Wellington Scoop

The Transport Agency’s threatening tactics

by Lindsay Shelton
Geoff Dangerfield’s letter given to city councillors this week is not the first time that the Transport Agency has threatened Wellington. It’s done it before, but last time it did it anonymously.

Same tactic on Wednesday, except that the threat was made in a letter signed by the chief executive. He’s annoyed that our elected councillors have an opinion which is different from his Agency.

“We are particularly concerned about the council taking a position to oppose the construction of a bridge at the Basin Reserve. This would have serious implications for future transport investments in Wellington City that rely on fixing the traffic woes at the Basin … If the council changes its stance … we will also need to reconsider our support for a range of other transport network projects with Wellington city that rely on the efficiency gains to be delivered by the bridge… Withdrawal of support for the bridge proposal at this late stage may have significant implications for investment in Wellington’s wider transport network and ultimately on the growth and prosperity of the city.”

The letter implies (“at this late stage”) that the council has supported the flyover till now. Not true. The council first told the Agency it didn’t want the flyover in October last year. Councillors resolved that a flyover, and an 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.” Since then, of course, half of what the council wanted has been approved – the government over-ruled the Agency’s plan for a road through the park and told it to move eastbound traffic into a tunnel. But the flyover remains on the Agency’s list.

And a majority of city councillors don’t want it. “It has serious urban design issues,” said Councillor Lester on Wednesday. “The location is not appropriate for a flyover.” But the Agency doesn’t agree. And one of its employees is telling councillors that if they don’t fall into line then Wellington’s growth and prosperity could be threatened.

Mr Dangerfield is repeating tactics which are deplorable and anti-democratic. They were first used in April last year, when an anonymous Agency source told the Dominion Post that unless the council supported its roading plans the Transport Agency could ditch Wellington roading projects and use the money somewhere else. The statement resulted in a headline “$2b for capital’s roads at risk.” The source of the threat turned out to be Alick Shaw, a former Wellington deputy mayor who is a board member of the Transport Agency.

The Agency did not want to release its plans without council backing (said Alick Shaw anonymously), fearing it may “walk into an ambush because politicians are playing silly buggers” by playing with words to “advance personal views when they know perfectly well what the majority view around the council table is.” It was a crude attack on his former colleague Celia Wade-Brown, who supported the roading plans only as options, and who had successfully campaigned against the flyover. His attack proved to be not only misguided but also misinformed, as the majority view around the council table has twice resulted in a vote against the flyover, contrary to the expectations of Mr Shaw.

The day his anonymous attack was printed, we commented:

The Transport Agency’s tactics sank to a low level this morning … The Agency seems to be telling the city that it’s all or nothing at all. Do what the bullying Agency wants, or it will take its money somewhere else. Which is not a constructive way to begin community consultation.

As events have shown, the Transport Agency has continued on the same path. Its community consultation was a sham, offering the city a choice between a flyover or a flyover, and attempting to exclude discussion of other more popular options. Its refusal to reconsider Option X since the game-changing Memorial Park tunnel decision shows a dubious stubbornness. And now there is the Dangerfield letter.

The Agency is living in a world of its own. The real world was accurately described by Andy Foster at Wednesday’s meeting. Referring to the vote in October last year, he said: “We said we didn’t like the flyover, the public said the same.”


  1. Alana, 21. December 2012, 10:46

    This is a government agency, and exceeds its role with this sort of bullying tactic. Elected officials govern, agencies carry out.
    To see the damage this will do to the neighbourhood and environment of the cricket ground check out their own video posted at http://stoptheflyover.com/what-it-would-look-like/

    Please join our efforts to stop this at http://savethebasin.org.nz/

  2. Kakap, 21. December 2012, 13:27

    It is seriously concerning that said Government agency has previously acted anonymously and that this was for some misbegotten political objective. This is redolent of the shocking situation which is now emerging in the U.K. where the police have tried anonymously to get a Cabinet Minister sacked because his policies were opposed to their own self-serving interests.

  3. Nick, 21. December 2012, 22:52

    It’s getting some attention from a interesting blog on Auckland Transport too: http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/12/21/wellington-city-says-no-to-basin-reserve-flyover/

  4. Sridhar, 26. December 2012, 13:23

    They won’t do this without the blessings of their minister and bosses sitting in the Beehive otherwise why is no one from the minister’s office telling them off for all this. So you can imagine who is really behind NZTA’s tactics. If it turns out that the minister is the one behind all this, NZTA may become the fall guy.

  5. Lilian Tahiwi, 9. January 2013, 13:34

    The NZTA’s Mr Alick Shaw has also sunk another independent statutory body as well…in the eyes of my whanau and other registered victims of crime as well.

    I quote…”The issue which you canvas regarding Mr Shaw’s comments to the Dominion Post about transport funding in Wellington City were FULLY DEALT with by the BOARD of the New Zealand Transport Agency at the time. It would be difficult to say that the issue could have not been known or disclosed given the amount of reporting in the newspapers and in online commentary – as you convey” (Dangerfield is referring to me).

    I replied of course to this humbug, it’s long and it is very personal to me and my whanau. At the conclusion of my correspondence I referred to the NZTA’s annual report for the year ended 30 June 2011…

    Page 7: Who we serve
    Customer groups

    1. Individuals
    We help ordinary people make the best use of New Zealand’s transport system – whether they are drivers, passengers, people getting their WoF, licence or registering their vehicle, or businesses that need permits or commercial operator licences.
    2. New Zealand communities
    We help plan cities that are easier to get around; build new highways; invest in roads, public
    transport, walking and cycling in regions and towns; and make the roads safer. We do this by working with our stakeholders. We want our customers and stakeholders to be satisfied that:
    • we deliver services and solutions that are convenient, effective, efficient and that represent good value for money
    • we help them make more efficient, effective and safe transport choices
    • we listen to them and consider their views even when, in the end, we might not provide the answer or investment decision they had hoped for.

    Here’s the one that cracked me up laughing…FRONT UP!! What ANONYMOUSLY?

    how we work
    To help build the effectiveness of our organisation, we have developed three behaviours:
    1. Sign up – We commit to where we are going and we put our heart into what we do. We get engaged every day.
    2. Team up – We enjoy the people we work with and appreciate their talents. We find solutions for our customers with joined up thinking.
    3. FRONT UP – We are courageous. We tackle the difficult issues. We know our value and bring it to our work with confidence and good judgement. Our Organisational Development Strategy focuses on building a high-performing culture, by:
    • developing our people, because what distinguishes a great organisation is the calibre of its people
    • working with others really well, because we engage with a wide range of stakeholders and
    customers every day
    • achieving together, because we need to offer customers and stakeholders an NZTA that is ‘joined up’.

    I told Dangerfield to ‘Eat His Own Words’…He had signed off on that annual report.