A pretty ugly Plan D

Dunedin City Council is going ahead with a 4.1% rates rise. They have also just announced spending of $145,000 on new campaign that is not receiving an A pass from the public, neither a B or C pass.

ODT – DCC spends $145,000 on new campaign: ‘Dunedin, A Pretty Good Plan D’

A new $145,000 slogan, aimed at enticing New Zealanders to visit Dunedin, is getting a D-grade from many online.

The slogan — “Dunedin, A Pretty Good Plan D”— is Enterprise Dunedin’s self-deprecating and wryly humorous nod to the fact the southern city may not be people’s first choice of destination.

The Dunedin City Council’s destination marketing arm described it as “an intriguing, high impact new domestic marketing campaign” which highlights the city’s many attractions in an unfolding story of references to famous international visitor hot spots, with stunning creative imagery backing up the connection.

“Dunedin may not have been their first choice, but it is a pretty good Plan D and can offer alternatives that are comparable to those found in Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States.

But Dunedin residents took to social media to disagree yesterday.

Disagreement on social media is pretty normal, but relegating a city to ‘plan d’ is something worthy of strong disagreement.

Whether the slogan (or any slogans) will make any difference is debatable.

Pouring money into a promotion in a severely depressed tourism market is itself a big risk.

Dunedin has had previous slogans that haven’t been particularly positive:

  • Dunedin, it’s all right here
  • I am Dunedin

The ODT hinted at how they rate the new slogan, accompanying the article with:

NZ’s worst town slogans? You be the judge

  • Ashburton – Whatever it takes
  • Wairoa – The Way NZ Used to Be
  • Featherston – If you lived here you’d be home by now
  • Timaru – Touch, Taste, Feel
  • Foxton – The Fox Town of New Zealand
  • Stop and Taste Te Puke
  • Matamata – You matter in Matamata
  • Gore – A little bit wild, a little bit out there
  • Hamilton – More than you Expect
  • Tempt me Tauranga
  • Right Up My Hutt Valley

You may have to see the last one to get the aim:

What is commonly known as ‘The Hutt’ is now apparently “A great place to live”. Up to 1999 it was “We’ve Got the Lot”.

Some more from Top 10 worst NZ city slogans

  • Auckland A (changed to “Big Little City”)
  • Of course you Canterbury
  • Hamilton, where it’s happening
  • Hamilton, City of the Future
  • Porirua: P-town

 

Dunedin attempting to fast-track CBD car deterrence

The Dunedin City Council has had plans to make the main street in the CBD (George Street) more pedestrian friendly and less useful for cars. They are trying to fast-track this citing Covid-19 as a justification.

However trying to establish a pedestrian dominated street heading into winter seems risky for the success of the plan and for businesses desperate

They have already trialed a car-free area including and around the Octagon in February. This was controversial and heavily criticised by some businesses who claimed big drops in trade.

And the current plan to rush into a major change is being opposed and delayed.

The council were going to vote on whether to go ahead with the changes yesterday – on Monday the Chamber of Commerce and businesses hadn’t even been consulted, but it appears council plans were already under way.

ODT on Wednesday: DCC response plan lambasted

A plan to support local retail and hospitality businesses through Covid-19 Alert Level 2 has been panned by members of the Dunedin business community.

The Dunedin City Council’s proposal is touted in council documents as an effort to encourage people to return to shopping areas and includes a temporary 10kmh speed limit in George and Princes Sts, the installation of temporary speed bumps, and increasing the frequency of Barnes dance crossings.

The proposal was called ‘‘disgusting’’, ‘‘pedestrianisation jammed down people’s throats’’, and an ideologically driven change that ‘‘could be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many businesses’’ by a series of business representatives yesterday.

The ‘‘Safer CBD Streets – Covid-19 response’’ plan, which will be considered at tomorrow’s planning and environment committee, was mooted by Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins at the May 4 council meeting.

Yesterday he rejected the notion that the plan represented a major change to the area; that there was only one viewpoint representative of the entire business community; and that the proposal was an example of pedestrianisation.

‘‘Yes, it’s about bringing people to the city centre but it’s about making people feel comfortable that they can return to that part of town and be able to maintain safe physical distance from one another,’’ he said.

‘‘This is about trying to support both customers and retailers to operate in an unusual environment for however long — we don’t know.’’

At a time of unprecedented business turmoil it seems unwise to push through an idealist experiment.

