Dunedin council ridiculed over ‘politically correct’ order to rename bike tracks

Another embarrassment for Dunedin City Council after a ridiculous ban on the name of some mountain bike tracks received attention through last week and was slammed in an ODT editorial yesterday.

3 June: Mountain bike group ordered to rename tracks

Mountain Biking Otago has been ordered to rename three of its tracks after the Dunedin City Council deemed them inappropriate.

The Mrs, The Mistress and Ginger Cougar on Signal Hill in Dunedin will be replaced with more appropriate names approved by the council.

Council parks and recreation group manager Robert West said it had received two complaints about the names of three Signal Hill mountain biking tracks.

Staff agreed the names were inappropriate and raised the matter with Mountain Biking Otago, he said.

Mountain Biking Otago president Kristy Booth said she was ‘‘disappointed for all involved’’.

The tracks had these names for seven to 10 years, and ‘‘in this time there has been no negative comments bought to our attention’’.

‘‘We don’t find them inappropriate within the context of how their names came to be.’’

Volunteers would need to spend a significant amount of time club funds correcting one person’s complaint, she said.

The cost of the changes was ‘‘a considerable amount, as it’s not just three signs at the beginning of each of these tracks, but other signage that contain their names elsewhere.’’

Mrs Booth said the committee were meeting tomorrow to confirm new names and proceed with new signage.

But DCC doesn’t work that fast, or easily. They haven’t yet approved new names.

And it doesn’t just involve the renaming of three track signs. There is a network of tracks on Signal Hill, with maps showing all tracks and track signs that refer to connections to other tracks.

And there is the website for the mountain biking area, plus a number of other online references.

4 June: ‘Inappropriate’ track names to go

This says much the same thing.

6 June: Mountain Biking Otago sign ‘rehomed’ to Tokoroa

The “Ginger Cougar” has found a new home.

The Mountain Biking Otago track sign was one of three “inappropriate” signs the Dunedin City Council asked to be taken down earlier this week after two complaints from the public – alongside The Mrs and The Mistress.

The Tokoroa Mountain Biking Club offered to rehome the sign, a move welcomed by Mountain Biking Otago president Kristy Booth.

Mountain Biking New Zealand president Chris Arbuckle said the sign, which was put up while he was president of Mountain Biking Otago in 2011, did not have an inappropriate meaning.

“The name ginger cougar came about because the rocks on that track were orange in colour, and cougar refers to a cat, because the trail is hard to chase.

“The track names went through a formal process before council and were signed off. They’ve seen these names before.”

Mr Arbuckle said naming signs was often the only “reward” volunteers had for hundreds of hours of work.

Dunedin City Council parks and recreation group manager Robert West said the council had a responsibility to act on public concerns.

And a responsibility to not act on trivial concerns of a couple of people.

“Signal Hill is public land designated as a recreation reserve, managed by the council for the benefit of the community.

That is for the benefit of the mountain biking community.

“We believe the names were inappropriate for tracks on public land and so asked Mountain Biking Otago to rename the track.”

“Council staff have not identified any other inappropriate track names on Signal Hill … no other name changes are being considered.”

So they seem to have checked all the track names

He said work on discussing new names for the three affected tracks was “progressing well”.

Editorial 8 June: Off track

There must be more important things for the Dunedin City Council to worry about than “inappropriate” names for mountain bike tracks.

Has this year truly gone dotty? Putting aside the small matter of a global pandemic, is the only story to capture the public imagination as much as those brightly coloured dots in George St to be the demise of The Mrs, The Mistress and Ginger Cougar?

For, yes, those are the offending names on Signal Hill that Mountain Biking Otago has been ordered by the council to relabel following an absolute tidal wave of public backlash … well, following two complaints in a decade.

“Political correctness gone mad” is a lazy phrase generally uttered by those struggling to cope with a wider push for a more tolerant society. But does anything else so perfectly encapsulate this example of bureaucratic pettiness?

We do not highlight those who made the original complaints — for there will always be complaints, no matter the topic. This one is squarely about a city council and its ability to make something out of nothing.

As Mountain Biking New Zealand president Chris Arbuckle pointed out, the sign, which was put up while he was president of Mountain Biking Otago in 2011, did not have an inappropriate meaning — it was genuinely named after the colour of rocks and the difficulty of the trail — and had been signed off by the council at the time.

It raises some questions around council processes. And while the DCC does indeed have a “responsibility to act on public concerns”, it also has the freedom to decide what is completely trivial.

Alas this council seems to be losing the respect of Dunedin citizens.

