Wellington Scoop

It’s not just about transport. It’s about our city and the quality of our environment

However you describe it, the 380-metre-long structure that the Transport Agency wants to build from Tory Street to the Mount Victoria Tunnel would change the Wellington cityscape forever, and not for the better.

We’ve been wrong to describe it as a flyover. It’s much bigger than that. And the Transport Agency is wrong to describe it as a bridge. In reality it would be an elevated highway – which is an approach to road design from the early 20th Century that’s out of favour in most places.

Many US cities have been demolishing their elevated highways because of their negative effect on their neighbourhoods. This demolition took place in San Francisco.

So Wellington is lucky that the Architectural Centre has developed an alternative plan – its Option X solves roading congestion around the Basin Reserve without the need for a bridge, a flyover or an elevated highway. The Centre’s work makes it evident that the Agency has been taking a blinkered approach, thinking only of roads and not at all about the larger cityscape.

Guy Marriage, immediate past president of the Architectural Centre, took a wider view in a statement yesterday:

“Our city is important to Wellingtonians – just remember what we did in order to get a vibrant waterfront. The Basin Reserve area is a key part of Wellington’s future growth, and its redesign needs to consider wider issues than just transport.”

The waterfront comparison is a telling one. Public unrest about excessive construction didn’t begin till the Events Centre and the (failed) Retail Centre were completed – but then it was too late. It’ll be too late for the city if the 380-metre elevated highway is built.

The Architectural Centre’s president Christine McCarthy is also to the point when she says:

“This isn’t just about transport. It’s about the design of nationally significant places, it’s about what we want the shape of our city to be, and it’s about the actively choosing the quality of the environment we live in.”

Option X would cost more, but it will give much more to the city. It not only solves Basin Reserve traffic problems without the need to build a bridge, but also it gives the city more green parks, it provides safer cycling and pedestrian routes, and it trenches State Highway One under the National War Memorial Park. How insulting that the Transport Agency wants a main road to run through the park.

The Agency has set a deadline of Friday for Wellingtonians to tell it what they think. It should be receiving a simple message. Its elevated highway (which it calls a bridge and which we used to call a flyover) is not good for Wellington. It should be adopting Option X. Have you told the Agency what you think? There are two ways of doing this –

§ Email your preference for Option X to info@witi.co.nz

§ Or complete a feedback form at http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/basin-reserve/engagement.html#feedback

Remember the waterfront. It was to late to stop the Events Centre and the (failed) Retail Centre. But it’s not too late to oppose the 380-metre elevated highway.

Read also
More than 1000 submissions so far


  1. Elaine Hampton, 23. August 2011, 11:31

    At $130million dollars compared with around $90million for the bridge/flyover/elevated highway – by the time the add ons are counted ($11million for the ‘John Morrison’ stand and $8million for a clip on cycleway) the difference in price, considering quality, is not so huge. And the BCR for Option X would be much better.
    We do not need our city bisected by a scar like this – has anyone ever seen a good looking flyover?
    Make your views known to NZTA

  2. Alana Bowman, 23. August 2011, 12:02

    How to stop the National government making Wellington – and Auckland – into LA South?
    79% of submissions in 2009 opposed any form of the flyover at the Basin Reserve – yet the government presents only flyover options for comment.
    But if we all make submissions opposing the flyovers and supporting Option X, it may lay the case for court intervention if Transport Minister Joyce insists on his plan to fill the country with concrete and flyovers.

  3. Stephanie Cook, 23. August 2011, 14:31

    While I do think Option X is by far a preferable option to what the NZTA is proposing, we do need to ensure we don’t lose sight of the fact that private transport is not the way of the future. I am certainly not opposed to cars – but with peak oil and climate change and so on, surely we need to be focussing on public transport and not making further concessions to the car. Traffic congestion in Wellington – oh please! Travelling times to the airport – who would even dream of driving to Heathrow? Two hours by car to Moscow Airport, or take a high speed train. Let’s get real about the future.

  4. Traveller, 23. August 2011, 15:20

    We’ll all be waiting to read the Wellington City Council’s submission to the NZTA. Will they be fighting for Option X which will improve the environment of our city in so many ways, or will they opt for the regressive and ugly flyover, with no environmental benefits? Let’s hope they don’t follow the unfortunate example of deputy mayor McKinnon, who inexplicably supports the flyover. But perhaps he hasn’t yet heard about Option X.