He conceded there had been a trade-off between bringing a plan forward in time for the move to Level 2 and a higher level of consultation, but said another survey was sent out last night to seek views of businesses and building owners in the city centre.

Seems like very little consultation. ‘Another survey’ a day before the council was going to vote seems extraordinary.

The Otago Chamber of Commerce had not been consulted on the proposal and chief executive Dougal McGowan said he had not seen the details until Monday night.

The details had surprised members, and concerns the business community had not had the opportunity to be consulted ‘‘in a timely and effective way’’ in order to have changes ready for the first day out of lockdown was a theme in the feedback he received yesterday.

Heart of Dunedin spokeswoman Nina Rivett said the central business district advocacy group opposed reducing traffic flow and called for at least 12 months for businesses to regain resilience and try to attract people back into the city centre.

Radical change now ‘‘could be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many businesses’’.

The vote has been delayed, but just by one day – Traffic changes vote held back

The debate and decision on a contentious 10kmh speed limit through Dunedin’s city centre was delayed yesterday until this morning.

After a one-hour public forum Dunedin city councillors voted 9-6 to delay a decision on the Dunedin City Council’s George St roading plan, “Safer CBD Streets-Covid-19 response”, which includes a raft of health and safety measures, also designed to assist businesses, including temporary wider footpaths, 10kmh speed limits, speed bumps, and increased waits at traffic lights.

The delay would allow George St property owner Cr Jules Radich to seek legal advice over his participation in the debate.

Counsel for the council Michael Garbutt said the office of the auditor-general had confirmed Cr Radich had a pecuniary interest in relation to George St for deliberations in the annual plan.

He believed it also would preclude Cr Radich from participating in yesterday’s planned debate.

That would mean one vote less against the rushed changes.

During the public forum, Generation Zero presenters Jenny Coatham and Lydia Le Gros asked for councillors to consider taking advantage of the NZ Transport Agency’s innovating streets for people pilot fund for both the long-term and the temporary project.

The fear that the proposed temporary changes in the proposal were “the first step” towards pedstrianising the street were voiced by AA Otago district council chairman Malcolm Budd yesterday.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan asked whether allowing retailers to expand on to footpaths might add to the congestion on footpaths and what other measures to allow for physical distancing had been considered for footpaths.

Generation Zero and a Green mayor versus the business community.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose said there were more than 70 speed limit signs ready to put in place from yesterday afternoon, as well as “many, many, many” circles to be painted on the road with the Dunedin logo on them “that would remind people that the road space is ‘cars and cycles and scooters and pedestrians’.”

It looks like the council expected to go ahead regardless of consultation and voting.

The Dunedin CBD could be heading into a winter of discontent.

Dunedin’s problem MPs

There has been a poor record with Dunedin MPs this century.

David Benson-Pope asked to be relived of his portfolios in 2005 after he was accused of bullying as a teacher, resigned as a Minister in 2007 and was not selected to stand in his Dunedin South electorate in 2008.

Metiria Turei in 2017.

Clare Curran in 2018

David Clark lost portfolio and was demoted to the bottom of Cabinet in 2020 and would have been sacked as a minister altogether if not for the Covid-19 pandemic (his knowledge as Minister of Health was deemed important enough to retain him in a crisis).

David Benson-Pope was a Labour Member of Parliament for Dunedin South from 1999 to 2008, and a Cabinet Minister from 2005-2008.

May 2005: Benson-Pope steps down as bully inquiry looms

David Benson-Pope stood down from the Cabinet last night until an inquiry decides whether he administered cruel punishment to former pupils and assaulted one of them.

The allegations were raised again last night on TV3 after three of the five accusers identified themselves. One included a man who says that as a 14-year-old he had a tennis ball stuffed in his mouth. They were all students of Bayfield High School in Dunedin, where Mr Benson-Pope taught for 24 years. They say there are other witnesses to some of the alleged incidents.

The accusations against him include throwing tennis balls at students to keep them quiet, striking a pupil with the back of his hand and making the pupil’s nose bleed at a school camp, and caning a student hard enough to draw blood.

Mr Benson-Pope asked to be relieved of his portfolios, the compulsory education sector and fisheries.

Helen Clark referred to the allegations as “the start of what is a rather ugly election campaign, where a desperate and dateless Opposition will drag out whatever it can to smear the character of whoever they can”.

