Wellington Scoop

Issues for 2013: flyovers, amalgamation

For 2013, flyovers and amalgamation will be the two big issues for Wellingtonians.

Flyovers – because the Transport Agency wants to build not only one alongside the Basin Reserve but also a second one. Double the damage to the city.

Amalgamation – because two possibilities are now seeking support. One is the monolithic supercity championed by the regional council led by Fran Wilde. The other – which seems to be supported by everyone else, to different degrees – is for three councils instead of nine. The three Wairarapa mayors have agreed on one council for their region. The Hutt Valley mayors favour one Hutt Council. Which would then enable the creation of an expanded Wellington council extending through Porirua to Kapiti.

“A chorus of positive but diverse voices still sounds stronger than one voice for the region,” says Mayor Wade-Brown in the DomPost this morning. Uncertainty about amalgamation is understandable, she adds, “in the light of contradictory messages from the Auckland experiment.” A DomPost poll of 516 readers has found that only 28 per cent are firmly in favour of a super-city.

As for the flyover. Unless there’s political intervention, the proposal for the first one will move to a resource consent hearing in a few months. The most likely process seems to be a board of inquiry, in which the government chooses the board members who then decide whether or not to approve what the government wants to do. The Transport Agency – which continues with the impossible dream of “mitigation” to make the flyover invisible – is already preparing, expensively. It has paid consultants to write 24 reports favouring its plan.

A pointer to what will happen can be seen in the board of inquiry considering the Agency’s plan to push a four-lane expressway through Kapiti. The hearing began on Monday 12 November and finished for the year on Friday 14 December. It starts again on Monday next week. It received 740 submissions. A total of 56 per cent of them oppose the expressway.

Media coverage has been negligible. But the Environmental Protection Agency has published daily reports, and they’re all available here.

Wellington.Scoop readers have provided many reasons why the $90m Basin flyover doesn’t deserve support. It won’t do anything to reduce peak-hour west-bound congestion from Evans Bay to the Mt Victoria Tunnel. Its west-bound traffic will come to a standstill at the Taranaki Street lights. It won’t do anything for east-bound traffic, which will continue to follow the stop-start route through Vivian Street. It will distract cricketers and destroy the ambiance of the Basin. Its size – nine metres high and 380 metres long – creates significant urban design problems. In summary, to quote Councillor Justin Lester: “The location is not suitable for a flyover.”

The city council was right to decide on a review of the two alternative non-flyover solutions, in spite of the fact that the Transport Agency refuses to take them seriously. But if the Agency continues to be stubborn, then the board of inquiry will be the last chance for the community, and the council, to fight against the flyover.