English Writer H G Wells once wrote ” There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection”. If ugliness is the measure of imperfection then the areas adjacent to the overbridges on Cumberland and Jetty Streets are perfect examples. The structural components of the bridges have created a wasteland of dead vegetation and litter that fail any stern test of aesthetics. These areas are simply forgotten blocks of “lost space” that provide no landsdcape or biodiversity opportunities in our city. Areas like these need sympathetic and appropriate planting to soften the hard edges of the built aspects of the environment. Importantly too, such planting also requires the remediation of the adjacent soil for plants to thrive. There needs to be greater significance and planning given to the creation of biological linkages for invertebrate and avian populations living within the urban environment. Small as these things are, their significance cannot be discounted by planners, engineers and councillors who collectively fashion how our city looks and functions on many levels.
The Dunedin City Council is currently wrestling in the Annual Plan jelly pit with a proposal for a bridge to the wharf. The Society suggests that some serious consideration needs to be given to the way the space needed for such a construction can be integrated sympathetically within the environment to avoid the views that we have created in these examples.
John Wilson Drive continues to polarize the Dunedin community between those who want the opportunity to enjoy the area free of vehicles and those who see the change in use as a form of selfishness. The interesting point is that the Drive has never really been closed to the public, except when construction work was being undertaken on the pipeline and it was hazardous for the public. It’s worth remembering that John Wilson Drive is not a public road, but rather a public reserve. This is where the pro-vehicle lobby have become confused between the use of public roads and reserves. Roads, are by their nature and definition public thoroughfares for vehicle and pedestrian movement. Reserves are not actually public thoroughfares and they may provide access to the public only at the discretion of the land administrator. The changes to the access at John Wilson Drive are no different to any other reserve within the city, where constraints between pedestrian and vehicle access are balanced between the needs of protection of the reserve and the recreational needs of the community.
John Wilson Drive is not and has never been closed to the public, but the nature of the way the access is managed has been changed. The traditional points of access to the coast and beach are still available and the opportunity to park and gaze at the Pacific Ocean remains. While the Dunedin City Council pontificates on the need to spend $400,000 on barrier arms and other monstrosities, the simple fact remains, the present position of the barriers provides the best compromise between pedestrian and vehicle access for John Wilson Drive and the Ocean Beach Domain Reserve.