And this isn’t helped by difficulties in approving new track names. Mountain Biking Otago said yesterday:

We appreciate everyones support over the track signs, it might be a case of PC gone wrong but it’s time to move forward.

We had been working with the DCC to get new names approved but are at a bit of a stand still. Initially it was no gender names but with a recent list of potential names but there seems to be no consistency and anything that could have a double meaning is being rejected without explanation.

“It would be lovely to find names for The Mrs and The Mistress that continue to link the two tracks to their original story and pay tribute to the track builder and his wife (and we have a few). I’m not sure if we can do that but we will continue to keep trying to find common ground with the DCC, but until the tracks will remain nameless.”

So the council is still being pedantic despite all the fuss over an overreaction to two complaints.

Comments:

This story seems to have become a lighting rod for the frustration a lot of Dunedin feel with the council at the moment.

It’s unfortunate that MBO, who have been minding their own business and just doing their thing, have got caught inbetween an angry public and the DCC.

And:

What a f joke. DCC should be embarrassed, absolutely ridiculous.

And:

MBO has done nothing wrong AFAIK. Definitely PC gone wrong and an over the top reaction with hyped up media. I’ve spoken to many non-MTBers who fail to see the problem but we’ll move on.

And:

This is some staff plonkers, not the councilors, who I expect are embarrassed.

And:

maybe mtb otago should put blue dots on the tracks, reckon it’ll fix it?

Some websites seem to have had the names removed already, like Mountain Biking in Dunedin

But one problem with just renaming the bike tracks is that the old names live on.

Otago Boys High School (2018): Mountain Biking Update

From the top of Signal Hill this week the boys did shuttle runs to enjoy riding the downhill tracks, namely the Jump Track and Ginger Cougar.

And:

https://www.trailforks.com/trails/ginger-cougar/

https://www.trailforks.com/trails/the-mrs/

https://www.trailforks.com/trails/the-mistress/

Offshore Otago oil exploration versus climate change

A recent announcement that a large oil exploration programme is like to take place off the Otago coast is predictably controversial.

ODT (10 April):  Gas and oil exploration move off Otago coast

Austrian oil giant OMV has unveiled one of the most ambitious gas and oil drilling programmes proposed in New Zealand.

It plans possibly three exploration and seven follow-up appraisal wells off Otago’s coast in the Great South Basin.

The 10 oil and gas prospects are within a 100km-150km arc, southeast of Dunedin.

OMV has applied to the Environmental Protection Authority for a marine discharge consent to release contaminants to sea, the application being made public today.

“Depending on the outcomes of the exploration drilling, this could include up to three exploration wells and up to seven appraisal wells,” the company said.

The company also said if no indications of potentially commercial hydrocarbons were detected in the exploration wells, no appraisal wells would be drilled.

OMV will be looking for gas deposits and there is a likelihood of finding a small percentage of oil condensate; fine, light oil suitable for aviation fuel.

ODT (10 April): ‘Expect resistance’, oil company told

An Otago environmental group is telling Austrian oil giant OMV to “expect resistance”, should a deep-water oil rig appear off Otago’s coast.

The Dunedin City Council, which supports a ban on issuing new exploration permits, will be briefed by OMV at the end of the month.

Oil Free Otago spokeswoman Rosemary Penwarden was aware OMV had applied to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to “discharge contaminants to sea”, a requirement before it could drill any prospects in the Great South Basin.

She had spoken “at length” with the EPA last week and understood the application covered a “tiny spill” of around 250ml and Oil Free Otago would not be opposing the application.

“Climate change is now in a crisis situation …we won’t sit by and let them continue their destructive business off our coast,” she said.

She cited Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull saying earlier in the week at a public forum on climate change he was proud of his council’s stance against oil exploration.

Mr Cull said the council did commit to supporting the moratorium on no new oil and gas exploration permits, but could “informally welcome” OMV’s latest interests in Otago.

However, when pressed about lobbying OMV to base itself in Dunedin, “council wouldn’t lobby them”.

“If there was to be a base and investment then council would have to vote,” he said.

He noted council had no role to play in non-notified marine consent applications.

ODT editorial:  Oil and gas versus climate change

For many, including those who participated in or encouraged last month’s climate change strike by school pupils, the news of Austrian oil giant OMV unveiling one of the most ambitious gas and oil drilling programmes proposed in New Zealand would have seemed like a late April Fool’s Day joke.

They may have asked how, if climate change is rapidly contributing to the end of the world, such a thing could still be considered appropriate. To others, news of a major international company investing significant sums to find whether true riches lie beneath the waters off the Dunedin coastline would have been enthusiastically received.

