Councillor John Morrison has a dilemma. Should he be making decisions as a city councillor or as a member of the Basin Reserve Trust? His choice has been to look after the Trust, by “going in to bat” in support of the Transport Agency’s plan to build a flyover alongside the Basin.
Yet he stated a different opinion in a comment to Wellington.Scoop in February 2010, Councillor Morrison wrote:
I can assure you I have never voted for a flyover and I certainly won’t be voting for one in the future.
A letter to the Transport Agency written by the Basin Reserve Trust in the same month shows that things weren’t quite the same as Councillor Morrison was telling us. Trust chairman Douglas H Catley let the cat out of the bag in the letter, which has now been released under the Local Government Official Information Act. Writing about the flyover, Mr Catley tells the Agency:
“Councillor Morrison, a Basin Reserve Trustee, is going in to bat for you people to negate negative statements issued by interests against all roads indeed most advances anywhere.”
Going in to bat for the flyover? When he’d said he wouldn’t be voting for it? In a second letter written in April 2011, Mr Catley writes that Councillor Morrison (“a respected trustee” of the Basin Reserve Trust) had led the Council to support the flyover options. “His willing facilitation on the flyover matter is matched by his determination to see Trust policy … applied.” [The Trust says it won’t support the flyover unless the Agency gives it a new grandstand.]
And when the final vote was taken last October, Councillor Morrison did what he said he wouldn’t do – he voted for the flyover, one of a minority of seven councillors. He was no doubt expecting that the Agency would soon capitulate to the demand for a new grandstand. But this didn’t happen.
Councillor Morrison was also claiming that he wasn’t favouring the flyover in October 2010. In another comment which he sent to Wellington.Scoop:
I have never voted for a flyover at the Basin Reserve.
Why on earth you want to harp on about this is beyond me — no group have dedicated themselves more to the protection and enhancement of the Basin Reserve than the Wellington cricket fraternity of which I am very proud to be one of — we have … protected and saved the Basin Reserve from all manners of attack and threat since 1857 — and we will continue to do just that I can assure you.
In January 2009 he had even been optimistic that the Agency might not insist on a flyover:
The Basin Reserve Trust is extremely conscious of the need to make absolutely sure the many values of the ground are not compromised in any shape or form…There are in fact a number of options on the table at present, some of them not including a flyover at all.
Such options vanished, with the insistence of the Transport Agency that – like it or not – a flyover is the only choice for Wellington. And without a grandstand, Councillor Morrison will no doubt be considering whether to revert to his earlier opposition.
A similar dilemma is evident for deputy mayor Ian McKinnon, who is the council’s representative on the board of Wellington International Airport. The airport has angered local residents by claiming Stewart Duff Drive as a private road, and preparing to put barriers across it. In such a messy situation, should Councillor McKinnon be speaking up for the interests of the locals, or should he be defending the decision of the airport company? In the event, unlike Councillor Morrison, he has said nothing. And the Strathmore Park community feel that no one is looking after their needs.