Benson-Pope was reelected in 2005, became a Minister in the next Labour-led government but had more problems, leading to his resignation as a Minister in 2007. From Wikipedia:

After a week of intense pressure focusing not only on the allegation that his staff had acted improperly, but also that he himself had misled Parliament, the media and his Prime Minister about his knowledge and involvement, Benson-Pope offered his resignation from Cabinet at noon on Friday 27 July 2007. Subsequent investigations by the State Services Commissioners Hunn and Prebble make it clear that neither the Minister nor his staff acted in any way inappropriately.

Prime Minister Helen Clark accepted the resignation, saying: “The way in which certain issues have been handled this week has led to a loss of credibility and on that basis I have accepted Mr Benson-Pope’s offer to stand aside”. An editorial commented “Not for the first time, he and the Government have been embarrassed less for what he has done than for his inability to simply say what he has done.”

Benson Pope sought the Labour nomination for Dunedin South for the 2008 election but was replaced by Clare Curran.

Metiria Turei was a Green list MP based in Dunedin North from 2002 to 2017, becoming Green co-leader in 2009. In the lead up to the 2017 election she admitted to benefit fraud over a period of three years in the early 1990s and after the Green Party plummeted in the polls she resigned as co-leader and withdrew from the Green list, stood in the Te Tai Tonga electorate only and failed to get back into Parliament. Wikipedia:

Turei resigned as co-leader of the Green Party and as a list candidate for the 2017 election on 9 August 2017, saying that the “scrutiny on [her] family has become unbearable.” She stated that her intention was to not return to Parliament after the election. Not being on the list meant that, if she failed to win the electorate of Te Tai Tonga where she was standing, she would not return to Parliament after the election. During August, the Green party fell in opinion polls to around the 5% threshold, below which there wouldn’t be representation in Parliament, and Labour’s new leader, Jacinda Ardern, generated such a turnaround that by the end of the month, Labour overtook National in the ratings.

“Metiria Turei’s spectacular own goal in admitting to benefit and electoral fraud not only effectively ended her career but also took down two of her colleagues, savaged a healthy poll rating and led to Labour’s changing of the guard and reversal of fortunes.”
— Clare de Lore, New Zealand Listener

Clare Curran took over in Dunedin South from Benson-Pope in 2008 and became a Cabinet Minister in the Labour led government in 2017. Wikipedia:

In late March 2018, Curran became the subject of media attention after it emerged that she had secretly met with Radio New Zealand broadcaster and senior manager Carol Hirschfeld on 5 December 2017 outside of parliamentary business. Curran initially claimed the meeting was coincidental but later admitted it had been pre-arranged. These revelations led to Hirschfeld’s resignation from her position as senior manager at Radio NZ. The meeting was related to the Labour-led government’s plans to expand public broadcasting through Radio New Zealand.

On 24 August 2018, Prime Minister Ardern dismissed Curran from the Cabinet after Curran acknowledged that she had kept a second meeting off the records. In February, Curran had met with tech entrepreneur Derek Handley at her Beehive office to discuss his interest in the vacant Chief Technology Officer role. Curran had failed to disclose the meeting in her ministerial diary and to inform staff or officials about it. Curran apologized to the Prime Minister for her actions and also resigned from her positions as Minister of Government Digital Services and Minister of Open Government. Curran kept her Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and associate ACC portfolios.

On 5 September 2018, Curran “appeared flustered” and “stumbled over her answers” when answering questions during question time from opposition National MP Melissa Lee regarding Curran’s use of a personal Gmail account for Ministerial use.[34] Two days later Curran resigned as a Minister of Broadcasting and Associate Minister of ACC, saying she could “no longer endure the relentless pressure I’ve been under”.

On 27 August 2019, Curran announced that she would be retiring from Parliament and not seek election at the 2020 general election.

David Clark became Labour MP for Dunedin North in 2011. He became a Cabinet Minister in the incoming Labour-led government in 2017. As Minister of Health he had a key role dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. New Zealand was put into lockdown on Thursday 26 March. A week later it was revealed that Clark had driven to a mountain bike park for a ride during the lockdown, a marginal action under the lockdown rules.

Clark avoided interviews and said little for four days until he revealed that in the first weekend of the lockdown he had driven 20 km with his family to a beach, which clearly breached the rules and the repeated requests from Prime Minister Ardern.  Statement from the Prime Minister on Dr David Clark:

“Yesterday evening the Health Minister advised me of his trip to a beach during the lockdown and offered his resignation,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Under normal conditions I would sack the Minister of Health. What he did was wrong, and there are no excuses.