It isn’t fair to say the first group wants no economic development. Nor is it fair to say the second group doesn’t care about climate change. It does seem fair to suggest many New Zealanders are interpreting the climate change conversation in very different ways.

As much as many believe otherwise, the issue is still confusing.

Confusion, contradictions and complications abound on this topic and the divide between those who are ”all in” on climate change, and those who are yet to be convinced, is still broad.

It isn’t that there is a simple answer to any of this. The problem is that there are too many potential answers, and many seem unsure who to believe, who to follow. And, while they consider, they want reassurance the economy will remain buoyant.

Protests against oil and gas exploration are natural and healthy. But if the time has really come to move to a war-footing against climate change, we first need to be very clear about what the enemy is. For many New Zealanders, this country’s meagre fossil fuel consumption is unlikely to be considered the priority.

Oil-free is an unrealistic goal in the foreseeable future.

 

Gender progress at Otago University

This year Otago University has widened their gender options, and at the same it is reported that 60% of domestic students are female.

ODT: Uni adds gender options

Whereas in the past students could choose female, male or X for indeterminate, students this year can identify as “gender diverse”, and, if they want to, specify whether they are a male or female, a transgender man, a transgender woman or non-binary transgender.

There is also the option of calling themselves Mx or Id in addition to the titles Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms – and students can change their gender in their student details without having to provide any supporting paperwork.

So you can fairly freely choose how to identify your gender. Anyone who doesn’t like the new options doesn’t have to use them.

This looks like gender is getting complicated, but it is complicated for some people.

OUSA former queer support co-ordinator Hahna Briggs said she was “really happy” students could now use those options to express their identity.

“Students were able to change their gender marker after enrolment to M, F, or X (X for indeterminate) but they had to provide a statutory declaration or an updated passport to make this change. Now this process is so much easier”.

OUSA president for 2019 James Heath said the new university process was “in line with common practice”.

“From an OUSA perspective we welcome, and celebrate, openness with regards to gender diversity with a goal to make Otago the most inclusive campus in NZ.”

Feedback about the change from students online was very positive, describing the move as “awesome” and “fantastic”.

Most young people should be quite open and liberal about this – but there could be some complications regarding use of gender assigned facilities and qualification for gender separated sports.

Also from ODT:  Uni women outnumber men 60:40

A gender studies specialist says the 60:40 split of female and male domestic students attending the University of Otago last year is part of a trend across most Western countries — though it might be slightly higher at Otago than at other universities due to the emphasis on health sciences.

Gender disparities were “subject-specific” and last year there was a slightly larger difference at Otago than usual, probably because of the role of health sciences at the university, Fairleigh Gilmour said.

Generally, men tended to outnumber women in engineering and IT, while women tended to dominate in health-related disciplines.

There are now many more female medical and dental students, but other health fields will lean even more heavily towards female numbers.

Statistics seemed similar at most other universities around the country for students. 2017 splits:

  • Victoria University 55% female, 45% male (all students)
  • Auckland University of Technology 61% female, 39% male (domestic students)
  • University of Auckland 57% female , 43% male (all students)
  • Massey University 60% female, 40% male
  • University of Waikato 58% female, 42% male (all students)

One bucked the trend…

  • Lincoln University 49% female, 51 male (all students)

…but that could reflect on the Lincoln specialising in agriculture.

Why are significantly more females going to university than males? It may in part be due to trade qualifications being done at polytechnics. More males may get into work without qualifications. And there could be more males unemployed or in other sorts of training.

But it is clear that as far as university education is concerned females are dominating the numbers.

Knowledge is power in a number of ways.

‘Hasty’ lawmaking may lead to increased emissions

The Government surprised many with an announcement that they would limit future oil and gas exploration. Some hailed it as a sign they were serious about reducing fossil fuel use and reducing carbon emissions, but others have warned that it may actually increase emissions as people are forced to switch from gas to more polluting fuels.

Reductions in energy use and a switch to alternative energy would help alleviate the situation, but the Government has done little but talk about any of this side of the energy equation.

ODT:  Effect of ‘hasty’ law-making

The hasty passing of legislation banning offshore oil and gas exploration is another example of how little the Government is considering the longer term implications of its ideologically-driven law-making.

Our country’s ongoing energy security is an issue for all New Zealanders, but the Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill, passed under haste on November 7, will impact significantly on this.

It deserved far more consultation and analysis than was permitted by its fast-tracking.

The Minister for Energy Dr Megan Woods admitted that no assessment had been undertaken of just how the ban imposed by the new law would lower greenhouse gas emissions, or what the economic fallout will be.

