Wellington Scoop

Council will tell the government to put the road underground at the Basin Reserve

Press Release – Wellington City Council
The Wellington City Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee voted yesterday to tell the Government it would prefer a tunnel to be built to take State Highway 1 traffic past the Basin Reserve and under Memorial Park.

The committee supported a motion by Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, seconded by Cr Justin Lester, that the Council submission to the NZ Transport Agency should make the point that the Council prefers the planned road upgrade to go underground than via a flyover adjacent to the Basin Reserve.

Earlier this year NZTA asked for public feedback – including a submission from the City Council – on its proposals for transport improvements between Cobham Drive and Buckle Street – including around the Basin Reserve.

The parties to the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan (the City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council and NZTA) have agreed that north-south traffic flows need to be separated from the east-west flows around the Basin Reserve.

Mayor Wade-Brown says a majority of the committee – albeit a narrow one – agreed a flyover and at-grade road through Memorial Park “would rob Wellington of the opportunity to turn this area of national significance into something of which the Capital City could be justifiably proud.”

She says her amendment to the submission seeks that a tunnel be built between Buckle Street and the Mt Victoria Tunnel “to preserve the integrity and heritage of the National War Memorial, the Basin Reserve and Government House”.

The committee also agreed with Mayor Wade-Brown’s proposal to encourage the Government to invest in “good urban design, heritage and transport outcomes for the Capital precinct” that includes Memorial Park, the Basin and Government House.

“We need to develop this important precinct with a memorial park befitting the city’s capital status, not as an area to rush through. Effective transport solutions must be developed in balance with sensitive urban design imperatives for this area,” Mayor Wade-Brown says.

Referring to the flyover option, Mayor Wade-Brown says it risks tearing the fabric and character of the city and will disconnect communities. “Tarting up the flyover option is like putting lipstick on a gorilla,” Mayor Wade-Brown told the meeting.

The Council will now seek talks with Transport Minister Steven Joyce to explain the rationale for pushing for a tunnel.

Committee Chair Cr Andy Foster, who also holds the Council’s Transport Portfolio, says while a tunnelling option would be more expensive than a flyover, Wellingtonians want the best result for the city which means going underground

“NZTA had offered a choice between two flyover options just to the north of the Basin Reserve, and leaving State Highway 1 through the middle of Memorial Park. A flyover was in the short term the cheapest transport option.

“We said the flyover closer to the Basin was the better of the two and we would work with NZTA on the significant mitigation which we believe it would require.

“However strong public feedback and the majority of Councillors considered that undergrounding would give a much better outcome for the city that the transport improvements are supposed to serve.”

“We need to address conflict between north-south and state highway traffic which affects both public and private transport. However this is an area with many features of truly national significance, including the National War Memorial, proposed Memorial Park, the Basin, Government House, and a significant number of Category 1 historic structures.

“The corridor between the Terrace and Mt Victoria tunnels has been blighted for years by the threat of roading works. Wellingtonians have clearly said that roading changes need to respect and indeed enhance this area. The Council agrees.”

The committee also unanimously supported specifically advocating undergrounding the road at Memorial Park. “It just won’t work having thousands of vehicles running through what is intended as a place to remember those who fought for our country, to respect the servicemen and women of other nations, and for contemplation and recreation.”

The committee also voted amendments to the submission that now expresses concerns about the extent of the proposed widening of Ruahine Street and Wellington Road.

“In the 2008 Ngauranga to Airport Strategy we were talking about widening these roads to four lanes. Now NZTA is proposing six and even seven lanes for much of the route That would significantly increase the amount of land wanted to be taken from the Town Belt, and require demolition of many people’s homes on Wellington Road as well as the Badminton Hall. Councillors want convincing that this is really justified,” Says Cr Foster.

Councillors also voted by majority to request NZTA to build a second Mt Victoria tunnel at the same time as any Basin Reserve improvements. They noted that for this to occur it would require changes to the timing of other major roading projects in the region.

Wellington.Scoop’s coverage: The mayor wins the vote