Wellington Scoop

A flyover at the Basin Reserve? The battle begins

Saturday is the day when the government’s Transport Agency will tell Wellington how it intends to change the cityscape at the southern end of Kent and Cambridge Terraces.

The news has been a long time in coming, but as long ago as 2008 then-mayor Kerry Prendergast said, with approval, that a flyover near the Basin Reserve would be part of the plan.

Her successor doesn’t support a flyover. Indeed, the concept has few supporters except for the planners and engineers at the Transport Agency. And though there have been several good alternative proposals, the Agency doesn’t seem willing to consider them.

It does however show that it recognises there’s a high level of opposition, as it keeps avoiding the flyover word in its press releases. The excellently-watchful Save the Basin website has created a useful translation of the Agency’s official announcements, to show what they actually mean.

What the Agency says:
Separating local and through traffic on a bridge around the northern side of the Basin Reserve to improve traffic flows and improve trip times for public transport
What the Agency means:
We’re going to build a massive concrete flyover right next to the Basin Reserve and destroy its value as a cricket ground. And the bus thing? It’s just some empty spin we’re using to whitewash the scheme. In reality, this is all about the cars.

You can read more useful translations here.

Then there’s the international recognition that flyovers are damaging to cities. The Architectural Centre reports on cities all over the world which have learnt their lesson and which are demolishing flyovers and overpasses. It warns of the devastating effects that these structures cause for communities and residents. A message which the Transport Agency refuses to acknowledge.

So how can Wellingtonians get involved with the eight-week consultation process which starts on Saturday? Tough tactics will be needed, to judge from the experience of other areas. This week Kapiti residents have protested at being bullied by the Agency over the expressway plans and flyovers planned for their seaside community, and the same word was used by Horokiwi residents last year after they tried and failed to negotiate with the Agency. Their chair said the Agency didn’t care about the social welfare of her community. Which sounds an alarm for the people of Mount Victoria.

For a start, everyone who’s concerned should be following the good advice from Maximus at Eye of the Fish: make sure your views are heard loud and clear. But that’s just the beginning.

The Agency’s official announcement


  1. Geoff, 29. June 2011, 11:10

    Get rid of the Basin in my opinion. Turn it into a park where everyone can enjoy it, could also incorporate a bus terminus for the multitude of schools in the area.

  2. Tony, 29. June 2011, 11:40

    Well my view is to fix the Basin Reserve traffic intersection properly once and for all. If the best way to do this includes having a fly-over, then so be it.

    Last time the city listened to the same sort of opposition (and probably the same opponents), it compromised in not trenching the Inner City Bypass (and peak hour parking lot). As a result now obviously does not work leaving the area still heavily congested but with worse pedestrian access.

  3. The City is Ours, 29. June 2011, 16:34

    We are with Geoff: a bus terminal in the middle of the Basin, a small pedestrian tunnel to Wellington College and St. Marks School. Reward taxis taking the scenic route to the Airport around Oriental Bay. Start a ferry service from the waterfront to Miramar Wharf with Go-ride parks either side.

  4. Kent Duston, 29. June 2011, 17:59

    Tony – The reason we’re having a flyover forced down our throats is not because it will work (it won’t), but because the traffic engineers at the NZ Transport Agency aren’t smart enough to come up with any better solutions.

    Cities around the world (such as San Francisco, Portland, Paris, Seoul and others) are busy removing flyovers, not building them. Wellington’s problem is simple: we need smarter traffic engineers instead of the current crop of dinosaurs, who are decades behind the state-of-the-art thinking overseas.

    Most of the traffic problems around the Basin could be solved with a few judicious bus lanes, some minor roading changes and staggering the start-times of the local schools. But are the NZTA engineers smart enough to work this out? Not likely.

  5. Traveller, 30. June 2011, 6:27

    Tony is right about the bypass. But he is dismally wrong about a flyover. As Kent correctly points out, there are other ways of solving the brief traffic problems around the Basin. And none of them would destroy the neighbourhood.

  6. andy foster, 30. June 2011, 10:09

    Tony – In respect of the inner city bypass it’s important to remember that there has been a huge change in funding avaiable for transport projects. When the bypass proposal was being discussed in the early 1990s trenching was expected (numbers from memory) to cost something like $140 million and the at grade option that we finally got was at about $25 million. I think the final bypass cost was $40 million or thereabouts, so you could guess the $140 million would have been light too.

    In those days half the money from petrol taxes and road user charges got siphoned off to the Government’s general Consolidated Fund and wasn’t made available for transport purposes. After years of very reasonable lobbying that was changed under the last Labour Government so money raised from transport gets spent on transport. That’s meant a lot more projects – road and rail – have been able to be undertaken. However in the early 1990s that wasn’t the case and I well recall the Environment Court /Planning Tribunal dismissing the request to even keep a wider designation for possible future undergrounding with the words that ‘there is an air of unreality about it (undergrounding)’ based on cost.

    The issue of adequate funding remains a national transport issue given the high cost of RONS (Roads of National Significance), the intended pace of their delivery, and their competing for resources with all other transport demands.