Some commentators argue the ban will actually lead to an increase in carbon emissions, because in the absence of a new gas supply coming on stream here, users will either be compelled to import fuel potentially from less environmentally-conscious producers or switch to coal, which is hardly an eco-friendly substitute.

Furthermore, energy costs are likely to increase, which will hurt not only our economy but the most vulnerable in society.

Many New Zealanders may not be aware that our current gas supply is likely to last for just seven more years and production volumes will diminish from 2021 onwards.

Given that the Government has effectively ruled out new offshore oil and gas exploration; and the fact onshore activity is unlikely, our chances of finding alternative gas supplies within our jurisdiction rest on prospecting activities permitted before the legislation came into force. Two of these are in South Island waters, off the coast of Otago and Southland.

But the business of realising a commercially viable discovery on a hydrocarbon prospect is a lengthy and complicated one. There is no certainty of outcome; the historic chances of success are one-in-five. Should either of these prospects fall inside those odds, however, the ensuing development offers our region and our country many benefits, even as we move towards a carbon-free future.

Of course, let’s not forget the hydrocarbons lying beneath the ocean floor are a carbon-based energy source, something we’re moving away from. But gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than oil or coal. Surely, as we move towards a carbon-zero future, a transition away from oil and coal using cleaner fuels is the most sensible option to enable us to continue to be productive.

New Zealand Oil & Gas chief executive Andrew Jefferies has said that if our dairy plants transitioned from coal to natural gas, and if fertiliser and methanol plants could be built here, New Zealand gas would be better for the Earth than alternative energy sources such as Canadian tar sands, or bitumen from Venezuela.

Everyone acknowledges that we need to move away from the consumption of fossil fuels, but until sufficient alternative energy sources are found we need to secure our energy future so we can sustain our economy and our homes.

-NZ Oil & Gas has until April 2019 to commit to drilling off Oamaru, and April 2020 to similarly commit to the Toroa permit, south of Dunedin. OMV was granted a two-year extension in October, pushed out to July 2021, to drill an exploratory well off Otago’s coast.

The Government rushed through a ban on more exploration, something that thrilled Greens and dismayed NZ First, hobbling the cart before they have found a replacement for the horse.

Perhaps this year they will come up with an alternative energy plan.

Against the national trend – “target for record low road toll”

With three days to go in the year this is premature, but barring end of year tragedy the Otago road toll is on target to be a modern low, bucking the national trend.

ODT:  On target for record low road toll

The number of deaths on Otago roads this year are on track to be the lowest recorded, as southern police increase their focus on notorious crash corridors.

Nine people have died on Otago roads in the year to December 27, compared with an average of 18 over the corresponding period in each of the previous four years.

The lowest annual road toll recorded in Otago was 11, in 2009, compared with a high of 43 in 1988.

That’s a huge change in three decades, and half the last four year average.

Nationally, 372 people have died on the roads this year, making 2018 the second deadliest year since 2010.

Otago coastal road policing team leader Senior Sergeant Jared Kirk, who began in the role in March, said a greater emphasis on deploying staff to the most lethal roads was a major driver of this year’s low toll, together with road safety improvements made by the NZ Transport Agency.

The majority of fatal crashes in his area happened on State Highway 1 north of Dunedin to Oamaru and south to Balclutha.

One significant aspect of this is that the toll is heavier well away from the increasingly heavy tourist traffic areas of Central Otago including Queenstown and Wanaka.

Great value sports weekend

What a great sport weekend.

I used to grizzle about the amount Sky insisted I pay for sports – actually not so much the sports but what they demanded you get and pay for that wasn’t sport and I didn’t want. And their streaming option was limited, poor value and technically poor. I kept cancelling my subscription between the seasons of things I particularly wanted to watch

Last year they improved their offerings somewhat, meaning I could get sport for $55 per month, $12-13 per week, not much more than half what they had previously charged.  On an average week I think this is reasonable value.

This weekend the value was very good, especially with a number of great results.

Of course for me Otago winning the Ranfurly Shield was a highlight.

Then I watched some of the women’s league test between New Zealand and Australia and the standard of play was impressive. Unfortunately a close loss.

Last night seeing a very different Kiwi league team impressively outplay the Kangaroos was great.  I hope they can keep up the standard.

This afternoon the Silver Ferns beat Australia, outplaying them also very impressively. This is a very different team to the disappointing one of the past year or two.

And I managed to also see some of the Breakers beat last year’s NRL champions Melbourne, with a bit of an eye on Southland losing again to finish their season winless.

