Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Council closes scenic Ocean Drive again

Otago Daily Times By David Loughrey on Wed, 7 Oct 2009

John Wilson Ocean Dr was closed by the Dunedin City Council again last night, and will not reopen until a final decision is made on how to make the area safer. Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin said yesterday the closure was in the interests of public safety, and at the request of Dunedin-Clutha police area commander Inspector Dave Campbell, and "other experts who have advised council as to the risks in leaving Lawyers Head unprotected". The road was closed in 2006 for the construction of the Tahuna outfall, and deaths in the area ceased. Last month, the council decided to open the road on weekdays, during daylight hours, but leave it closed at weekends.

Resource consent for a security fence at Lawyers Head was to be sought, while use of the area was monitored for three months.

On September 24, police recovered a body from the area, a death that was referred to the coroner. Insp Campbell said at the time police would speak to the council about any issues arising from their investigation.

Mr Chin said: "The Dunedin City Council is currently exploring ways in which to secure the headland, and the gates will remain closed to all vehicle access until a suitable, acceptable solution is arrived at."

Yesterday I drove up John Wilson Drive for the first time in over three years.

Photo above: from the top of the cliff. Photo Below, the last shot I took of the same view three years ago before the drive was closed. ( note the erosion in the dunes.)

I was driving up there last week when I had to pull over before I got to the gates to let an ambulance fly past, then another, and 6 police cars, a firetruck.. then the search and rescue truck. Unfortunately a 46 year old man decided to end his life by jumping off Lawyers Head.

Suicide rates from jumping off Lawyers head had ceased completely since the drive was closed three years ago. This new suicide/death put the council back into reconsider mode about opening the drive to cars. My opinions below with no offence intended to the recently deceased man or previous deaths off the head in the last decades.

Whats the correlation between car access and deaths? can a jumper not just walk around the fences? too much effort to walk? or do they think the stigma of jumping off lawyers is more of legacy for their last act?

Obviously those Dunedinites whom have committed suicide in the last three years have found alternative ways of finishing their lives, than jumping off Lawyers head.

Surely the overall suicide rate has not lowered in Dunedin due to Lawyers head being inaccesable to cars? I'd be interested to know the statistics.

How can making the area 'safer' stop future deaths?

What are your thoughts?

Update 9th October 2009

Balancing wants article ODT Thu, 16 Apr 2009

6 October 2009 Statement from Mayor of Dunedin Peter Chin.

I have today instructed the Chief Executive of the Dunedin City Council, Jim Harland, to close the gates on John Wilson Ocean Drive until further notice.

I am doing this in the interests of public safety and at the request of the District Police Commander, Inspector Dave Campbell, and other experts who have advised Council as to the risks involved in leaving Lawyers Head unprotected.

The Dunedin City Council is currently exploring ways in which to secure the headland and the gates will remain closed to all vehicle access until a suitable, acceptable solution is arrived at.


wayne on 07 October, 2009 15:57 said...

This is a joke, If people want to top themselves or get up to any other hijinx they are going to find a way. Would they shut the Esplanade if something similar were to happen, I think not.

Anonymous said...

Obviously people didn't find a way !
the seals and penguins are loving the fact people are too lazy to walk and now so are the cops and ambos who don't have to scrape people off the rocks can't you just be happy for them?
why is the loss of vehicle access such a loss? legs don't work? :)

Anonymous said...

a few months ago, dr skegg stated that one of the worst things regarding this whole issue was to publicise it. an issue arose over easter where the ODT published an article where they detailed with the road closure how access to the headland could be achieved. tis not rocket science but i think the ODT should be more responsible in their reporting and make an effort to keep this out of the press.


Anonymous said...

The decision to reclose the gates again is just so disappointing. This on top of what was a ridiculous proposal to close the gates an hour after sun rise & before sun set (as well as at the weekends) in the first place, just goes to show the people who make these decision do not utilise this area at all (if they had to do this why not an hour before sunrise & an hour after sunset???). I live within a block of John Wilson Drive & surf st kilda on a nearly daily basis. I also regularly walk up to JWD with my dog as well as going for runs around the head for exercise. I admit it has been nice to walk/run the section without having to be concerned with getting run over but there are hundreds of other places I could take my dog or go for a run. Three nights in the past week I have seen people with their vehicles get trapped by the gates being closed on them. Worst of all, 1 night it was a couple of tourists who had no idea the gates would be closed. They were totally gutted & embarrassed about having to call Chubb Security to let them out while other people looked on unable to help. My wife talked to them & they said they hadn't even seen the sign about the closing "times", which is hardly surprising given that they are almost too small to notice even if you're looking for them. What kind of experience is this for someone visting our fine city?? I believe that Lawyers Head is a treasure that we should be free to enjoy, and yes some people's legs DON'T work! This is again a case of the majority being penalised for the actions of the minority. Sure people will jump of there, it is a sad fact. But they have made a choice to do that, and could just as easily choose several other equally effective means to end their life. If you jump off a cliff that high, it is not a cry for help, it is pretty final. I don't want to be disrespectful but I am tired of seeing poor decisions being based on flawed reasoning. JWD should be opened so it can be enjoyed by all - Dunedinites & non-Dunedinites alike.


nic on 08 October, 2009 08:59 said...

a number of excellent posts, summing up exactly how I feel.
Would the council listen to a petition?
If they didn't then there are serious flaws in the decision making process within the council, but most of us know that anyway.

