Wellington Scoop

The mayor wins the vote: the council decides to support a tunnel, not a flyover

by Lindsay Shelton
“No one in Mount Victoria wants the flyover,” said Councillor Iona Pannett. “No one.” And no one at yesterday’s meeting of the Wellington City Council dared to disagree with her. Not even seven councillors who kept insisting that the flyover would be a good idea.

“It is our job to represent the interests of our constituents,” she went on. “Three residents’ associations say a flyover is unacceptable and a tunnel is the only way.”

Amazingly, almost all councillors agreed that they should support the need to put State Highway 1 into a tunnel under the War Memorial Park.

But there were dissenters when Mayor Celia Wade-Brown moved that the council’s preference should be for the road to be put underground all the way from Buckle Street to the Mt Victoria Tunnel “to preserve the integrity of the park, the Basin Reserve and Government House.”

The deputy mayor, Ian McKinnon: “I support tunnelling under Buckle Street. But I don’t support a tunnel all the way to Mt Victoria …Therefore I shall have to vote against the mayor, which is a pity.”

Ray Ahipene-Mercer: “I agree with Councillor McKinnon about the impossibility of this. It’s not going to happen.”

Simon Marsh: “I want an option that works. The flyover works.”

John Morrison: “The mayor’s plan shows a head in the sand. I won’t support it because it’s not going to happen. But I will support tunnelling under the Memorial Park because it would be nice for the centenary of Anzac Day.”

The mayor’s response: “It’s excellent that we have strong support for putting the road under the Memorial Park. But if tunnelling would be good for the park, it should also be good for other parts of our city.” She talked about Option X as an inspirational idea which captured the public imagination. She said councillors should be speaking up for the people of Wellington. She described hopes for “mitigation” of the flyover as being akin to putting lipstick on a gorilla.

And she prevailed. The nay-sayers were outvoted. By eight votes (Wade-Brown, Foster, Cook, Eagle, Lester, Pannett, Pepperell, and Ritchie) to seven (Ahipene-Mercer, Best, Coughlan, Gill, Marsh, McKinnon and Morrison), the council agreed to tell the government that cut-and-covering the road from the Memorial Park in Buckle Street all the way to the Mt Victoria Tunnel would produce a better outcome for the city than a flyover.

Justin Lester: “Our duty is to say what Wellingtonians want. Wellingtonians want a tunnel.”

Andy Foster: “Everyone’s first preference is for the road to go underground. Why wouldn’t we want to fight to get the best outcome for our city? If we don’t, the corridor will be blighted for decades.”

Paul Eagle: “We shouldn’t be giving up. The mayor’s plan reflects the people I represent. They want a park, a green precinct, a tunnel.”

Bryan Pepperell: “The distinctive character of our city is coming under challenge. We don’t want to leave the legacy of a flyover.”

So the tunnel debate was over by lunchtime, leaving the afternoon for councillors to revise the wording of their submission to the Transport Agency. Which will now say the council doesn’t want a flyover at the Basin Reserve, and does want State Highway 1 to be put into a cut-and-covered trench, as moved by the mayor.

City Council’s report on the tunnel decision


  1. Alana Bowman, 7. October 2011, 10:23

    Good news from the Council! Better a tunnel!

  2. Elaine Hampton, 7. October 2011, 12:41

    Perhaps Councillor McKinnon could explain why tunneling / trenching is beneficial to Auckland and not Wellington.
    He has voted against the best interest of his ward.
    ‘That’s a pity Mr McKinnon’

  3. Maximus, 7. October 2011, 15:37

    McKinnon is ever a pragmatist, and doesn’t like to posture or take an idealistic stance on issues. Realistically, he knows that the government has no intention of paying for even a single metre of road tunnel here, but he has missed a chance to advocate for something that he knows would be better for Wellington.

  4. Kent Duston, 7. October 2011, 17:40

    Maximus – Ian McKinnon has also missed a chance to faithfully represent the views of an overwhelming majority of his constituents, which would seem to be a bit of an oversight from someone who is their elected representative.

  5. uke, 7. October 2011, 18:00

    Disappointed that former-cricketer Morrison seems to be such a “head in sand” petrol head who is prepared to sacrifice the ambiance of a heritage ground like the Basin. In our house, he will now be known as “Flyover Morrison”.

  6. Peter Brooks, 7. October 2011, 19:04

    If, as suggested, Councillor Morrison is a head in the sand petrol head perhaps he would be better called Tarsand Morrison in uke’s house. The councillor might quite like the sound of that.

  7. Pauline, 7. October 2011, 21:22

    Councillor Morrison has been called “mystery” for so long, now we know why as he is “uncomfortable” and “disconcerted” with the word “green” and we all thought he played on the “village green”.

