Local bodies try political activism

The new Dunedin City Council has continued it’s predecessor in political activism, influenced by a new intake of councillors and ongoing activist pressure and lobbying.

The council voted by 9 to 4 to call on the Government to place a moratorium on deep-sea oil and gas exploration and extraction.

ODT: Council green as grass on oil exploration issue

The incoming Auckland council did similar recently – see Auckland Council votes against deep sea drilling.

Not exactly core business for councils, nor a productive use of their time and council resources.

As these symbolic moves can in no way be seen as representative of all city residents the Government can safely ignore them, and they probably will. They are local body and activist posturing on national issues.

Another attempt was made with the Southland regional Council yesterday but was voted down – but a Southland Times article hides that in what looks largely like an activist promotion.

Stuff: Environment Southland urged to oppose oil and gas exploration in the south

Environment Southland has been urged to oppose oil and gas exploration in the region.

Opponents of oil and gas exploration addressed councillors at an Environment Southland committee meeting on Wednesday, saying the fracking industry in the US was damaging natural resources, contaminating drinking water and using exorbitant amounts of water.

Invercargill resident Nathan Surendran, speaking in the public forum of the meeting, said councils around New Zealand were opposing the government’s oil and gas exploration block offers in their submissions.

Those councils opposing the Government have done so without a mandate from their residents and ratepayers.

Reverend Denis Bartley, a former oil industry engineer for 30 years, supported Surendran, telling councillors an increasing number of community groups and organisations had divested from the fossil fuel industry for environmental, climate change and economic reasons in the past four years.

Peter McDonald told councillors that environmental and social risks shadowed the drilling industry; he questioned whether the drilling industry shared Environment Southland’s vision for the region.

Jenny Campbell told councillors the biggest contributor to the global temperature rise came from the burning of fossil fuels.

When they had finished speaking, Environment Southland councillor Robert Guyton moved a motion for the council to oppose the Government’s 2017 block offer proposal for two oil and gas permits in Southland.

This is how it is done – orchestrated activist lobbying, and they claim popular support because they outnumber people who don’t get involved – most people have no idea about the political games being played.

He received voting support from councillors Maurice Rodway and Rowly Currie, but they were out-voted by councillors on the strategy and policy committee.

So while they get most of the article publicity they failed in their bid.

Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell, who believed there were insufficient substitutes to fossil fuels at this stage,  said if the council opposed the Government’s block offers now it would take it out of discussions further down the track.

“It’s appropriate to remain neutral at this stage.”

Southland, Dunedin and Auckland would be stuffed if they didn’t have ongoing supplies of fossil fuels. We should do what we can to reduce use, but we are a long way from the activist ideal of being oil free.

And ‘oil free’ is what activists want. From the ODT:

Oil Free Otago’s Brooke Cox said her group was relying on councillors to be ”a voice of reason”, to take a strong stand and say ”no” to the block offer.

”It’s time to think about how you are remembered as a council.”

And it’s not just activists outside councils. Stuff:

However, a council staffer said the council would still be able to make submissions on the issue in future.


Council corporate policy manager Maria Ioannou said in a report councillors resolved in 2015 to call on the Government to place a moratorium on exploration in New Zealand waters.

”However, this position may no longer reflect the views of the new council following local government elections earlier this year.”

What is a ‘council corporate policy manager’ spending time working on ‘oil free’ activism?

The Christchurch City Council has also voted to oppose offshore drilling.

There appears to be increasing attempts by local body councils to lobby Parliament on behalf of small activist groups with the growing involvement of Green and Labour parties.

Most people don’t know and/or don’t care so the activist groups and activist councillors get to promote their agendas, which is not the core business of local bodies, nor a good use of their time and resources.

Transport and roading problems

Dunedin hasn’t just been having problems with hospital food, there are ongoing problems with transport and roading.

The city’s transport group manager has just resigned, five months after replacing the previous manager who resigned while on holiday amidst controversy over a botched cycleway project that had to be redone at considerable expense.

This picture of mayor Dave Cull was posted on Facebook yesterday:

ODT: Second manager departs

The Dunedin City Council has lost its second transport group manager in less than six months.

Ian McCabe has resigned, citing personal reasons, just five months after replacing Gene Ollerenshaw in the role in November last year.

Staff in the council’s transport department have been in the spotlight over mud-tank maintenance failings, which followed the botched roll-out of South Dunedin cycleways.

An election is coming up with current mayor Dave Cull standing again, but he must be under pressure. This was posted on Facebook in the weekend:


Mud tank maintenance (or rather, the lack of maintenance) has been a big issue since the South Dunedin floods last year.

But cycle lanes promoted by a green leaning council are an ongoing issue and have been of great annoyance to many people.

Some cycleways have been popular, like the peninsula paths on widened roads and the west harbour walkway/cycleway from the city to St Leonards is well used, to a large extent by recreational users.

Botched South Dunedin cycleway project that blew up when it was discovered fire engines were hampered by redesigned intersections.

But cycle paths tacked on to central city streets have also been very contentious. Car parks on both sides of Anzac Avenue were converted into cycleways that are hardly used – I use Anzac Avenue almost daily and while cyclists can be spotted occasionally they are rare.

More contentious is the proposal to convert car parks along both one way streets through the city (state highway 1) into cycleways. Safety of cyclists is important, but so is the needs of motorists.

The green council seems to think that if better cycleways are provided the city’s commuters will suddenly start biking to work. Some of them may, some of the time.

But the weather in Dunedin isn’t always perfect for cycling, and there are days, especially during the winter, where the bike lanes will be virtually empty (already that’s true of many days) and the traffic will clog up more than ever.

Making the centre city more cycle friendly is actually likely to be counter-productive to green ideals – people are more likely to drive their cars to retail options outside the CBD that still provide good parking.

I hope the city council manages to recruit a new transport manager that understands all of this.