Editorial: Sign up to compromise

SIGNS OF TROUBLE? There is no easy way out of the pickle over butcher Mark McDonald's street signs.
SIGNS OF TROUBLE? There is no easy way out of the pickle over butcher Mark McDonald's street signs.

Gee whiz, quite a pickle over a few signs.

And the thing now is there is no easy way out for either party, they being the Church Street butcher and the Timaru District Council.

Absolute right is on the side of the council. There is a bylaw and the butchery Mark McDonald runs hasn't abided by it. His failing? Not asking the council if he can erect the signs he has.

Yet he won't be alone in this. There will be dozens and dozens of signs for which no permission has been sought. And when the matter became public, people quickly pointed out some of the council's own obstructions on footpaths, from signs to trees to paving stones.

Yet on receiving one complaint in relation to Mr McDonald's business, the council has come across as being heavy-handed. Sent out six letters apparently, threatening confiscation of the signs or a fine.

Now fair enough if the signs were genuinely a hazard, but they aren't. OK, perhaps the one closest to the corner could be an issue for someone on a mobility scooter, but if it genuinely is, shift just that one. Or lift them all up a bit perhaps.

And Mr McDonald has responded in kind. He's made his stand. He's not going to shift the signs. He's not going to pay a fine either. And he has general public support, because no-one is much of a fan of bureaucracy, and what he's doing isn't unreasonable.

Sure, there needs to be a bylaw. People could just be silly otherwise. Erect whopping great things that you can't walk around. And the council has to be seen to enforce it.

But it also has to be done in a commonsense way. It just seems dumb in this case that Mr McDonald would seemingly comply if he put his signs at right angles against his building. That indeed would be more of a hazard.

There has to be a compromise here somewhere. One where neither side loses face.

The Timaru Herald