Anonymous said...

Maybe its as simple as building a stadium at the end of JWD DCC.

Anonymous said...

wouldn't work as part of the thinking behind the Awatea St location is that it is 1km closer to the city....


Anonymous said...

Sorry it was a joke

wayne on 09 October, 2009 11:02 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wayne on 09 October, 2009 11:03 said...

Dear Anonymous #1, My Sons legs don't work as a matter of fact. His wheelchair does however, and the few times we are able to get out and about at St Clair along the Esplanade he thoroughly enjoys it. To try to push him to see the "wild life" via two kilometres of soft sand is far from ideal. I have only every seen penguins a handful of times during surfs. I suppose you endorse people walking their dog along the beach and let them run free too! On another note, I personally would rather the boy racers take to JWOD at nights, rather than the street outside my house? you may enjoy the procession of car enthusiasts drifting past. I however do not!

Anonymous said...

No suicides! Perhaps the fact of a long walk in the fresh air with the waves breaking and breeze blowing in ones face is enough to make one believe that life is not that bad after all.

Martin said...

I'm not sure if it's a bad thing to prevent vehicle access...going by the other comments pedestrian access is a must at least. As per usual, our dim-wit Council makes a simple situation difficult with poor notification and signage. Maybe a petition to get JWD reopened...OR how about a pedestrian/cyleway that goes from St.Clair to the lookout at JWD? Now that would be a great asset that may encourage even more people than a new stadium would?

nic on 10 October, 2009 10:42 said...

very good point Martin re: the cycleway walking track from st Clair to lawyers head.

When I was in New Plymouth the other week, I was most impressed with the boardwalk causeway for pedestrians and cycles that ran a 6k length along the coast between the city and the sea.
It was so well utilised by the public with t a steady stream of walkers runners and bikers, great to see the youth out exercising, and the elderly.

I think something like this would be a great asset to Dunedin along the coast. There is something similar already along the Otago harbour which they are looking to extend.
And I believe there is a proposed walkway from St Clair to Blackhead which will go past Cargills castle and Tunnel Beach.

Only problem I see at this stage for one along Ocean Beach is the issue of the new dune management plan and erosion issues.
If the proposal was included in the long term management plan, great!
Although there would be long lengths where the walkway could not be close to the dune system, and have to bend around the playing fields, I am definately against anything that encroaches upon a functioning dune system.
It also might have to compete with areas where the ocean beach railway has tracks are laid down.

I agree it would be great to get people out of their cars and back in their environment keeping fit.

Anonymous said...

Martin, Nic, this idea has a lot of merit. The proposed walkway/cycleway would be a great asset to this city. Linking Lawyers Head to St Clair (or maybe even Smaills all the way to Black Head??!!) would create a fantastic recreational facility with potential for tourist-related economic spin-offs. As I am dependant on the dunes to protect my house from the might of the ocean, I agree Nic, protecting the dunes is crucial & a project such as this should not compromise that. I see no reason (other than cost & opposing public opinions) why this proposal could not also include retaining the vehicle access along JWOD as with many other causeways/boardwalks around the world. The road & parking would be alongside the boardwalk & be peppered with speedbumps to prevent people driving too fast. Speed of vehicles could also be limited to 20kph or something. One of the reasons I feel so strongly about car access to JWOD is that for 75% of the year the weather is so cold or windy that people just don't go there (except in their cars). The place is almost completely devoid of any walkers/runners/bikers the majority of the Autumn/Winter/Spring. However with vehicle access people can still drive there, sit in their cars & enjoy the fantastics vistas JWOD offers. Nothing better than sitting up there in a storm, warm in your car, watching the rain drive up the coast over St Clair hill & on across the city! I think there is a solution in here to satisfy all parties, it's just a matter of cost. However I believe that the potential social, economic & health benefits of such a plan may be sufficient to pursuade most people. We just need the right people to band together & come up with a viable solution.
PS A couple of strategically placed piers wouldn't go astray either!! Man I miss the pier!! :(

Martin said...

Yeah, love those days watchin the weather in the car at John Willy! I totally agree with the dune protection and see a boardwalk can assist with this, there are so many options along that stretch and starting at a point from St Clair to JWD could be the beginning of a walk that encourages native planting around areas where the track is taken away from the dunes so that in time you have a coastal bush 'reserve'. $$$ tho, however as part of a sustainable erosion control system, surely required and therfore viable, especially if promoted properly. May I suggest even more of an asset than a particular themed garden?! As a coastal resident too I think a long term plan needs to be mooted, rather than stop-gap measures applied like soggy band aids. Wow, i'm getting a bit emotional here - sorry, but thanks for the feedback. And may I add, big ups to you Nic for a fab site and thanks for the beautiful energy you put into this. Keep up the top work!


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