Full cob report required | Otago Daily Times News Online

Those who feel a groan every time Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich mentions his pet project, re-establishing the groyne at St Clair Beach to help stockpile sand there, have not heard the end of it yet.

Just four months after Mr Radich, in his former councilor role, narrowly failed to persuade the previous town council to pass a motion to ‘proceed with the reinstatement of the St Clair groyne on a trial basis of 5 years”, the case was back before the new council this week.

Under the board’s bylaws, a notice of motion similar to the one already discussed is permitted if at least one-third of all members sign the new notice. It is unfortunate that such rules do not require that there be new information to be considered before such a revised notice of motion can be accepted. Without this, it is likely possible for a board, with a different mindset, to spend considerable time reviewing decisions with which it disagrees.

However, those who follow Mr. Radich’s election campaign will not be surprised that he is determined to start over. He credits his electoral support with giving him that mandate (although it must be remembered that at least half of the city’s eligible voters didn’t bother to vote at all). He is confident that cob will be more effective at preventing erosion than sand sausages, while being considerably less expensive.

He’s also heartened that over 4,600 people have signed a petition about it, and at this week’s meeting he seemed to regard that number as more important than the 2,000 people who contributed to the long and award-winning consultation on the $700,000 St Clair-St Kilda Coastal Plan.

There is already some debate about how any trial cob might fit into the direction of this plan.

Mr Radich’s revamped motion, which was carried 11 to four, ‘calls for an urgent report on the cost and timeliness of re-establishing the groyne at St Clair, possibly on a trial basis’. This may not be the easiest sentence for council officials to interpret.

When will the report be required and what does “potentially on a trial basis” mean? Will staff consider whether the proposal has scientific merit or should they ignore the list of current scientists who have said it would be ineffective? These include sand dune associate Professor Mike Hilton, who featured in this newspaper this week, saying the St Clair coast is not suitable for groynes.

When the costs come back to council for consideration, we wonder how much might be too much to spend on the mayor’s pet project for those who thundered during the election campaign about the need to cut spending.

Previous estimates for this work were $150,000 for construction, consent costs $15,000, monitoring $7,500 annually, and between $30,000 and $60,000 for annual maintenance. It is unlikely that these costs have decreased.

Any report submitted to council for further consideration should be comprehensive and include free and candid advice from officials and, as Deputy Mayor Sophie Barker has suggested, ideally in time for consultation during the process of annual plan.

We wonder if part of the public support for the cob is less about science and its usefulness and more about affection for the aesthetics of the poles that have appeared in stunning photographs over the years.

If Mr. Radich couldn’t get his passion project through, perhaps the case could be made for crowdfunding an art installation, “Poles Apart,” to mimic the look of the missing poles.

About Julius Southworth

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