Bell wants meeting for bridge

Gore’s mayor wants a public meeting held to decide whether to build a bridge over the Mataura River, but there are concerns some voices will drown out the others.

After a lengthy discussion, councillors agreed at a full council meeting earlier this month to present three options to the public for consultation on a pipeline that needs to be built across the river.

Two of those options are bridges, while one is an underground pipeline.

Mayor Ben Bell said he was eager to settle the matter, which had been discussed back and forth by the previous council for more than three years.

‘‘What unsettles me the most about this is that the [consultation] materials won’t be finished until late March. . .consultation will be done in April/May, so realistically we’ll come back to the same point that we are [at] now in June.

‘‘I’m not going to fall into the old ways of the previous council in delaying hard decisions. I want to make a decision on this and move on.’’

Mr Bell proposed holding a public meeting to get the public’s opinion before the next full council meeting, where councillors could then make an informed decision.

While the idea did get support from other councillors, some were adamant other methods also needed to be used in the public consultation process, including online engagement and survey forms.

Cr Keith Hovell suggested hosting drop-in sessions.

‘‘I think that would be a far more efficient method that allows the quieter people to actually express a one-on-one view.’’

Mr Bell said his concern was that after a drawn-out public consultation process, they could just be ‘‘back to square one’’ if the public were found to be evenly split on the issue.

Councillors agreed to begin the public consultation process, but an update on the process would be presented at the next full council meeting.

‘‘We might get a resounding one way or the other,’’ Mr Bell said.