“But right now, my priority is our collective fight against COVID-19. We cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response. For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr Clark will maintain his role.

“But he does need to pay a price. He broke the rules.

“While he maintains his Health portfolio, I am stripping him of his role as Associate Finance Minister and demoting him to the bottom of our Cabinet rankings.

Journalists see his ministerial career at least as untenable after the Covid-crisis, or after the next election. Asked after this if he would stand for reelection Clark has been non-committal.

That’s a poor record from Dunedin based MPs over the past 15 years.

It hasn’t been all bad.

Pete Hodgson was Labour MP for Dunedin North from 1990 to 2011 And was a Cabinet Minister in the Clark led government from 1999 to 2008, including as Minister of Health. He is now working on behalf of Clark managing the Dunedin Hospital rebuild.

Michael Woodhouse has been National list MP for Dunedin North from 2008 to the present, became a Minister outside Cabinet in 2013 in the Key Government and served various ministerial roles through to 2017.

Current senior Ministers in the Ardern Government Grant Robertson and David Parker are based elsewhere now but have strong connections to Dunedin.

Dunedin’s Baldwin Street reinstated as world’s steepest street

Promoted as the world’s steepest street tourists flocked to Baldwin Street for years n Dunedin, New Zealand, until last year when Ffordd Pen Llech in the Welsh town of Harlech was awarded the title by the Guinness World Records.

A Dunedin surveyor Toby Stott disputed the steepness measurement of Ffordd Pen Llech, researched it and even traveled to Harlech to check it out. He found that the windy Ffordd Pen Llech had been measured  on the steeper inside of it’s curves. He then convinced Guinness World Records that the Welsh street hadn’t been measured correctly so Baldwin Street has regained the steepest street title.

<em>Baldwin Street, New Zealand</em>

Baldwin Street, New Zealand

There won’t be any tourists visiting for a while though, with New Zealand in lockdown for the Covid-19 virus.

Guinness World Records: Baldwin Street in New Zealand reinstated as the world’s steepest street

Baldwin street previously held the record for over a decade until June 2019, when the record was awarded to Ffordd Pen Llech, in Harlech, Wales.

The decision to reinstate the previous record holder was reached following the completion of an extensive review of an appeal, brought by representatives of Baldwin Street.

The appeal, led by Toby Stoff, included a comparative survey of the three-dimensional shapes of the Dunedin street and Ffordd Pen Llech.

The findings revealed that in order to fairly assess the different shape of the streets, whether they’re straight or curved, steepness must be measured by the central axis (the centre line of the road).

Following a thorough review, as well as consulting with industry specialists, it was concluded that for the steepest street (road) record title, the best practice for the gradient is to take the measurement from the centreline of the street.

Accordingly, GWR’s record guidelines will no longer allow measurements from any other axis.

The new results confirmed Baldwin Street has the steeper gradient of 34.8%, compared to Ffordd Pen Llech’s gradient of 28.6%.

In addition to amending the record’s guidelines to include measuring the gradient from the centreline of the street, the guidelines for this record now accept measurement provided by a local, national or international measurement professional.

The incorrect measurement of Ffordd Pen Llech put it’s gradient at 37.5% (1:2.86) Coming down to 28.6% is a big difference just be remeasuring in the centre of the street rather than the steeper inside of the curves.

Baldwin Street is on the other side of Signal Hill to where I live. I used to travel almost daily down Dunedin’s fifth steepest street,  (until the lockdown) – Jesse Street (1:3.6) is actually relatively safe to drive down in the winter (it’s one way) in frosty and snowy weather because it’s straight and has no cars parked on it.

Baldwin Street seen a bit differently: Different angle to Baldwin Street

Baldwin Street has become an unlikely tourist attraction, after people have shared photos on social media of a bizarre optical illusion. Photo / @kasparschiesser Instagram

As well as tourists, idiots are also attracted to Baldwin Street. A student was killed in 2001 going down the street in a wheelie bin, but that doesn’t deter other idiots.

David Clark lives near Baldwin Street (within 2 km) but I don’t think he will be visiting there while he’s in isolation.

From last year when Ffordd Pen Llech was awarded the title:

 

 

 

Minister of Health Clark drove to bike park for a ride under lockdown

Minister of Health David Clark took some time out from his busy schedule on Thursday to drive to a bike park in Dunedin to ride an easy trail. His van was the only vehicle in the car park the park is accessed from so social distancing was probably way enough (some people may have rode their bikes to the park to use it).