I also fitted in some golf, with both the PGA and LPGA on yesterday (but weirdly the final day of the LPGA was not on today).

I even managed to some work outside. I’m not much good with a golf stick but not bad with a chain saw and slasher.

And I also watched some free streaming, seeing two games of the Roller Derby finals weekend (not great results for the Gallow Lasses though).

So some excellent surprise results and plenty of variety. Very good value.

The deep south?

Maybe some people up north see everything south of Wellington as ‘the deep south’, but when Otago is referred to as the deep south it bemuses me.

Stuff: Otago’s defence stands tall in successful Ranfurly Shield raid against Waikato

The Ranfurly Shield is heading to the deep south for the summer as Otago matched their successful 2013 raid in Hamilton by holding on for an enthralling 23-19 win against Waikato in the Mitre 10 Cup.

It seems similar to including Auckland in ‘the far north’. Otago to me is just Otago.

If there is a ‘deep south’ then surely it is Southland. Or Fiordland.

ODT:  NZ’s most remote place is in the deep south

Where do you go in New Zealand to be farthest away from civilisation?

Hamish Campbell, a software engineer who works at Koordinates in Auckland, said he used a range of open-source data tools to pinpoint the place which was farthest from any structure, including far-flung conservation huts.

He started by using a Land Information NZ map which showed the location of every building in the country – 653,358 in total.

That quickly narrowed his search to Fiordland, on the south-western edge of the South Island.

After a bit of digital wizardry, he found what he believed to be New Zealand’s most remote spot. It is the south end of a bay which the Coal River empties into, and is south of Doubtful Sound.

Fiordland is certainly the most inaccessible region in mainland New Zealand, except by boat or by helicopter.

But parts of Otago are further south than the bottom of Fiordland, and further south than Invercargill, and further south than Bluff.

File:Position of Otago.png

 

That shows Otago stretching almost as far south as the southernmost point of the South island, Slope Point (incidentally the southern Catlins is a great area to visit).

It also shows that Lumsden is north of Dunedin! And Kaka Point is about as far south as Riverton, and Milton is as about far south as Gore, and Tuatapere is north of Balclutha.

Quite a lot of Otago is north of parts of Canterbury. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea are completely north of parts of South Canterbury. Makarora is actually north of Timaru (about the same latitude as Temuka).

But to me Otago generally is not the far south. That’s Southland. We are just south-ish.

Otago win Ranfurly Shield

For just the second time in my lifetime Otago have won the Ranfurly Shield, taking it off Waikato.

They attacked well in the first half, and defended very well to hold out Waikato, who made some game losing mistakes on attack near the end.

So we get a home semi-final by finishing second in the Championship, and get to keep the log of wood for the summer. This means if we choose easier opponents before the competition starts next year we might get a good chance to hold it this time (we also won it off Waikato, then we were robbed in 2013 by a poor non-decision by the referee in the final seconds in the first defence3 against Hawkes Bay).

 

Otago regional rates to rise 21%, then 23%

This is a bit of a shock – ORC plan adopted, rates to rise 21.1%

A 21% rates rise is on the cards as the Otago Regional Council finalises its long-term plan.

But wait, there’s more.

General regional council rates will rise 21.1% in the next financial year and are predicted to rise another 22.8% the year after.

Targeted rates will rise 5.4% in the next financial year and 5.7% the following year.

That means that rates of say $200 now would rise to $330 over four years.

The plan includes about $650 million in spending over the next 10 years and tackles new projects such as increased water monitoring, urban water quality initiatives and better preparing the region for climate change.

The cost of going green?

Also in the ODT today: Plans for $200m hotel complex

That’s plans for a hotel in Queenstown. Probably instead of a proposed hotel inn Dunedin, which once again faced vocal opposition and planning approval difficulties.

The man behind a so far unsuccessful bid for a five-star hotel in Dunedin’s Moray Pl has moved his attention to Queenstown.

An Environment Court appeal over his Dunedin five-star hotel planned for a site across the road from the Dunedin Town Hall was withdrawn last month, but he indicated at the time he was not giving up on the project.

Sounds like he has given up on Dunedin, like developers before him.

 

Picture of the day

A couple of comments from yesterday:

Missy:

Hey PP, next time I take the riverbus home I will get some pictures and send to Pete and ask him to post them for you.

patupaiarehe :

Perhaps we could have a ‘picture of the day’ here? Whatcha reckon Pete?

Contributions are welcome. Email me, or pictures posted in comments may be worth a post of their own.

I’ll kick things off with this:

rowingsunrise

Rowing on Otago Harbour