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Unstoppable? How Hataitai would be damaged by a $45m four-lane highway

by Lindsay Shelton
Will the Wellington City Council be able to protect Hataitai residents if the NZ Transport Agency forces through its plan to spend $45million changing Ruahine Street and Wellington Road into a four-lane highway? (UPDATE: when the plans were announced later in the year, residents discovered the Agency wants eight lanes)

It was standing room only at the Hataitai Bowling Club on Tuesday night, when locals began to learn how their suburb could be changed forever by the last section of the government’s roads of national significance. “It will directly impact on this lovely suburb,” said MP Sue Kedgley.

To make Ruahine Street into four lanes, there are only two options. The first: take land from the Town Belt. But this is sacrosanct. The second: take the front sections from all the residential properties.

Isn’t private property sacrosanct too? Not so, said residents from Kapiti who attended the meeting and who spoke of houses being demolished in their area to make way for another part of the expressway. “The process in Kapiti has been anything but democratic… What’s happening to us is what you are in for.”

Would city councilors take a stand in the interests of their citizens? Or would they be overruled by the Transport Agency, driven by instructions from the government? Two councilors walked out of the meeting before it had ended, which wasn’t an encouraging sign.

Green co-leader Russell Norman lives in Moxham Avenue. He said he began to get more interested in the four-laning plans when he realised how the quality of life in Hataitai would be damaged. He discovered that the Transport Agency is being secretive about its planning. It has rejected most of the Greens’ requests for information under the Official Information Act. He had learnt that the planners had been considering six lanes or even eight lanes through Hataitai, but the reality would be four lanes. Yet it was already difficult to cross the two lanes of Ruahine Street to get to Hataitai Park.

“At the moment access to the park is terrible, and it’s going to get worse if a four-lane highway is built,” said a local resident who works with young cyclists in the park, youngsters whose parents won’t allow them to ride to the park because of the dangers from two-laned traffic.

“We need to mount the strongest community resistance that we can,” said Dr Norman. “We need to work together.” A warning which took on added meaning when a Kapiti resident said that “neighbours are pitted against each other” in her area, because of the expressway plans.

Kent Duston of the Mt Victoria Residents Association spoke of noise and pollution dangers from four lanes of traffic. He also discussed the Transport Agency’s failure to consult with his community on the other side of the hill. The Agency had promised consultation two and a half years ago on roading changes at the Basin Reserve – where it wants to build a $51million flyover. But nothing had happened. Except for planning, which was continuing in secret. “They don’t want us to see what it’ll look like.”

Other speakers confirmed that budgets for the “significant” roads were squeezing out expenditure which regions considered more important. Including the Hutt corridor.

Councilor Andy Foster (transport portfolio leader for the Wellington City Council led by new mayor Celia Wade-Brown) said the new council has not yet debated its stance towards the controversial roading changes. But the previous council had signed up for transport planning which included the aim of reducing car usage, giving priority to buses, and improving facilities for cycling and walking. As well as creating a four-lane highway from Ngauranga through Hataitai to the airport.

He acknowledged that traffic growth is decreasing while energy prices are peaking and alternative technologies are being developed. And he warned: “The risk is that we are planning for business as it’s been for the last sixty years. What if it’s not the same?”

10 comments:

  1. Bizziness, 6. April 2011, 14:39

    what happened to light rail?

     
  2. Russell Tregonning, 6. April 2011, 18:53

    The previous Council like the present Government is schizophrenic about global warming. On the one hand promising carbon-reducing policy (more public transport and encouragement of biking/walking), but also promoting NZTA policy of expanding the roading network & therefore more cars.
    Unfortunately, atmospheric CO2 will inexorably increase with this sort of equivocation.
    Talk about a bob each way! Pull up the ladder, I’m on board! ( ie who cares about the kids and grand-kids)
    The ballot box is the only way to solve this. We’ve got to get off the fossil fuels and right now, as a race, vote against intergenerational genocide.

     
  3. The City is Ours, 6. April 2011, 19:31

    The Wellington Airport Master Plan predicts a 60 per cent increase in airport-associated road traffic between 2008 and 2030. Light rail…yeah right!

     
  4. Geoff, 6. April 2011, 19:56

    Four-lane is a great idea and rather overdue. Especially with the new indoor venue being built in Evans Bay.

     
  5. Get on your bike, 6. April 2011, 23:00

    Of the $10.7billion plans for Road of National Significance, very little in the Wellington region has come up with a postitive net cost benefit. (the only real one being Ngauranga Gorge to Aotea Quay).

    Those parts e.g. in Auckland that do show a decent cost benefit should probably be done. But we can’t afford to throw money away on unproven ideas. We either need a better, new, way of decision making, that takes account of emerging trends such as high cost of oil and working at home, OR to stick to the rules of only spending taxpayers’ dollars on projects that provide verifiable public benefit.

     
  6. Robert Miles, 7. April 2011, 17:14

    Stop the Wellington motorway. For $200million, Wellington trams could be restored from the station – Courtenay Place – trolley tunnel – Moxham Ave – Kilbirnie – Lyall Bay – Airport.
    I recommend modern versions of Wellington’s always profitable Fidijuca and Double Standard trams which are small and would fit much more easily into the narrow streets of the CBD and Mount Victoria. My parents maintained that a Double Standard could swallow a massive load of close to 90 people. The tram trains seem to me an unrealistic idea – can you imagine a Matangi unit in Willis Street.
    It seems now with the rail network rebuilt and financed, it would be much more realistic to just restore the historic tram routes in Wellington city. The problem with trams in the l950s was that having three conflicting systems in the CBD – trams, trolleys and buses – caused hopeless congestion. At that time trams had the right of the way, where now the policy would be to give them priority at lights with crossing traffic being held for longer. If the tram system on the flat was restored, the golden mile could be tram and car only.

     
  7. The City is Ours, 7. April 2011, 17:31

    The last tram in Wellington?

     
  8. Phil Colebrook, 8. April 2011, 22:47

    Move the airport. It will disappear in the next quake, anyway, so start planning ahead.

     
  9. Jamie, 11. April 2011, 0:59

    Some useful, thought-provoking comments above, except for Geoff’s people-and-environment-unfriendly 4-lane highway through Hataitai idea. A great movie of the last tram trip – thanks ‘The City is Ours’. Re the Kilbirnie indoor sports centre, the WCC has created a situation where the majority of those coming to it will have to come from north of Mt Victoria, thereby adding significantly at times to the already congested traffic environment of the Basin Reserve, Mt Victoria tunnel, Ruahine Street etc, as well as the Evans Bay route. They cannot then use their original mistake as a reason to attempt to justify creating a 4-lane motorway from the inner city to the airport, etc. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

     
  10. Dr Sea Rotmann, 20. August 2015, 22:41

    This is just really sad, outdated thinking – concreting green spaces over and ignoring the massive peril we all face from Climate Change. The roads of significance to National are not in the best interest of Wellington. Cobham Drive is shown in Council reports as one of the areas with severe risk from sealevel rise. Where will the traffic to and from the airport go if the major arterial route is under water? These infrastructure projects should be built to last 50-100 years, but it simply doesn’t stack up. This Council seems so blindsided by neoliberal ideology, it really isn’t having a ‘smart, green Wellington’ at all in its sights anymore. Hope there’ll be some cleaning out of that old-school thinking in the next election!