Clark’s prominently painted van was photographed at the park, and he admitted going for a ride between conference calls (he is currently working from home).

Lockdown rules about recreation are a bit vague but this is setting a bad example by a Minister prominent in Governnment making stringent rules for the public.

Stuff: Health Minister drives to local park to ride his mountain bike, amid coronavirus lockdown

Clark, who earlier on Thursday told Stuff the coronavirus response was his “singular focus”, said he didn’t “want to give anyone the perception” that he was taking the lockdown lightly, after his van was photographed at Logan Park — a 2.3km distance from his home.

Clark, in a statement responding to queries from Stuff, confirmed he went for a bike ride between video conference meetings on Thursday afternoon.

“As health minister I try to model healthy behaviour … This was my only chance to get out for some exercise in daylight hours,” the statement read.

Clark said he drove to a mountain bike trail called “The Big Easy”. The trail, according to the Mountain Biking Otago club website, is an “easy” rated trail that is 6km long.

“The track itself is not challenging, and is widely used by families and foot-traffic. I know that now is not the time for people to be engaging in higher-risk exercise activities,” he said.

“I don’t want to give anyone the perception that I take these matters lightly. This is a reminder to me to think carefully about how best to fit some exercise into my new-normal routine.”

Is this a big deal? There have been calls (from political opponents mainly as far as I have seen) for Clark to be sacked as minister for flouting the lockdown rules.

If this had been a general member of public it might have been criticised, but if the police became involved they would probably have ‘educated’ the driver/rider.

But is this a case of a Minister setting a bad example (now he has been outed)?

The rules over what we can do in the level 4 lockdown are a bit vague. We have been told we can go out for exercise in the vicinity of our homes but not to drive across town. We have also been told to avoid doing things that may end up requiring emergency help.

Clark is inferring that doing an easy bike trail at least reduced the risks.

A Nelson emergency department doctor, Tom Jerram, on Thursday said people should not mountain bike, even on easy trails, during the lockdown as they may injure themselves and take up hospital resources.

“We may not have the hospital capacity to treat you and we want to reserve all our capacity for fighting this illness,” Jerram said.

He lives in the vicinity so could have ridden his bike to park (and would probably not have been noticed), and that would arguably have been more risk (hill route but with low traffic).

But does look a bit hapless from a Minister that appears to be struggling with the huge responsibilities he has. And it’s a bit embarrassing for the Government.

It does have the appearance of one rule (or guidelines) for the public but politicians can do as they please.

Clark, earlier on Thursday, said he had declined to receive a highly anticipated review of the health system due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“My singular focus is on the health response to Covid-19,” he said.

Except when he takes a bit of time out. A daytime excursion does seem a major misjudgement for Clark.

Another problem with this is that members of the general public may see this as a signal that they can push the boundaries of the lockdown.

I don’t know if this should be a sackable offence (I’m reluctant to jump on ‘sack him’ type bandwagons).

It is a very bad time to be bringing in a new Minister of Health – unless the prime Minister wants an excuse to put someone more competent in one of the most important roles in Government in the most challenging of circumstances.


This doesn’t help: Message from Cycling New Zealand around riding in public – keeping everyone healthy and safe 

this pandemic is bigger than sport and bigger than cycling and so whatever you choose to do, please know that Cycling New Zealand absolutely stand by following the Ministry of Health Guidelines found here at  https://covid19.govt.nz

Their guidelines are updated regularly and will provide you with the most correct and relevant information around what you can do to keep physically active whilst keeping you and your loved ones safe and healthy.

Alert Level 4 means we must severely limit travel, with driving only permitted for essential travel such as getting food or medicine from your local area. The best way to reduce the risk of exposure to yourself and others is to stay at home.   However, we do realise that people will want to get out and exercise.

If you do go out, please limit yourself to short walks or rides, following the government’s recommended hygiene guidelines.  Here are some tips to help you protect yourself and others in the current environment

  • If you can, ride indoors on a trainer or exercycle
  • If outdoors, ride solo or in your family bubble.
  • Ride from home.  Don’t drive and then ride.
  • Ride short and local so that you do not increase the pressure on the emergency services if something goes wrong. This means no long-distance or epic rides away from your region or extreme riding.
  • Ride sensibly and safely to avoid accidents and putting unnecessary pressure on medical services or expose yourself to the heightened risk of infection

Nothing in the ODT yet about Clark, but they have these two articles:

Dunedin residents enjoyed a balmy evening yesterday with a walk on St Clair Beach.

