Andy Foster’s casting vote stops councillors’ efforts to oppose the flyover

by Lindsay Shelton
By one vote, the Wellington City Council today gave up its fight against Transport Agency plans to build a flyover at the Basin Reserve. Justin Lester had moved an amendment that the council “not support the flyover.” The vote was tied, seven for and seven against. Then Andy Foster used his casting vote to kill the opposition. Observers said the concrete bridge across Kent and Cambridge Terraces will become known as “Foster’s Flyover.”

“I have the joy of introducing this,” said Councillor Foster at 11am this morning when the council’s strategy and policy committee began debating a staff report on the flyover. “I expect quite a significant discussion … The subject is divisive… The debate is about urban design. There’s a big group of people who are antagonistic to the flyover.”

Most people believed that the big group included Andy, the Karori councillor who heads the council’s transport portfolio. In December, he successfully moved a resolution which seemed to confirm council opposition to the flyover. But since then, there’ve been indications that he was changing his mind. And today – he did. When he used his casting vote as chair of the meeting to stop the opposition, you could feel a shockwave in the crowded committee room.

The reason he gave for his change of stance was also a surprise. “It [not supporting the flyover] wouldn’t put us in a credible position in terms of the work we have to do.” He seemed to be harking back to the Transport Agency’s record of threatening the council. He also said he wanted a decision that neither supported nor opposed the flyover because “that’s what we told the Transport Agency.”

If onlookers were surprised to learn that he’d been discussing council decisions in advance with the Agency, there was much more to be surprised about. He admitted that he had talked to the Agency to seek their opinion of the move to oppose the flyover.

“I had a chat with the Transport Agency during the lunch break,” he told councillors at the end of a long and heated debate. “[If we oppose the flyover] there would be a disappointment about working with Wellington city. My preference therefore is to say nothing, so that’s why I’ll vote against.” However he sounded less than certain about his decision. “I’m not a supporter of the flyover but … we have to go with the arrangements that we have. To me, the focus has to be on mitigation.”

Councillor Helene Ritchie responded: “Andy, you’ll be seen as a fan of the flyover if you oppose the amendment.”

And Justin Lester: “If we don’t state our opinion either way, it’ll be a cop out, a flip flop. We will be known as the flip-flop council.” He had received 368 emails opposing the flyover, and only seven supporting it.

At the start of the debate it had sounded as if Andy Foster (“we’ve said twice we’re not keen on it”) was still one of the eight councillors who opposed the flyover in December. But it seems that he now sees things differently: “We’ve never opposed or supported it.” Which was a surprise to those who had taken his December resolution at face value when it stated “the council’s continuing preference to seek an alternative option to the flyover.”

Today it turned out that Andy still agrees with the council preference for an underground solution of roads alongside the Basin Reserve, but he accepts that this is not affordable. He also accepts the staff criticism of Option X and Option RR, and isn’t willing for either of them to be developed any further. “We have to have something that works for all moves. I don’t particularly like the solution, but it works better.” Words which indicated he would no longer be opposing the flyover.

He was less than convincing when he said “the city council has yet to make a final call on whether to support or oppose the resource consent” for the flyover. Because of his vote, the council has made a clear decision. It’s not willing to oppose the flyover. It’s planning to draft a submission “to be based on mitigation.” When everyone knows there’s nothing you can do to hide a 300-metre-long concrete bridge across two city streets.

Read more on the debate
“If the answer is a flyover, then we’ve asked the wrong question.”

Who or what changed his mind?

 

21 comments:

  1. Iona Pannett, 21. March 2013, 17:19

    I’m deeply disappointed by today’s vote. This was the day to send a clear message to the NZTA that the city doesn’t want the flyover and this opportunity was missed. I will continue to fight against this proposal as I have done for the last seven years and know others will do the same.

     
  2. Driver, 21. March 2013, 18:10

    He asked the Transport Agency what to do, and then decided how to vote?

     
  3. John Clarke, 21. March 2013, 18:16

    Foster sold out. It’s as simple as that.

     
  4. Stephanie cook, 21. March 2013, 19:02

    Incredibly disappointing! The systematic destruction of the inner city!

     
  5. Effie, 21. March 2013, 19:03

    Such a shame Foster didn’t have the courage to disobey orders from NZTA!

     
  6. Rufus Sixsmith, 21. March 2013, 19:37

    The council is planning to draft a submission “to be based on mitigation.”

    To allow for mitigation you have to build it in the first place. By not opposing the flyover, Andy voted to support it!

     
  7. Richard, 21. March 2013, 19:41

    As someone who’s been stuck in traffic on Kent Terrace a number of times this week, I take some exception to Cr Pannett’s claim that “the the city doesn’t want the flyover”. While many people might not want it, many people do.
    The outrage around the flyover sounds much like the hyperbole that preceded the bypass, which I don’t hear much complaint about now that it’s finished.
    As for Cr Cook, it’s a bit rich for someone who drives from the Aro Valley to the town hall to stand in the way of people in Newtown and Island Bay getting home a bit earlier, with ridiculous overstatements like her one above.

     
  8. lindsay, 21. March 2013, 19:49

    You must have been away for a few years if you haven’t read all the complaints about the inadequacies of the bypass. Even the Transport Agency (which designed it) agrees it isn’t working. Drivers coming off the new flyover through the new Buckle Street tunnel will face exactly the same problems that exist now – traffic lights and delays at Taranaki Street and Cuba Street and Victoria Street and Willis Street,

     
  9. Richard, 21. March 2013, 19:56

    A good point Lindsay; a pity the opposition to the bypass (Crs Cook, Pannett et al) didn’t let us have the original version that wasn’t inadequate.

