It’s been difficult to believe that the vehicle users lobby are suggesting that better walking and cycling access on John Wilson Drive is a form of selfishness. The fact that John Wilson Drive has been dominated by motor vehicles for the last 50 years does not seem to have entered the equation. Worse still, the public have been asked to suffer the burden of the destruction of the scenic qualities of the Drive through larrikinism, littering and vandalism as penance for that vehicular obsession. The question one might ask is whether it’s selfish to want change that arrests the destruction of those qualities that we want to preserve?
One of the most repetitive assumptions made in the media and by the pro vehicle lobby has been that the Drive is closed, but on examination this has never been the case. The reserve has always been open to the public throughout, except during the pipeline construction. The other misconception is that the Drive was closed to vehicles by the walking and cycling community. Actually the Drive was closed to vehicles after the pipeline closure revealed that the rate of suicide from Lawyers Head had decreased since that closure. That evidence was supported by submissions by the Police and Search and Rescue. The decision to exclude vehicles at the present point was a decision based on public health not on recreational use.
It’s become obvious that since the removal of vehicles from the eastern portion of the drive, that the capacity of the area to be a truly picturesque coastal landscape might actually be realised. Indeed, John Wilson Drive has become a genuine recreational space that provides access for a much broader range of users than it has done in the past. That change in use has meant that the reserve is finally meeting its environmental and legal potential as an open space for the wider Dunedin public. In the present configuration all users are given an opportunity to utilise the Drive including cars. Previously vehicles had exclusive use of the Drive and the recreational potential was not shared. Isn’t that selfish?
John Wilson Drive is not a legal road but a reserve defined for recreational and environmental purposes. The notion that it should be used exclusively by vehicles as a quasi-legal road at the exclusion of others is not consistent with its definition or use as a reserve. Worse still are the continued suggestions of overly complicated and costly programmes which are unnecessary and in the most part unneeded for the drive. The change of use at the Drive has actually allowed the reserve to function more appropriately than it has ever done in the past. Therefore, the present configuration remains the best possible outcome at a legal, recreational and environmental level for John Wilson Drive and the wider Ocean Beach Domain.