Tougher measures may be needed to deal with those breaching lockdown rules, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult says, after people were caught jumping off Albert Town Bridge yesterday.

Dunedin virtually deserted

8-8:30 am on a normal working Friday in Dunedin and the roads are usually close to their busiest. Not under Covid-19 lockdown.

The Octagon has a few parked cars, no sign of people.:

The corner of State Highway 1 (heading south) and Andersons Bay Rod is one of the busiest intersections (usually):

Dunedin traffic cam.

That’s all heading into the city on a change of lights from the southern motorway.

Lookout Point showing the motorway heading into the city at a major intersection:

Dunedin traffic cam.

Stuart Street, one of the main feeder routes into the CBD from the hill suburbs:

Highgate bridge cam.

So the lockdown seems to be working fairly well.

Webcams here: https://www.dunedin.govt.nz/dunedin-city/webcams

And the Leith Saddle on the Northern Motorway:

https://www.metservice.com/traffic-camera/leith-saddle

 

Dunedin school to close after student tests positive for virus

Until now New Zealand schools have been left out of large gathering bans to try to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus, but today a Dunedin school pupil tested positive and is in self-isolation, and his school will close for 48 hours at least.

ODT: Pupil tests positive, school to close

A Logan Park High school pupil has tested positive for coronavirus, meaning his school will close for at least 48 hours.

The Otago Daily Times was told that parents of pupils at the school received emails this evening confirming the news.

The pupil is the son of a Dunedin man who recently returned from Germany and has also tested positive for the virus, the Southern District Health Board said this evening.

The SDHB announced earlier today that contact tracing was under way after the man – in his 40s – tested positive and that results for two other family members were expected back today.

This evening it was confirmed the pupil had tested positive and the school would close for 48 hours as a consequence.

The DHB said contact tracing was now being undertaken to identify anyone who may have come into close contact with the parent, and it would be working with the school and family to identify any close contacts of the student over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Close contacts will be contacted by Public Health staff and will go into self-isolation for 14 days from their last contact with the student.

The school was working with both education staff and public health officials.  It will now close for at least 48 hours while close contacts are traced and put in self isolation and casual contacts given advice about what to do if they become unwell.  The school will be carefully cleaned before reopening.

So the first school to be shut down due to the virus. There is likely to be more, if not a blanket shutdown sooner or later.

And spread is inevitable.

Meanwhile, shortly before learning about the testing at Logan Park, a Dunedin mum whose teenage son goes to that school learned her youngest son was also being tested.

The woman, whom the Otago Daily Times is not naming, said her three-year-old son had been tested for the virus after being sent home sick from daycare.

She was expecting to receive results within 24 hours.

I don’t have much personal concern, but this is close to home. Logan Park High School is the closest secondary school to where I live, and there are possible ways people I have contact with have had contact with the Dunedin cases. I guess the contact tracing will identify any of this.

It brings home, or close to home, how this is affecting all of us and could affect us significantly more.

 

Allans Beach, Otago Peninsula

What to do when so much travel and events are being limited due to the Covid-19 virus? Dunedin has a wide variety of beaches within half an hour of anywhere in the city, and also has established a reputation for wildlife.

Yesterday I decided to go to one of the beaches, Allans Beach on the Pacific Ocean side of the Otago Peninsula. It is usually relatively uncluttered, and often has sea lions lying on the sand.

The peninsula is a short drive from the city, with small settlements along the harbour side, with a number of good eating options. So (a very good) lunch first, this time in Macandrew Bay – other places to eat are Glenfalloch, Portobello (multiple) and Taiaroa head (at the albatross centre).

Turning across the peninsula at Portobello aafter a short drive you get to the large tidal Hoopers Inlet. At low tide there were a lot of birds, waders, ducks and black swans in abundance.

About 30 km from home is the Allans beach car park – it was fuller than usual but still space available.

It’s a short (5 minute) walk across a paddock and through dunes to the beach, and it was not exactly crowded, but by Dunedin standards it was busy, with people in all directions. Easy to keep at virus distance.

There were two New Zealand sea lions lazing on the beach right at the entrance, but with the tide out there was plenty of space to walk around them.

Heading left it’s about a couple of hundred meters to the rock scattered eastern end of the beach, only accessible at low tide.