     
  10. erentz, 21. March 2013, 20:32

    In this case Richard, more wrongs won’t make it right. And the flyover won’t improve eastbound traffic on Vivian St/Kent Tce.

    I’m a bit disappointed by the attacks on Andy. Has everyone somehow forgotten the other seven sticks in the mud who blindly supported the bypass? Had they been in consensus with the rest of the Council in opposing it earlier, then this wouldn’t have happened. An 8-7 vague opposition is practically meaningless. Consider directing vitriol towards others on the Council who have worked to derail alternative solutions since this all started.

     
  11. BD, 21. March 2013, 21:19

    Shouldn’t it be up to the people to oppose the fly-over, not the council. I am very concerned that the flyover will be built against public will – a bit like what happened in Kapiti when the public was forced to accept the expressway. Shame on you Wellington, don’t stop opposing it. It’s not over till its over. Why can’t NZTA take no for an answer. The council already told NZTA no, but they won’t give in and will keep going on until they say yes, and the council will then do some window dressing tactics to make the public accept the fly-over. How is this democracy, if nobody wants this built in their city?

     
  12. Guy, 21. March 2013, 22:01

    Good point BD – it SHOULD be up to the people to oppose the bypass – that’s why, when the NZTA canvassed opinion on whether “the people” wanted Option A or Option B, a huge majority of people said “neither” and that they would rather have option X.
    But, NZTA didn’t like that answer, so they simply bundled those answers up in a box and refused to count them. They have only released numbers on A & B.
    So, what to do next? Storm the ramparts?

     
  13. Curtis Nixon, 21. March 2013, 22:34

    NZTA should never have been given responsibility for inner city roads in Wellington. That is the problem. WCC should manage Wellington city roads, not a bunch of faceless, grey, asphalt pushers.
    Take the city back!
    No uber bridge!

     
  14. Kay, 21. March 2013, 23:03

    I’m deeply disappointed by John Morrison’s refusal to protect the sport he pretends to love – cricket at the Basin Reserve. I’m disappointed but not surprised because he has made his antiquated views on transport known long ago. I am disappointed and surprised by Andy Foster’s change of heart, I thought he had more backbone and commitment to our city.

     
  15. Kent Duston, 22. March 2013, 7:54

    Richard – You’re right that some people do want a flyover. When the Regional Council consulted on the Ngauranga to Airport strategy (which is when the NZTA first tabled their plans) 87% of respondents said they were opposed to a flyover. Every consultation round since has exhibited similar numbers … well, except for the NZTA’s one, where they refuse to release the figures.

    So in this case the impatient car drivers are in a minority – and it’s a small minority at that.

     
  16. Sambo, 22. March 2013, 9:25

    How many meetings, how much ‘consultation’ does this Council of do-nothings need ? From Day 1, the Mayor opposed every motion, till too late she realised the NZTA were serious. As for the Councillors, rubbish. Just too gutless to make a real stand. No wonder the Wellington public have had a gutsful of this bunch of incompetents.

     
  17. lindsay, 22. March 2013, 10:06

    Sambo: why are you angry? The council has decided not to oppose the flyover. Isn’t that what you wanted them to do? And you can’t accuse all councillors of being gutless – eight of them made a stand against the flyover. But then one changed sides.

     
  18. Trish, 22. March 2013, 11:36

    Good point, Sambo. How much consultation do they need before making a decision? The message has been quite clear – Wellington citizens do not support this flyover. So why does NZTA keep consulting? Just stop. Now.

     
  19. JC2, 22. March 2013, 13:49

    Kent – key word being “respondents”. 87% of respondents. Not 87% of the public. Only 87% of those people who felt so strongly on the subject that they bothered to write – which is usually someone who wants to stop the relevant action. Many of those who support a flyover were ambivalent as to Option A or Option B, hence they had no reason to respond. Claiming to have the majority on your side is drawing a very long bow in these circumstances. In fact, in the latest Dominion Post opinion poll, more people voted for it than against it. I understand that you do not support it, but lets stick to the facts.

     
  20. Kent Duston, 22. March 2013, 13:58

    And in news from Auckland – NZTA has not built the pedestrian walkway they were obliged to construct as part of the Newmarket viaduct:

    “When guests including Prime Minister John Key attended a ceremony last week marking the viaduct’s completion, some were disappointed to find empty land where the Government’s Transport Agency promised a walkway.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/transport/news/article.cfm?c_id=97&objectid=10872540

    This illustrates how hopelessly naive Andy Foster has been. Even if he gets NZTA to agree to some token mitigation, where’s the guarantee that they will ever bother doing the work?

     
  21. Trish, 22. March 2013, 16:57

    Quite right, Kent. Closer to home, those with long memories will not have forgotten that when NZTA’s ancestor dug up graves in the Bolton St cemetery, in the process of building the motorway to the Terrace tunnel, they promised mitigation is the form of a “piazza” linking the upper and lower remnants of the cemetery across the motorway. The government reneged on the deal, and the council settled for the skinny pedestrian bridge in the cemetery and the footbridge at Frank Kitts Park.

     

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