Wellington Scoop

Which way on the flyover?


by Lindsay Shelton
It’s amazing to discover so much misinformation about the flyover that the Transport Agency wants to build at the Basin Reserve. I had two reminders of this yesterday.

Having a drink with a friend who has an immense range of political contacts and knowledge, I was surprised when he said that traffic would travel in both directions on the flyover. When I told him he was wrong, it was his turn to be surprised. He didn’t know that the flyover will be a one-way road, which will carry east-west traffic only from the Mount Victoria Tunnel to the Buckle Street tunnel.

On the same day, in his survey of the Wellington economy, Pattrick Smellie fell into a similar trap. He wrote about the flyover as “a strip of road connecting the motorway to the airport.” He was wrong, too. The flyover will carry traffic in the opposite direction, away from the airport.

Confusion about the flyover keeps on coming. In February, the mayors of Porirua and Upper Hutt said they supported it because of the need to move traffic through the CBD to the airport. Nick Leggett and Wayne Guppy said the flyover was “the only immediate option.” But if the flyover is built, and if they try to use it to get to the airport, they’re in for a dreadful surprise. They’ll either be involved in a head-on collision. Or they’ll find themselves heading in the wrong direction.

flyover landscaping

As well as confusion, there’s also delusion. Most particularly on the part of the Wellington City Council, which voted by 8 votes to 7 to seek “mitigation” for the flyover. As if anything could hide a concrete structure that’ll be 260 meters long and 13 metres wide, hanging above Kent and Cambridge Terraces.

Progress on the project has been going slowly this year. The Transport Agency was expecting to lodge its resource consent application at the end of last year or early this year. Then there was silence. However as a result of an OIA request, we now know that the Agency’s preparations are taking longer than expected.

The Resource Management Act applications … at this stage are programmed to be lodged in June this year, and will be publically notified.

As for the demand from the Basin Reserve Trust that a new grandstand should be built so that cricketers won’t be alarmed by seeing traffic on the flyover:

The NZTA has not at this stage reached a concluded agreement with any party to build an agreed structure in the Basin Reserve. The NZTA is still in negotiations with the Basin Reserve Trust and the Wellington City Council about the design of the proposed structure and the details of its construction and management.

If it’s built, of course, the “structure” will add to the ugliness of the concrete bridge, will destroy the open space corridor of the north/south Kent/Cambridge Terrace-Adelaide Road axis, and will be a visual blockage just as regrettable as the New World supermarket at the other end of the boulevard.


  1. JC2, 10. May 2013, 8:31

    “of course” ?

  2. Trish, 10. May 2013, 8:47

    JC2. I think the phrase you were looking for is “off course”.

  3. Driver, 10. May 2013, 8:54


  4. m-d, 10. May 2013, 9:14

    “…the ‘structure’ … will destroy the open space corridor of the north/south Kent/Cambridge Terrace-Adelaide Road axis…”
    Except that the Basin Reserve itself already does that, doesn’t it. Don’t be deceived by the illusion of plans. (paraphrased Corbusier)

  5. Ian Apperley, 10. May 2013, 12:01

    An interesting point, I was under the illusion it was West East for some reason…

    Given this Council’s dislike of the car, we’re not going to see anything happen for years anyway.

  6. lindsay, 10. May 2013, 12:10

    You can’t blame the city council any more. It has given up its efforts to get a better result than the flyover. It’s no longer opposing it. All it’s doing is asking, politely, for some “mitigation.” Which is, as I have written several times, an impossibility.

  7. Iona Pannett, 10. May 2013, 21:41

    No, some of us have definitely not given up on stopping the flyover. Agree that mitigation is an impossibility Lindsay. Even The Dominion Post, an ardent supporter of the project, calls it “ugly”.

  8. Elaine Hampton, 11. May 2013, 13:54

    Amazingly we are to accept this concrete monstrosity because it is the cheapest option. (Other OECD countries are pulling their flyovers down as outdated, failed traffic solutions).
    A small mention in an NZTA report (2010) says a second flyover in the opposite direction would be built. How can this be cheaper than brilliant urban design like Option X or Richard Reid’s promo?

  9. John, 16. May 2013, 12:27

    The flyover is a nightmare solution to a problem nobody has ever defined properly. In failing to achieve grade separation when they decided on a “bypass’ option several years ago, WCC consigned inner city traffic to being an insoluble mess forever, and no amount of ‘downstream’ tinkering (like this hideous while elephant of a flyover) is going to compensate for that failure.
    Both votes – the bypass, and the flyover – share a common cause: last minute flip-flopping by the attention loving (but judgement deficient) Cr. Andy Foster.
    Three of the WCC councillors responsible for this attrocious decision to build the flyover are retiring, but the remaining four – and in particular Andy Foster – deserve the attention of “no ranking” from western (Onslow) ward voters come the Local Body elections in a few months….
    Only the concerted effort of mindful voters can eliminate the dead wood from WCC, the way they removed the mayor at the last election – it was the lack of anyone giving mayor Prendergast their second or subsequent ranking that ousted her. Lessons here to learn, voters: despots and fools with large “perceived” majorities really can be deposed…….

  10. erentz, 17. May 2013, 9:02

    This extra delay must be offering quite a lot of hope now that construction will now begin after the next election, leaving open the possibility of this being squashed by a change of Government. I believe construction was originally scheduled to begin sometime mid next year, so it wouldn’t take a lot of extra delay for that to happen.

  11. andy foster, 19. May 2013, 22:20

    Hi John – (16 May) – Not sure of your recollection of history on this one.

    Re bypass I’ve checked with the key officials working on the project at the time to confirm my memory of it. Council was trying very hard to get underground ‘tunnel link proposal’ as our first preference. In those days Transit wasn’t the powerful behemoth that is today’s NZTA, and there was no Govt RONS programme. Council had a much larger role in driving projects.
    However Transit needed a higher benefit cost ratio than could be achieved (in those days the target required was a very tough 4:1, now less than 1 is ok if Govt wants that particular road) and also simply did not have the money. You might recall that it wasn’t until 2007 that Labour Govt went for what is referred to as ‘full hypothecation’ (ie money from transport taxes got spend on transport – rather than approx $600-700 million a year going into the consolidated fund. Consequently Transit wrote and advised Council it wasn’t a goer, and we’d have to look for a surface solution. The Environment Court later recognised that in turning down a request to maintain the necessary (larger) designation should an underground bypass ever be proposed. The Court said there was ‘an air of unreality’ about an underground bypass.

    Council’s decisions were about which at grade solution to choose. The big argument at the time was whether to support a four lane at grade proposal (ie 2 lanes each way) along the Karo Drive alignment. The positive of that would have been to take SH traffic away from Vivian St, the negatives would have been that it would have created much greater severance for north south movement, with greater associated congestion, and would have been less efficient for EW traffic too. (inherently 2 lane arrangements require a lot more complex intersection traffic light arrangements). I did not support the 4 lane at grade proposal.

    Trust that helps set the record straight.

  12. John, 20. May 2013, 14:14

    Cr Foster: No, that does not answer the question. Not at all. As a councillor, you need to have the strength of your convictions. A second rate “solution” is often far worse than doing nothing at all, because it wastes huge money and fails to solve the problem. I reckon it’s better to boldly advocate for the right thing to do than vote to waste untold millions on something that just won’t work.

    -That was the situation with the Bypass then. And people who drive into and out of Wellington on SH1 will agree the bypass has not worked.

    -This is the situation with the Flyover which your vote allowed to proceed this year; in the case of the flyover, it is is a massive environmental insult to our city.

    Environment Court judges are not the arbitrators of what is “realistic” when it comes to motorway design, Mr. Foster! They are even less expert at it than Councillors are. (I know one EC Judge who is a trained molecular biologist, for Gods sake!!). As you will no doubt know, Melbourne was utterly transformed by subterranean motorways. And, anyway, is that not exactly what central Govt is doing right now under Buckle St (just 6 years on)??

    Mr. Foster, your approach is too reactionary, too short term, and too politically motivated, and simply not well enough thought through. Your attitude seems to be that if a proposal is a third-rate one, but does involve untold millions being spent unwisely, then your logic says Yes! let’s do it!

  13. Glenn Kingston, 24. May 2013, 13:34

    The failure to implement grade separation at key intersections has consigned the spine to an everlasting nightmare.
    The second Mt Vic tunnel is now becoming necessary because the tunnel is a storage facility to allow for motorists to negotiate the 8 traffic lights when travelling from East to West. Since most of this roading is not shared with buses, the traffic light synchronisation is a joke. Now we have an additional pedestrian crossing at Essex St, the situation morning, midday & evening is much the same. Since the average speed at this new crossing is near zero, pedestrians have usually weaved between stationary vehicles before the lights turn red.
    The other direction shares the same philosophy with Vivian St & Terrace tunnel now sharing the storage function.
    Planners need to to take initiative & provide the needed separation. The Hutt motorway connections to Petone, Lower Hutt & hills is an example of forming a long term plan & implementing it without the short term flip flops.
    I too was looking for a 2 way solution on the Karo alignment – but sadly this also is dashed. It is hard to see why the underground at the War Memorial cannot proceed through Taranaki St – another example of independently staged projects. Taranaki St is the one area surrounded by pure junk buildings & vacant land which I guess is certain to be lost forever for roading because of the Environment Court perceiving the flip flop “solutions” to be adequate.
    We now have the WIAL runway extension & much more vigorous Peninsula development all pointing to boosted spine traffic.

  14. Sarah Free, 19. June 2013, 10:10

    I’m concerned too about what’s proposed for the Hataitai side of the tunnel. I’m hearing about lights at Goa Street, and admittedly something is needed there (ever tried exiting from the netball/badminton courts, and attempting to go south?). However, a set of traffic lights is just going to result in delays,. which is counterproductive to the whole idea of speeding things up!!
    If we are going to spend this amount of money, I want to be convinced it’s been really well thought through. And that might mean spending a bit more, but making a better job of it.