by Lindsay Shelton
“If the answer is a flyover, then we’ve asked the wrong question,” said Mayor Celia Wade-Brown during today’s four-hour council debate on roading changes at the Basin Reserve.
“There’s a big group of people who are antagonistic to it… We’ve said twice we’re not keen on it,” said Councillor Andy Foster, whose casting vote succeeding in stopping the council from continuing its opposition to a 300-meter-long bridge across Kent and Cambridge Terraces.
A resolution drafted by Andy had originally included a clause “that the council does not support the flyover.” These words were deleted before the meeting began. They were then put back into the discussion by an amendment from Johnsonville councillor Justin Lester.
“I’ll support roads but I won’t support the flyover, which is yesterday’s solution to tomorrow’s problems,” said Justin Lester. He said roading congestion was caused by the single Mt Victoria Tunnel, and wouldn’t be solved till the second tunnel is built in 2022.
For a while it seemed as if there’d be a continuation of the eight votes against the flyover which were recorded in December. But then Councillor Foster pulled out of the group. He not only voted against the Lester amendment, but when the result was a 7 – 7 tie, he used his casting vote to ensure its defeat.
Mayor Wade-Brown was one of the seven who voted that the council “does not support the flyover.” She spoke of unwelcoming spaces under the concrete structure, and said she wouldn’t want to cycle on the overhead cycleway in a strong northerly. “A flyover will be there for a hundred years,” she warned.
Paul Eagle memorably asked: “Will the flyover make Wellington a smart capital? Will it be the yellow brick road to Wellington’s prosperity. Will it lead us to the emerald city? It’s important that we send a strong signal opposing it. Wellingtonians are smarter than this. Residents have said no.”
Ray Ahipene-Mercer offered a strangely contrary view. “What makes a great city?” he asked. He answered his own question: “London and New York are festooned with flyovers. No one is saying take them down to make a great city.” Ian McKinnon also asked what makes a great city. His answer: “A sense of place, pride in it, and the ability to get around easily.” He left the meeting early, and was unable to record his vote against the flyover.
Jo Coughlan had a novel opinion. Anyone who was anti-roads, she said, was also anti-family. Why? Because families have to be able to make choices. There was a reference to her driving her children to swimming lessons.
Helene Ritchie said the flyover was “preposterous, ridiculous.”
Two councillors recalled being involved in the unsuccessful campaign to stop the bypass.
Stephanie Cook: “Those opposing the flyover massively outnumber the handful who support it.”
Iona Pannett: “The flyover is not going to solve the problems. It’s a small part of the puzzle…I am disturbed that council staff used the words ‘smart green capital’ about the flyover. I have serious concerns about the staff report and am disappointed in some of its conclusions…And we have no assurance that the flyover can be mitigated.”
She specified what’s in store for Mt Victoria residents if the flyover is built: severance, noise, and dead space.
For the flyover:
Andy Foster, Jo Coughlan, Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Simon Marsh, Leonie Gill, John Morrison, Ngaire Best.
Against the flyover:
Celia Wade-Brown, Justin Lester, Paul Eagle, Bryan Pepperell, Iona Pannett, Stephanie Cook, Helene Ritchie.
Casting vote for the flyover: