no apparent concern that anything is any different from previous centuries.

The question that we need to address is whether the analysis of these actual global temperature trends should give us any concern that areas of our city are on the brink of being inundated. Is it going to get significantly warmer in coming decades or will the little line drop back down as it has before?

The question is will the trend move upwards towards a burnt out planet or back towards our next ice age over the next couple of thousand years?

The answer is, quite simply, we don’t know. Just like we don’t know about life after death even though there are many religion merchants who preach the doomsday message and try to persuade us that they do have the exclusive agency and, for the very reasonable price of a 10% wage tithe, they can sell us an eternal home in paradise. But for a more generous bequest you can get an upgrade, its all location, location, location in paradise. So we can each place our bets wherever we choose, and for whatever motives, but nature will do what nature does; without consultation with us humans.

That is not to say we should carry on clearing the forests and jungles, polluting the air and fouling the waterways. That is just the global extension of people living in domestic squalor; an unhealthy concrete jungle with open sewers. The original greenies started off as being well meaning, relatively harmless, hippies; but that movement just became corporatised by the GreenPeace Organisation with its doomsday marketing strategy and its political ambitions for global economic and social policy control  through its Green Party division? Old school hippies are now replaced by High Street hipsters buying into the GreenPeace branding, merchandising and social tribalism.

The GreenPeace Geniuses don’t see the hypocrisy of flying all around the globe to knock on our doors to tell us that if we don’t reduce our carbon footprint the planet will die. They don’t see the irony of explaining their wind-power alternative for energy production on i-pads and smartphones that leave behind the legacy of lakes of toxic waste from the extraction of rare earth minerals required for the making of those very i-phones, i-pads and for the magnets required to make the wind generators work.

People just get overwhelmed with a constant, illogical squawking about the hopelessness of our situation and. as a result, the positive message of we humans having a bit of a clean up of our habitat and planting a few trees just gets missed. There are still some very good, positive ecologically minded citizens in our communities, grown-up hippies they may be, but the GreenPeace Corporation simply bulldozes over the top of them with their doomsday message, an age-old trick for making a buck without doing anything of use. And in our panic we agree to committing monthly direct debit contributions to their crusade and to tick a vote for their political division.

“Do you think we should sweep up the autumn leaves in South Dunedin a bit earlier and more frequently next year Hen?”

“What on earth for Cocky?”

“Well, to reduce the risk of more flooding, Hen.”

Are you serious, Cocky? How can people take global warming seriously if we interfere with nature by sweeping up leaves? Leaves are part of nature; the fall of leaves is a natural cycle. We cannot interfere. We must reinforce to the fools that flooding is the result of our car emissions. Cycling is the only alternative. Cycleways are essential. How many times do I have to repeat this before you get it into your silly little cocky brain? 

“But what if the water level does not actually rise above ground level in South Dunedin while we are still on Council Hen?”

“Precisely Cocky, that is why we must not hinder the natural process by sweeping up leaves, nature’s little autumn blanket. One more decent sized flood and we will have an open cheque-book for cycleways.”

And so we just get overwhelmed by the hopelessness and we keep paying the money. But why not start with planting a tree or three? Start a movement. Maybe we cannot prevent Indonesia cutting and burning their forests, but we can easily double or treble the number of trees growing here. Plenty of land available for that. And if New Zealand can do it how many other countries would follow suit to replace the destruction in Indonesia and the Amazon regions?

And we cannot force people out of cars and onto bicycles, but we can promote a trend of walking a bit more. I recently decided to give up on the frustration of driving around and around a block to park my car within a few short paces of my destination. Now I deliberately stop about half a kilometre or more away and spend five or ten minutes walking to my destination. The parking cost is either free or cheap; the exercise is absolutely the most beneficial thing I can do for my health and general well-being; I see many very interesting things along the way that I used to miss; I meet up with people whom I haven’t seen in a while; and I reduce my fuel consumption and carbon emissions by about 10%. A minimal amount of time management has quickly become an enjoyable pattern that I just would never go back from. Imagine that simple practice getting some social-media global traction?

The GreenPeace doomsday industry is not part of the solution. They peddle the same snake oil as so many religions. We just need to deal with the challenges. The solutions are there and life is beautiful. Plant a tree, take a walk; and stop your cow shitting in the creek. Its not socket rinse, man.

 

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