  5. Celia W-B, 23. August 2011, 18:58

    I’ve asked the Architectural Centre to present Option X (great name!) to the Council so all of us can see the details. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks good and improves connections and urban design.

    People interested in transport (who isn’t) might note that today the lower speed limits around the northern part of Miramar peninsula came into force – making the Great Harbour Way a tad safer.

    Also, have your say on bus priority along Courtenay and Kent/Cambridge and Adelaide. Mostly clearways becoming bus lanes in peak, but some other changes – comment before 6th September at http://www.wellington.govt.nz/news/display-item.php?id=4557


  6. Brent C, 23. August 2011, 22:32

    At last our decision makers will have knowledge of this proposal! Nice work C W-B!
    Surely Option X is the best outcome. The removal of the Tory Street lights will improve general traffic flow. There is also potential for grade separation of Taranaki Street for a few extra $$$. A nice little carrot and stick to get the road lobby on board.

  7. Michael Petherick, 24. August 2011, 11:55

    I am making a submission that supports the proposed cycleway linking the existing Cobham Drive / Evans Bay cycleways right through to the Basin and Buckle Street.

    This will be a major arterial cycle route for south Wellington – easily the best and safest way to cycle to town once completed – and it is a real plus to the proposals that should not be lost in all of the discussion about the Basin Reserve interchange.

    Some aspects of the cycleway could be improved and I would urge others who cycle from south Wellington to consider the plans and make a submission.

  8. Ian, 24. August 2011, 15:23

    What does the Chairperson of the Federation of Residents and Ratepayers have to say? After all, that organisation purports to represent the citizens of Wellington.

  9. Guy, 24. August 2011, 21:17

    Stephanie, you’re absolutely right that public transport lies at the heart of the viability of our city. Wellington is a fantastic place to live, for many reasons obviously, but also because it has very low levels of congestion by world standards. However, we can’t be smug – we also have very few alternative roads for traffic to flow on, and so when traffic gets stuck, it will really get stuck. So, yes, I totally agree that a good, high quality, high speed, public transport system is at the heart of the future growth of the city – and not cars.
    That’s one of the reasons why the Arch Centre has put solving the public transport route as a primary driver for the Option X. There is a dedicated bus-lane in the Option X scheme, running each way from Adelaide Road through to Cambridge / Kent Tce. We’ve proposed that it runs down the centre of the street, rather than at the edges, which would allow buses to run unhindered, and later, if the need should arise, trams or light rail could use the same route. There are other pinch points in the city – but solving it here for public transport is a major step along the way – and we believe we have a solution.

  10. Libertyscott, 25. August 2011, 1:17

    Option X has some good points, but it isn’t hard to see it wasn’t planned by traffic engineers because it stops several current trips because of flawed design. The voices in support of it look like a kneejerk reaction because people haven’t picked up on it:
    1. Traffic from Mt Victoria Tunnel won’t be able to access Cambridge Terrace. Given that easily between 25-50% of the traffic from the tunnel does that right now, it is a major flaw and there is no obvious way to fix it in this design.
    2. Traffic from Adelaide Rd won’t be able to access Mt Victoria Tunnel other than by a u-turn between Cambridge and Kent Tce.
    Nice attempt, try again.

    As is often the case when issues like this get politicised, some inconvenient facts are ignored:
    It is a one-way 2 lane elevated street, let’s not pretend a highway operates at 60km/h. Talk of Wellington becoming LA South is hysterical. The bridge will take perhaps a third of the traffic off of the Basin and so should ease congestion in all directions, but particularly reduce exposure to traffic for pedestrians and cyclists. It could be the first step to building a proper cut and cover tunnelled bypass, which would make a huge difference to the city – like a similar one did in Oslo – but that was stopped in part because of a blinkered “never build new roads” attitude of the Greens.

  11. Christine, 25. August 2011, 11:54

    Hi Libertyscott
    thanks for your comments re Option X.
    The numbers from the NZTA information on their website suggest that almost no traffic travels from Adelaide Road to the Mt Vic tunnel – the issue appears to be how to get residents of Mt Victoria home. Rather than the current dodgy rush across SH traffic, we are looking at a new route between Kent Terrace and Hania St to address this issue. We agree that something is needed.
    Re: Mt Victoria to Cambridge Tce. Currently 25% of Mt Vic traffic turn from Buckle St to Tory St, and almost no one goes from Mt Vic to Cambridge Tce. Option X removes intersections, meaning these cars would go another block to Taranaki St but it would be quicker to get there.

