A little South City stroppiness

Former Invercargill City councillor Thelma Buck takes a swipe at the current councillors about their lack of consultation with South City business owners.
Former Invercargill City councillor Thelma Buck takes a swipe at the current councillors about their lack of consultation with South City business owners.

Editorial: Did we detect some eye-rolling among the South Alive representatives at the Invercargill City Council's infrastructure and services committee meeting on Monday, as former Invercargill city councillor Thelma Buck returned to the fray?

Yes. We think perhaps we did.

However, not for the first time, the woman had a point. Though, we grant you, it was delivered in her inimitable way. Nobody ever called her delicate.

Long a voice of restraint in the face of assorted council enthusiasms, the 21-year veteran councillor - doesn't it seem like just a couple of months since she retired? - was back, this time as a member of the public, with one of her trademark sharp rebukes for councillors.

They had campaigned in South Invercargill, she said, but hadn't made the effort to go and see the South City retailers to hear their concerns about the proposed upgrade of the Martin St area.

She also had a few words of caution for an openly unimpressed South Alive contingent - the community group driving the upgrade with the support of a council that has been careful not to give any impression that it is taking over what was, from the beginning, seen as an admirably collaborative initiative from the community itself.

Much of the progress South Alive has made has been widely, and rightly, celebrated.

Lately, however, it has fallen afoul of Martin St businesses, who have felt either unheard or unheeded in the process, and who are particularly opposed to a pocket park.

Ms Buck presented councillors a 500-signature petition against it, partly on the basis of a loss of car parking (actually just one park, but on top of others already lost to a new bus stop) and also because of concerns it would become a gathering point for undecorative youths.

Clearly, South Alive members at the meeting did not appreciate hearing that they had snubbed the Martin St dissenters.

In fact, the Martin St business owners, having felt either unheard or unheeded at South Alive meetings, had organised one of their own, inviting councillors but not South Alive, whose chairman Colin Anderson showed up only to be asked to leave.

That was petulant. But however exasperated both sides may be feeling, they do need to get over it and get back together.

It is far from uncommon that organisations like South Alive, when they start to get traction, put value on momentum. But continuing consultation is important and in that respect, after a good start, some of the organisation's practices have been slipping lately.

We're thinking of the Elles Rd dog park, a contentious issue in itself, which the public was assured would have tasteful fencing - "not deer fencing". Then, upon further investigation of the practicalities of the matter, up went a deer fence without public explanation of the about- face beforehand.

It may be true that the fence was necessary. But the fact remains that they said one thing, they did another, and did it without explanation first.

The Southland Times