The Dunedin Amenities Society has always recognised the importance and prestige for Dunedin in having an internationally acclaimed botanic gardens in our City. The Gardens and its staff provide a standard of excellence in Dunedin that is not found in many cities around the world. Importantly the gardens provides industry training that develops new generations of horticulturists and plant collection managers through the apprentices who study and train within its grounds. Sadly, that international recognition and reputation is neither valued or recognised by the majority of Dunedin’s community, and the Council has effectively shelved the much-needed upgrade of the gardens facilities.
Last week the Society’s Vice President Robin Hyndman wrote an impassioned plea to all Councillors before Mondays’ meeting asking council to show some vision and reconsider the abandonment of the Lovelock Avenue project. His letter correctly pointed out that the project had been through a vigorous process at the Resource Consents Hearing, and that the commissioners decision to grant consent was both rational and fair. The effects of the development were considered no more than minor and a subsequent peer review found the realignment was the best option for the Botanic Gardens. The commissioners also found the objections of a handful of Opoho residents were unfounded and had little basis in fact. Yet the Botanic Gardens, vindicated by fact and rationality, has seen hysteria rule the day at the Council table.
At what cost? Notwithstanding what the City Council has probably already paid in the consenting process and the development of the plan there are other far-reaching costs for the fair city of Dunedin. It shows that logic, reason and any compelling vision for our international reputation as a city of beauty is neither welcomed nor highly regarded by its citizens and those who govern us. In a city the size of Dunedin economic investment in genuine assets like the Botanic Gardens is essential for our visitor economy if we are to diversify and prosper collectively. Worryingly, this decision nullifies both the democracy of the Annual Plan and the Resource Management processes that are key to the participation of ratepayers and their communities. How can Dunedin people be confident that such processes are no more than political lolly scrambles? It seems clear to the Society that the faith we once had in the fairness of these processes is now unjustified. Indeed the rules have been changed so inexorably that only”those with the shrillest voices” will be heard by our elected representatives above all others. Such selective hearing comes at a significant cost to our international reputation and the greater benefits of our City. The pictures below are what Dunedin missed out on when decisionmaking is undertaken with a political grease gun aimed at lubricating a vociferous but ultimately flawed squeaky wheel.