Wellington city councillors will this week have an opportunity to demonstrate pride in their city by voting against the intrusive flyover that the Transport Agency wants to build alongside the Basin Reserve. This will be the council’s best chance to try to save the iconic area from road blight (to quote the DomPost’s headline on Thursday).
Councillors will also have an opportunity to support the Architectural Centre’s Option X, which solves traffic problems without needing a flyover and which gives the city more green open spaces. When Option X was published, the Architectural Centre’s president Christine McCarthy summarised the issues that councillors should now be considering:
This isn’t just about transport. It’s about … what we want the shape of our city to be, and it’s about actively choosing the quality of the environment we live in.
The quality of Wellington’s environment is something that should concern all our councillors, even those who weirdly voted against the word “green” last week. As they’ll know from the DomPost report, the 380-metre-long flyover (which would more realistically be described as a bridge or an elevated highway) would blight a nationally significant part of the city.
The mayor’s commendable opposition to the flyover and her support for Option X is clear.
This is something we’re going to have to live with as a city for decades. I don’t want us to be short-changed… We would be let down by having the backside of a flyover in this key part of the city.
Councillor Andy Foster, who holds the council’s transport portfolio, is also a supporter of Option X, according to the Wellingtonian:
Trenching Buckle St would go a long way to improving the route between the Terrace Tunnel and the Basin Reserve. One of the attractions of Option X is that you get separation of traffic on Buckle St, Tory St and Taranaki St.
What other councillors oppose the flyover? Iona Pannett for sure. Paul Eagle perhaps. But most have stayed silent, apart from John Morrison who talks darkly about the “anti-road brigade” and Ian McKinnon who says he would support “the option which was technically feasible and within the funding perameters that the NZTA has laid down.”
He can’t have paid attention to the fiercely-argued opposition to the flyover that’s come from the Civic Trust. In its submission to the Transport Agency, it says the Basin Reserve roading plan is an anachronistic imposition which is irrelevant to present and future needs. It says an obtrusive flyover would violate the urban design qualities of an area which has been identified for enhancement under the council’s Smart Green Wellington programme.
This was one of 2000 submissions sent to the Transport Agency, in response to its request for community feedback. The Agency seems uncomfortable with what it’s been told by the community – it has failed to provide any summary of what the public has said. However it makes no secret of its own closed mind. This is the dogmatic response about Option X from its Wellington state highways manager Rod James:
It has some fundamental problems related to safety, its affordability and how it would work in practice. This is expensive and the money isn’t currently available.
Take that! Not a mention of urban design.
Curiously, having reported the damage that a flyover would cause, the DomPost published an editorial on Saturday saying a flyover is the best idea. Let’s hope at their meeting on Thursday that councillors don’t make a similarly misguided judgement. They should show a stronger commitment to the welbeing of the city which they represent.