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Ashburton bridge location decided

SAM SHERWOOD
Last updated 10:27 26/05/2014
Angus McKay
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ASHBURTON MAYOR: Angus McKay used his casting vote to stick to the "status quo" despite members of the packed public gallery shouting for him to "show some guts".

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A nine-year battle over the site for a second urban bridge in Ashburton is at an end after the district council voted to stick with the proposed location.

Last week Ashburton Mayor Angus McKay used his casting vote to stick to the "status quo" despite members of the packed public gallery shouting for him to "show some guts".

One person called him a "bloody disgrace to the chair".

The council appointed two independent commissioners to review the bridge proposal and return to the council with a recommendation. They found the bridge, which would cost up to $35 million, would meet future traffic needs and take traffic off State Highway 1.

The council was not under any legal obligation to stick with the commissioners' recommendation but chief executive Andrew Dalziel advised councillors to comply with the report regardless of the finding.

The bridge has been a controversial topic since it was first proposed. Residents believed the selection process was predetermined without any consultation. Whether or not the New Zealand Transport Agency would pay any costs towards the bridge was another matter.

The voting was just as controversial, with deputy mayor Darryl Nelson, who voted in favour of the Notice of Requirement at the last vote in November, abstaining from voting because his sister-in-law lived near the proposed route.

Councillor Alasdair Urquhart, who stood down from voting at November's meeting, decided to change tack yesterday. He had been advised by email on the eve of the last vote that he should stand down.

Urquhart said he was "wrongly discredited" and felt that three senior councillors had conspired against him.

Councillors voted 6-6, which left McKay with the final say. He voted in favour of the bridge because of future planning in the district.

Bridge Action Group treasurer Greer Ricketts said she was disappointed with the decision. "It's just not right - they have now decided that ratepayers are going to pay 100 per cent of this bill," she said.

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- The Press

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