Allans Beach at low tide looking east

There was a seal lying on a pile of seaweed, and another seal on the rocks at the end of the beach, keeping an eye on spectators.

Sea lions are a lot larger than seals and like sleeping in the beach, often flicking sand over themselves. Seals have pointer noses, more prominent whiskers and mostly prefer basking on rocks but are sometimes on the sand. Numbers of both are gradually re-establishing and increasing around the peninsula over the last thirty years, having been virtually wiped out by sealers in the early days of European settlement.

There can also be yellow eyed penguins at Allans Beach but you usually only see them early when they head out to sea and late in the day when they return. Once I have seen one standing on the beach during the day moulting.

Turning west it’s nearly 2 km to the other end of the beach, but well worth the walk.

Allans Beach at low tide looking west

Dotted along the beach were a number of other sea lions. There were more around the corner as the sand extends into the inlet. There were about twelve in total, but there were also tracks into the sand dunes where they often go for some privacy.

Sea lions are a common sight on Allans beach

Once on the nearby Victory Beach I needed a pea and headed into the tussocks, and nearly walked right into a sea lion. If you leave them some space they are not usually bothered by people, but I wouldn’t want to get too close, or surprise one.

At at western end at low tide the channel from the inlet is narrow, but too deep and too much current to go into. On the far sandy rock strewn bank there were two seals jousting with each other.

Allans Beach isn’t much of a bird beach (Long Beach on the mainland is one of the best for birds, it’s near a breeding colony).

At the outlet end of the beach at low tide there is a wide expanse of hard sand with many current and wave sculpted pools. Kids love this as the water is warmer than the ocean and they can choose size and depth (up to half a metre or so). There were a bunch of happy kids there yesterday

Tidal pools on Allans Beach

There were more surfers than usual but less surf than usual. One of the features of Allans Beach is the wild surf.

The walk back along the beach was just as enjoyable, spotting and dodging sea lines along the way.

Heading home I usually take the alternate route (the high road), which goes further round the inlet (many more birds wading and diving) and more pukekos along the road than I have seen before.

The road then climbs up and along the spine of the peninsula, past the Larnach Castle turnoff (the castle isn’t visible from the road. There are great views south and seaward, and nearer the city north over the harbour. It’s a narrow road with a bit of traffic, with not many places to stop so you need to be wary of sightseers and dawdlers.

Then it’s back to the city and then home. It was a half day well spent.

I often ‘get away from it’, and there are plenty of options (last weekend I spend a day heading north to Moeraki with another big beach, the famous boulders, fishing village with good food options, and one of my favourite stops, the lighthouse with a growing number of seals sleeping and playing and often yellow eyed penguins (last week there were, unusually, four penguins hanging around during the afternoon).

With all the virus stuff happening over the next month or two getting out into the fresh air away from crowds will be a good option.

Greeenpeace expects more from Government on environmental issues

People and organisations on the left have expressed dismay at the lack of progressive policies being implemented by the Government, which while including the Greens also has NZ First holding things back.

Greenpeace campaigner Genevieve Toop

  • What’s your short assessment on environmental action?

“The government took power riding on a wave of promises to tackle climate change and clean up our rivers. Early on in their tenure they took the kind of bold and decisive action required to do this. They banned new oil and gas exploration, slashed public subsidies to big irrigation and industrial dairy expansion and banned plastic bags.

“These decisions were great news for the environment and a demonstration of people power. They were a welcome reprieve from nine years of the National-led government which pushed for more oil exploration, incentivised industrial dairy expansion, slashed conservation funding, and let plastic pollution skyrocket.

“But since these decisions, the government’s visionary rhetoric has not been matched with the kind of transformational policy reform that is urgently needed. The government have begun to favour incremental change and in several instances they have let big polluters carry on business-as-usual.

“Austrian oil giant OMV is currently exploring for new oil and gas in our waters, a mega-dairy conversion is underway in the iconic Mackenzie Basin, the fishing industry is still bottom trawling 3000 tonnes of coral every year and there is still no backing for a solar revolution to help us get off our dependence on oil gas and coal and end imports of polluting SUVs.”

  • How does the government’s progress on environmental issues stack up?

“Ardern’s government have signalled a change in direction for New Zealand compared with the previous government. However, they have failed to match rhetoric with real action.

“Incremental and reformist policies cannot hope to create the systemic change needed to stem the tide of pollution and stop the ecological breakdown. Aside from the oil and gas exploration ban, this government have yet to step up to the plate with the visionary and transformational change needed.

