Wellington Scoop

Flyover – condemned by Agency’s experts

by Lindsay Shelton
What answer would you expect if the Transport Agency asked its experts to assess the Basin flyover plan? Such a request was made – the Agency asked its specialist project team to assess nine aspects of the flyover. Their judgement is surprising: the flyover proposal gets a negative mark for seven of nine categories.

Here’s how the Transport Agency’s specialists rate the effects of the flyover:-

Ecology – minor negative
Archaelogy – significant negative
Air quality – minor negative to insignificant
Noise – minor negative
Built heritage – severe negative
Urban design and landscape – minor to moderate negative
Urban design (peer review) – moderate negative
Social impact – minor positive
Transport – significant positive

These ratings are detailed in a report dated last August which we’ve found on the NZTA website. Not surprisingly, the report needs to seek other areas which it can use as justification for building a flyover.

Would you believe that the project will result in a reduction of traffic flows … around the Basin Reserve? Well, no. The report actually says: “The project will result in a reduction of traffic flows at street level around the Basin Reserve.” (My emphasis). All the traffic will still be there, but lots of it will be up in the air, more visible and audible for everyone. Sounds like another negative.

Then there’s the issue of travel time variability. (Don’t you worry about this every day …) The report promises “a 40 per cent reduction in travel time variability” for westbound traffic on the flyover. There’s more. Up to a 30 per cent reduction in travel time during peak periods. (My emphasis, again. It’s a bit like this week’s sale advertisements, offering “up to” 50 per cent reductions on everything. ) The report doesn’t explain how this will happen, except that it promises “optimising” of the intersection with Taranaki Street and Karo Drive. Work that out, when there’ll still be traffic lights at this bottleneck. And at Victoria Street, and Cuba Street, and Willis Street. The promise makes more sense if you remember that “optimising” means “to make the best of …” As in a bad job.

The report promises 80 per cent less traffic passing the southern gates to the Basin Reserve. (That’s a way of estimating the amount of traffic which will be travelling nine metres above the ground on the flyover.) It also promises to save 45 seconds for buses travelling between Kent Terrace and Adelaide Road. Which hardly seems to be a gain, when the city council has been working all year to slow down buses, rather than to speed them up.

The report does, however, acknowledge some problems.

It says there needs to be “further consideration” to minimising the impact of the bridge structure on views down Kent and Cambridge Terraces, and minimising the impact on the Basin Reserve heritage area. As we wrote last year, this is an impossible dream.

It also wants more consideration of developing the streetscape around the Basin Reserve “in a way that respects and celebrates its historic significance.” It doesn’t however make any claim that the flyover will either respect or celebrate that historic significance.

Read also:
The Basin Reserve, John Morrison, and the flyover


  1. Trevor, 7. January 2013, 22:15

    Interesting reading. I would like to highlight two aspects. Firstly the category “Social Impact”- minor positive. I would like to see what criteria their design team considered and the weighting. The strong negatives to me would be the 8 metre wide structure and the shade/dark corners this causes, the graffiti it would encourage, the crime it would encourage under the structure, the eyesore from the Kent Tce sightlines, and the noise and visual aspects from the Basin Reserve esp during cricket games. I cannot think of many strongly positive aspects to balance against this.

    Secondly, the optimisation of traffic lights on the route esp at Buckle/Taranaki. Why is this not optimized now? The same traffic will flow across this intersection. Already the traffic flowing north along Wallace Street severely backs up, allowing priority to East/ West traffic. This can only worsen with “optimization”. Similar arguments apply to the Karo/ Victoria intersection

  2. Alana, 7. January 2013, 22:59

    Excellent analysis!
    If the NZTA review finds the flyover unsustainable why does it persist?
    Other options exist that won’t leave us with a concrete wall, noise, grit and fumes drifting down on us, and a concrete wall beside the Basin Reserve.

  3. traveller, 8. January 2013, 9:24

    I agree with Trevor. How could anyone claim that a flyover would create a “minor positive” social impact?
    The prospect of flyovers in Kapiti has caused widespread dismay in those quiet seaside communities. It’s equally distressing to think that there could be one in the middle of Wellington.

  4. Resident, 9. January 2013, 19:31

    Social impact: – minor positive:
    As one who lives and works here I cannot think of a positive.
    What criteria do they use?

  5. Trish, 10. January 2013, 11:25

    As I read the reports, the “minor positive” impact of the bridge is that, as perceived from the ground level footpath, the sound of traffic on the bridge would be less than if the traffic was “at grade”. No recognition of the fact that sound from the bridge would carry further into the neighbourhood, nor that the cars would never be traveling 50km/h as they came down from the tunnel. But what would we know, these guys are the “experts”.

  6. Elaine, 10. January 2013, 11:59

    It is shocking that NZTA does not listen (or are not allowed to listen) to their own experts both in regards to the flyover and the Kapiti Expressway. In 2009 the current route of the expressway was rejected by NZTA as being too disruptive. Their own hired firm, BEKA, also stated (via a leaked document) that the benefit cost for the Kapiti Expressway ratio was .2! A BCR of 1 means the costs and benefits are about equal. Of course Brownlee’s response was that BCR does not really matter. Who benefits from all of this massive expenditure on roads??

  7. Kahu, 10. January 2013, 16:54

    The NZTA bully local and regional councils and communities into having roads they don’t want (eg the recent threats made to Wellington council about the overpass). The NZTA either don’t listen to the views of communities at all, or they pretend to listen and and then do whatever the hell they like. Examples of this are the ‘accidental’ cutting down of native forest on the Tasman highway, and the failure to include the planned cycleways and fish runs (and then having to add them at much greater expense, only after the public kicked up enough of a fuss). The NZTA have had too much funding, and too little accountability, for too long. They, and the members of the current Govt, have breathed in too many exhaust fumes over the years and forgotten that there is more to life than highways and dollar signs.