  8. The City is Ours, 7. October 2011, 23:58

    Councillor Morrison was the only elected member who refused to declare his interests on the register. It remains a mystery……….

  9. Nick, 8. October 2011, 9:28

    I like cricket, and I think we’ve just seen Mr Morrison’s wish to destroy the Basin for good. There is no way his superfluous new grandstand would hide the flyover, and if the stand is built he’s just ruined one of the best cricket grounds in the world. He should have supported Option X if he wanted something that wouldn’t hurt the Basin. But maybe roading is more important to him than cricket?

  10. Peter Brooks, 8. October 2011, 10:33

    It seems that the council has made its decision on the SH 1 project without reading any of the 2,135 public submissions made to the NZTA. At the Strategy and Policy Committee briefing last Tuesday, Councillor Pannett asked NZTA officials if the council would be able to read those submissions. She was told that she was welcome to come across to NZTA offices and do so. That was two days before the council made its decision.

    Whatever the merits of the decision taken, it appears to have been made without having studied and reflected on the views of those citizens who took the trouble to express a view. On 4 July the mayor promised that the council “would analyse submissions carefully before making a decision on its preferred position in September or October”. It would seem that promise has not been honoured. Perhaps someone from the council will explain why.

  11. Andy Foster, 8. October 2011, 14:32

    Hi Peter (Brooks) – I think the question you ask should be directed to NZTA in the first instance.
    Absolutely the intent was for Council’s submission to be able to be made in the light of public submissions. I was certainly expecting to have the submissions available in reasonable time to consider before making our submission. The number, balance, availability of submissions was one of the many questions I forwarded to NZTA on 16 September. Most of the answers were given only on 4 October at the councillors’ briefing, or on 5 October by email / hard copy. The summary of submissions from NZTA as part of their presentation didn’t give a feel for the balance of public opinion. We did have made available, again very late in the piece, a number of submissions from key submitting organisations.
    A number of councillors are I think wanting to read the submissions in toto. I understand NZTA will also summarise them in due course for public consumption.
    All that said, my feeling from feedback, meetings etc, is that the majority Council decision to keep alive the option of a tunnel from the Basin and under Memorial Park is going to be very much in tune with most Wellingtonians’ desires for our city. I am hoping to verify (or otherwise) that through a survey shortly.

    Warmest regards

  12. Jack Ruben, 8. October 2011, 17:00

    It is a great pity that the debate hasn’t taken place in the few months leading up to the next council elections. If it had, I guarantee about half of the sitting councillors would be replaced. I hope the debate will still be alive by the next elections, so that we can make it an election issue. The question is: are councillors elected and paid to represent the view of the ratepayers, or their own? I firmly believe the former.

  13. The Cat in the Hat, 10. October 2011, 10:11

    I do not like flyovers and ham
    I do not like them they’re a scam
    I do not like them under the ground
    I do not like them hanging around
    I do not want your underpass
    Councillor Morrison can just kiss my …

    Public submissions cannot be ignored.
    Why do the ratepayers have no say in major roading plans?

  14. Ian, 10. October 2011, 12:59

    No one mentions whether feeding traffic from a tunnel into the existing Mt Victoria tunnel will work.

  15. Save The Basin, 10. October 2011, 15:13

    Ian – The current traffic funnels into the Mt Victoria tunnel without anything more than localized and temporary congestion, and traffic growth has been practically flat since 2006 – so what’s the problem?

  16. Ian, 10. October 2011, 16:25

    Save the Basin (whoever you are) I’m not advocating for either proposal as the whole shambles should have been addressed when the ludicrous “bypass” was developed. We have that Roland Sapsford and his army of protestors to thank for the half-pie mess it is.

  17. Save The Basin, 11. October 2011, 8:07

    Ian – No, actually we have the thoroughly incompetent traffic engineers from the NZ Transport Agency to thank for the mess that is the Inner City Bypass. Of course local people were going to object to the stupidest of the traffic engineers’ designs, exactly as they have done over the Basin Reserve. So given the constraints, it was up to NZTA to come up with a practical, workable, affordable approach – which they failed to do. And unfortunately it’s the same bunch of clowns in charge of the designs around the Basin, which is why a few architects and urban planners at the Architectural Centre working part-time on the problem can come up with a design that’s better in every way than the disastrous ideas put forward by NZTA.

    If you want better outcomes around the Basin, then firing the traffic engineers with the proven record of failure would be a good first step.

  18. The City is Ours, 11. October 2011, 11:37

    Opus International is raking it in. The Golden Mile Improvements was a $20.000 desk top task. Not once did they send an engineer to measure or scope the project, until it got to the Environment Court.