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/