Mayoral candidate Pete Rainey’s call for a referendum on the controversial Southern Link has been put to bed, with Nelson City Councillors voting against it at Thursday’s ordinary council meeting.
It was very much a one-sided debate, with councillors voting 10 votes to two, with the absence of Cr Luke Acland.
Not surprisingly, Pete Rainey was one of the two saying yes, along with Cr Matt Lawrey.
Rainey put the call out for a referendum last month, which was pinned to be a simple ‘yes or no’ poll to be included with the postal vote in the upcoming October election, with an estimated cost of $20,000 to conduct.
Rainey said back then that “there is no question that Nelson has a traffic congestion problem”, and he wanted to get a clear view from the people of the city on where they stand. He said a referendum “would be the most cost-effective way to make it happen”.
Cr Eric Davy was the first to give the referendum the thumbs down, saying a poll at this time “would be based on emotion” and “Nelson isn’t ready for it”.
“If the community was ready, I’d say absolutely – but they’re not, because they don’t have the information,” he said.
“It is not our project, it is not our investigation, its being done by the NZTA and they have not completed their findings.”
Cr Mike Ward questioned whether the poll would advance council’s knowledge in any way or give them any robust information, while Cr Gaile Noonan said that, when talking to the community, she found there was “very little appetite for a poll”.
Cr Ruth Copeland added it could “add fuel to the fire” and “polarise the community even further.”
Mayor Rachel Reese, who is standing for re-election, also voted against the poll. She said the votes could end up being a “snapshot in time of how people feel”, with residents being influenced by factors such as the storm water works on Waimea Rd.
“I’m always interested in hearing from the community, but in this case the views of the council are fairly clear that there’s not a strong desire to undertake a poll,” she said.
Reese also said that she had consulted with the Tasman District Council, who confirmed they were not interested in being part of the poll – even if Nelson City Council were to fund it.
Speaking in favour of the referendum, Cr Lawrey said he “wanted to know what the people of Nelson think”.
“I want to give the people of Nelson a say in this issue,” he said. “The idea that people don’t have enough information, I don’t think is correct. People get the idea that the Southern Link is moving the highway and sticking it down the Railway Reserve. They do understand that.”
Rainey says he was “disappointed” with the result. “I think that this result was inevitable. I’m still disappointed that my fellow councillors didn’t see fit to put in place a cost-effective referendum that would have given us the most comprehensive snapshot of community feeling on this issue.”