Tempers flare at meeting
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Angry scenes marked a Nelson City Council meeting to determine a preliminary stage of whether to build a public boulevard around Nelson's Rocks Rd.
The council's policy and planning committee meeting yesterday turned into a spat between Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio and councillor Rachel Reese when she challenged him to prove he had no knowledge that the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) planned to add a clearway corridor to the state highway around the Nelson waterfront.
What Mr Miccio had hoped would be a straightforward meeting to approve the terms of reference for the Rocks Rd shared path investigation phase dissolved into a two-hour debate over what Ms Reese described as a "fundamental issue of good faith". The council told the public last year, following the outcome of the Arterial Traffic Study, that it would leave only the southern link on the table as a future option to handle increased transport capacity.
Mr Miccio suggested that councillors had wrongly interpreted a clause in a report about the NZTA's plans to include a "potential lane as an option to be included in the investigation phase of the project", which he said referred to the outcome of last year's Arterial Traffic Study.
"There seems to be some confusion on how to read a report," Mr Miccio said.
The suggestion triggered an outburst from councillor Eric Davy, who was threatened with being removed from the meeting after he warned the mayor against calling his councillors "stupid".
NZTA state highways operations manager Mark Owen told the Nelson Mail ahead of yesterday's meeting that the option to make Rocks Rd three lanes wide would be considered as part of the walkway/cycleway investigation, but no decision had been made.
The council eventually agreed yesterday to accept the terms of reference and multiparty funding agreement, which will set in motion the investigation phase of the planned $6 million waterfront boulevard, with the added clause that the council would not consider a clearway or three-laning option in the mix for the shared pathway investigation.
An earlier attempt by Mr Davy and Ms Reese to have the recommendation tabled pending a public workshop to better define the aims of the investigation was initially supported by Deputy Mayor Ali Boswijk, as long as it "didn't become a platform for the next election".
The motion was lost in favour of yesterday's amended recommendation, which was unanimously supported.
The analysis will take into account a number of factors, including the response from the community, assessment of the heritage value of the Rocks Rd chains, analysis of the seawall to determine whether parts of it could take additional loading, and assessment of current parking and future demand along the highway, with a strategy to provide for future growth in demand.
Mr Miccio was adamant that the terms did not mean a tradeoff for the share of funding promised to build the boulevard. It is considered the flagship project of the planned city walk/cycle/schools package and would be partly funded from Nelson's $21m regional transport funding entitlement, and more than $1m in rates funds.
Mr Miccio said before a packed public gallery, which included members of the Nelson Waterfront Association, that yesterday's discussion was about the best configuration for a walkway and cycleway for Rocks Rd, and not a road transport corridor.
Waterfront supporter Tim Bayley turned up with a fake knife labelled "NZTA" stuck in his back.
Association chairman Jeremy Matthews said outside the meeting that while it was pleased the council had made a firm stand against three-laning Rocks Rd, until the city had ownership and control of the road, there was no guarantee it would not happen.
Mr Matthews, who was responsible for placing protest placards along Rocks Rd last night, said that if it had not been for Mr Davy and Ms Reese, the group would have been concerned that the council had been "bullied" into passing the original recommendation.
"It was an attempt by NZTA and some council officials to re-introduce what was voted down by the council last year."
Council principal adviser of transport and roading Andrew James corrected a reference in the report which indicated that the council-owned building occupied by Plant & Food's seafood research unit was at risk. Mr James said any pathway would be located in the vicinity of the property and not through it.
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