  12. Sarah A, 25. August 2011, 23:35

    The design of Option X is seriously flawed. If i want to go from Adelaide road to cambridge tce i will have to climb 10-15m vertically then descend that again. The alternative is to cross 7 lanes of traffic. The big sweeping corner at the end of Adelaide road wipes out one of the only decent built corners to the basin, leaving little scope to define the end of Adelaide road.
    The isolation of dufferin st, the left-over ‘park’ space, and the disconnection to Government house is shockingly bad. How do the residents on the corner of dufferin st and patterson st access their house?
    Sussex St is essentially destroyed, footpaths are removed to make room for the extra traffic lanes. It will make access to the properties along there extremely difficult. Traffic backed up from Taranaki st will block the only northbound lane from Adelaide road to cambridge tce.
    The end of kent & cambridge is incredibly bad at ground level. SH1 right outside the front gate where crowds gather is a disaster waiting to happen. I do not accept the proposed pedestrian flyover as a viable alternative ‘front door’, especially regarding accessibility.
    The 2 options presented by NZTA can also work with a cut and cover tunnel under memorial park, although i do not believe this is necessary, i think the traffic contributes to the natural surveillance of the space and keeps it safe. Removing traffic will make it hard for businesses to work off the edges and provide any activity. i travel regularly through buckle st at night and would choose to go up taranaki st with the option X scenario.
    Option X reminds me of a first year architectural project.

  13. Traveller, 26. August 2011, 9:33

    Sarah A thinks that SH1 traffic driving through the memorial park would keep it safe? She thinks that businesses should work on the edges of the park? Well, at least she hasn’t defended the indefensible flyovers.

  14. Christine, 26. August 2011, 9:41

    Hi Sarah. Thanks for your comments.
    The current grade of Sussex St is retained, and the pedestrian/cycle overpass is at the same height. The actual height changes from about 6m above mean sea level at the intersection of Cambridge Tce and the Basin to about 11m (amsl) at the Sussex/pedestrian bridge – meaning a climb of about 5m (half of what you have estimated). We envisage the experience of walking over the landscaped pedestrian/cycle overpass to be similar to that of the city to sea bridge. The corner of Adelaide Rd is kept in later versions of the proposal. This has been a moving feast – so to speak – as we get feedback, and we have made alterations to our computer model which will be the basis of our submission. It’s good to know that you also support keeping that corner intact. You are right that we are trying to encourage people to use the pedestrian overbridge rather than cross SH1, which we think is ill-advised. Regarding Sussex St – we agree that it is tight there – but do not think it is unworkable. Currently there are 3 lanes of traffic and one of carparking, so the road will be slightly wider with 4 lanes of traffic but not impossibly so. I’m not sure what you mean regarding traffic being backed up from Taranaki St. This traffic links to the three lanes of the tunnel so there is plenty of room preventing a queueing effect on Sussex St.
    And lastly re: Dufferin St. There is driveway access where needed – but no through traffic in Dufferin Park. This is also discussed on the Option X website (www.architecture.org.nz/basin) where there are diagrams/images explaining the provision for drop-off areas for schools and access to Government House and other residences. Thanks for your comments – if you have others please post them – either here or at the Architecture Centre website. The more feedback we have the better we can make our submission.

  15. Jim Candiliotis President FWPRA, 27. August 2011, 17:13

    In response to Ian – The Federation of Wellington Progressive and Resident Associations has never purported to represent the views of the citizens of Wellington. What we do do is act as a warehouse of information; assist Resident and Progressive Associations in general in their day-to-day business; and assist and arrange meetings and workshops, in the hope more citizens become involved in their local Associations. We also do our best to ensure that policy, processes and procedures are consistent with the LGA and best practice.
    We leave it to individual Resident Associations to represent the views of their communities. Some are successful, some aren’t.

    We have a meeting of the Federation next Tuesday 30th August at 7.30pm in Meeting Room 1 at the WCC . Ian, you’re more than welcome to attend.