    Warmest regards
    Cr Andy Foster
    Transport Leader , Wellington City Council

  7. Curmudgeon, 30. June 2011, 10:20

    Wellington does not have traffic problems. Rush hour around the Basin (I use it daily) adds about 3 minutes to my journey.

  8. Kent Duston, 30. June 2011, 15:26

    Further to Curmudgeon’s comments, a spot of work with a stopwatch and a car demonstrates that on average, putting a flyover at the Basin will only save 11 seconds of travel time for motorists. This doesn’t seem like a particularly good return for $97 million in costs.

    And just to add insult to injury, the NZ Transport Agency intends putting a new set of traffic lights on Ruahine Street at the entrance to Hataitai Park, which are needed because there’ll be no safe way to cross 4 lanes of traffic otherwise – which in turn means that the current 70km/hr limit will need to be reduced. So getting to the airport will be slower, not faster, and Hataitai residents will have a longer commute because they won’t be able to use Taurima Street to get out of the suburb anymore.

    All of this adds up to a roading project that destroys more than $200 million in value for NZ’s taxpayers, and a sense that the roading engineers at NZ Transport Agency have utterly lost the plot.

  9. Laura, 30. June 2011, 16:41

    Curmudgeon – Rush hour around the basin adds 3 minutes?
    Most of us don’t have a motorcycle, and be assured Wellington does have traffic problems. A few minor changes on the road around the basin will not be as effective as a flyover. At the end of the day, people in Mt Victoria are going to have a different perspective than those in the eastern and southern suburbs on the traffic problems around the Basin.

  10. Traveller, 30. June 2011, 18:17

    Laura is wrong, I’m afraid, and Kent and Curmudgeon are right. Traffic delays round the Basin are minimal. And they’re not caused by the Basin. They’re caused by the bottleneck at Tory Street and by the incompetent lane layouts in Kent Terrace. A flyover will be a bridge to nowhere. It’ll destroy the neighbourhood, pointlessly.

  11. JL, 30. June 2011, 22:51

    I’m failing to see how this flyover will destroy the neighbourhood. I live in Mt Victoria myself, near Courtenay Place, and from what i have seen/heard the flyover options will be built on the site of the vacant buildings on the corner of Kent Terrace and the empty space by St Joseph’s church. This area is populated by car dealers and other semi industrial businesses and on the fringe of Mt Victoria.

  12. Jamie, 2. July 2011, 4:19

    NO FLYOVERS!! Go under, not over, as should have happened with the so-called Bypass. JL seems not to understand the big picture. Other comments are accurate, others not so. The Basin can’t be talked about in isolation and reference to 3 minute delays or so many seconds is inappropriate. I have no understanding of how anyone with any experience of travelling widely around the city at all times through the day – on 4 or more wheels – could make the outlandish claim that the city doesn’t have serious traffic problems. How about 30 minutes from the Newtown shops to Cambridge Terrace, sometimes even at 2-3pm and certainly later? Kent, some valid points, although it may take more than you’ve mentioned. Andy, you’ll have lost most readers. Considering how easily massive amounts of our money are spent wastefully on often bizarre and irrational projects, I’m sure money is available for going down, not up.

  13. Nick, 2. July 2011, 11:03

    Is the mayor’s $60 million cut and cover option still too expensive now that nzta’s most expensive option is $90 mil? Oh I forgot … nzta had never heard of a tunnel.

  14. Tony, 2. July 2011, 12:39

    Andy says “I think the final bypass cost was $40 million or thereabouts, so you could guess the $140 million would have been light too.”

    I would rather has spent $200 million on a bypass that works than $40 million on one that does not. The same applies to the fixing the Basin traffic problems.

    Curmudgeon: I too travelled through this intersection for over 5 years and I can tell you it does not work. It must be avoided at all costs in the evening rush hour when coming from Newtown.

    Even worse, this area, plus the congested CBD, means public transport just crawls and is much slower than car travel.

    It is interesting to see the just released plans from NZTA have dedicated bus lanes right around the basin which will make a huge difference to the speed and reliability of their travel. They may even be able to travel on time !

  15. Traveller, 4. July 2011, 20:06

    JL. Think again about the damage to your neighbourhood. The flyover isn’t just a short bridge. It will be an elevated expressway hundreds of metres long. It will dominate Kent and Cambridge Terraces as its two lanes of traffic crosses above them. It will destroy the area of St Joseph’s, where churchgoers will have cars driving past at the level of their windows. Quiet streets such as Hania Street will be changed forever by traffic above them. Apartment dwellers in Tasman Street will look out at traffic above them. And the planners aren’t even going to bother to fix Memorial Park in Buckle Street – they want it to stay as a park with the road running through it. And with the traffic lights at Tory Street causing exactly the same bottlenecks as always.

  16. insider, 4. July 2011, 20:26


    The cars already go past the windows of St Josephs so no change, ‘quiet’ Hania St has 20 to 30k cars a day go past its end, Tasman St will have the traffic move further away and it will be at the same level. Did you read any of the documents or look at the maps?