Wellington City Councillors have been told that a flyover alongside the Basin Reserve will have seriously significant negative consequences. Yet they’re being advised to shrug off these problems, and to support the flyover rather than Option X which doesn’t require an elevated road. Councillors should not agree to this bad advice.
The damage that would be caused by the flyover is described in a report for the council’s strategy and policy committee, which meets on Thursday. The report tells councillors that the flyover (or bridge, or elevated road) would achieve transport objectives but:
It would cut off the community from the Basin Reserve.
It would reduce local property values.
It would change the character of the area and therefore its redevelopment potential.
It would impact on the quality of life of local residents.
And here’s what the report tells councillors about Option X:
It would avoid the negative impacts of an elevated road. It would provide a meaningful green connection between the Memorial Park through to the Basin Reserve and Government House and the neighbouring school precincts. [By putting State Highway 1 into a covered trench] Option X would allow for a more attractive Memorial Park, with additional space, reduced road noise and an improved connection between the war memorial and its park.
The report tells councillors the Transport Agency accepts that the area’s environment and ecology, culture and heritage, urban structure, quality of spaces, activity, visual quality and quality of experience, will all suffer “minor negative” effects if Option X isn’t carried out. Such a weaselly choice of words. Even the council officers find them impossible to believe. They say such an assessment understates the negative impacts.
And yet … Council staff have drafted a submission for the council to send to the Transport Agency in which the Option A flyover is accepted and Option X doesn’t get a mention. Not a word. The report makes unconvincing excuses:
A decision to prefer an underground option [instead of Option A] would require a judgement that avoiding the negative impacts of an elevated road and gaining the opportunity to achieve superior space outcomes is worth the extra expenditure.
The words are clumsy. But the advice is clear. Councillors are being told to accept the negative impacts of an elevated road, and not to aim for superior space outcomes. Bad luck for Wellington and for all the people whose property values will be reduced and whose quality of life will be diminished.
The draft submission blathers about the need for “further mitigation” to address the flyover’s visual and noise impacts and the damage it would cause to its environment. The plan seems to be that the council should allow the Transport Agency to go ahead and ruin the neighbourhood with an elevated highway. And having done the damage, someone will then try to fix the unfixable.
There’s more outrageousness. Councillors are told that the draft submission takes into account community views expressed in previous consultation exercises. This can’t be true – 79 per cent of submissions about the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor opposed a flyover. Worse: no one is taking into account the 2000 submissions sent to the NZ Transport Agency in recent months. The Agency is keeping them secret. So if councillors are unwise enough to accept the submission that’s been drafted for them, they won’t be able to claim that they’ve paid any attention to public opinion. It won’t be the first time, of course.
Perhaps they’re being conned by the risible claim made in July by the Transport Agency’s Regional Director Jenny Chetwynd. She would have us believe that a flyover “will make the city a better place to live.” Surely not even city councillors could believe her.