“This is surprising given the obvious urgency of the climate crisis and the huge mandate for action that they have for example the recent climate strikes.”

  • Do you think the government pays enough attention to environmental issues?

“No. We are in the midst of a global climate emergency which is threatening all life on earth. A government that was taking this seriously would be devoting a sizeable chunk of Budget 2019 towards funding the transition towards a sustainable economy.

“Flagship policies should include a billion-dollar regenerative farming fund, massive investment in solar for schools, homes, public buildings and marae and a big boost for electric and public transport.”

  • What would you score the coalition out of 10 for its action on environmental issues?

“We’ll give them 5/10.”

On the OMV exploration, Green Dunedin mayor Aaron Hawkins is grumpy about them test drilling down our way.

OMV went through the normal processes necessary to get permission  to do this test drilling.

Snow as sparse as good mayoral candidates

Snow in Dunedin! Well, a very light smattering on some of the hills. There’s a few sparse patches here at home, at about 100 metres. There’s  very cold wind, and it’s 3.2 degrees outside at present (up a degree from an hour ago). But it isn’t unusual to get cold snaps here at this time year. The high for today is predicted to be 11, but up to 16 tomorrow and 19 on Saturday. Variety is normal.

The northern motorway has been affected with trucks stopped on the Leith Saddle at 300m.

(Update – traffic was moving by 7:15 am)

And where people live there’s barely a smattering.

The snow there is as sparse as good candidates in the local body elections.

There are 14 people standing for mayor with none standing out as a good prospect.

The two apparent front runners, multi-term councillors may or may not be the best of an uninspiring lot.

Aaron Hawkins seems to have been a hard working councillor and I think deserves getting back on council, but is fairly hard left and is standing officially as a Green party candidate. He’s been a strong promoter of the grossly underused cycle lanes tacked onto the side of the busiest streets in the city (the state highway), and on other cycle lanes it’s unusual to see cycles.

He was recently accused by first term councillors as treating them as juniors – Race heats up as mud flies online

Cr Hawkins triggered the exchange by publicly questioning Cr O’Malley’s decision to endorse Cr Lee Vandervis, during a candidates’ meeting in Opoho last week, as his second pick for the mayoralty.

Cr O’Malley hit back on Sunday, accusing Cr Hawkins of attempting “character assassination” during an election campaign.

He went further, claiming Cr Hawkins had “blocked or sabotaged” every one of Cr O’Malley’s attempts at progressive initiatives over three years.

“He is part of a bullying and controlling group which have frozen out all the new councillors that came on in the last election and even referred to us as junior councillors for the first two years.”

Cr Hawkins denied the claims and fired back, accusing his colleague of promoting “baseless suspicion”.

The exchange divided supporters, as Cr David Benson-Pope weighed in to accuse Cr O’Malley of being motivated by securing a committee chairman role if Cr Vandervis won the mayoralty.

Others – including Cr Andrew Whiley and candidates Mandy Mayhem-Bullock, Scout Barbour-Evans and Richard Seagar – all backed Cr O’Malley.

Scout Barbour-Evans went further, contacting the Otago Daily Times to say Cr Hawkins’ bullying behaviour was one of the reasons the candidate resigned from the Green Party in April.

“Hawkins being a bully goes much further than within council … His signature move is the cackle every time certain people speak. Within the party I was one of those people.”

Lee Vandervis was second in the last mayoral election so must rate a chance, but he is best known for opposing things and getting into trouble for allegedly abusive and bullying behaviour. I know from personal experience he gets agitated easily. Working together with a council would seem to be out of character for him. He’s just clocked up the 12th complaint against him this term.

ODT: Complaint made against Vandervis

Dunedin city councillor and mayoral candidate Lee Vandervis is the subject of a fresh complaint, after becoming embroiled in another verbal altercation with a Dunedin City Council staff member.

The councillor already has 11 complaints against him this term.

The Otago Daily Times has been told by several sources Cr Vandervis received a parking ticket last week, and went to the council’s customer services reception to complain it was unfair.

While he was there, an exchange with a female staff member descended into shouting by Cr Vandervis, the ODT was told.

Voting may be as sparse as the snow, with ‘who the hell do I vote for?’ probably being the most common question asked.

It seems to be a real problem with both local body and national politics these days. It’s something that seems to attract more and more career politicians, and less quality candidates.