by Lindsay Shelton
The flyover at the Basin Reserve will have two faces. The Basin Reserve face is too terrible to seen by cricketers, so it will be hidden by a new $12million building paid from roading funds. The other face won’t be hidden from anyone. Its ugliness will be seen by everyone else in the city, 24 hours a day, till the flyover is eventually demolished.
Talk of “mitigating” a concrete flyover that’s 260-metres long, 13-metres wide and 9-metres high is mischievously misleading. Local MP Grant Robertson calls it a “monstrosity,” But the Transport Agency has decided that what’s unacceptable for cricketers is perfectly acceptable for the rest of us. Apparently our sensibilities are much tougher than those of cricketers.
The Agency’s expensive conversion to cricket  is perhaps the reason why its huge resource consent advertisement was placed in the sports section of Saturday’s DomPost. The fast-tracking clock is now ticking, with only twenty working days for submissions to be sent to the mis-named Environmental Protect Authority. (Deadline: 5pm on 6 September.)
The advertisement tells us that the Minister for the Environment has ruled that the flyover is a proposal of national significance which is likely to “result in significant and irreversible changes to the urban environment around the Basin Reserve.” Amy Adams speaks the truth with this sentence. But though she has categorised the flyover as having national significance, its worst effects will be impacting on the people of Mt Victoria and Mt Cook. Local resident Dave Shea summarised these effects in a persuasive article which we first published almost two years ago.
by Dave Shea
The damage caused by the flyover will be irreparable. A raised road will dominate our environment. For those of us who live and walk through this area, a raised road will be the worst solution to traffic problems. Once built, it will always be there 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, peak traffic or no peak traffic. The problem of peak traffic flows does not justify such a road.
The wonderful view of Mount Victoria from the Adelaide Road side of the Basin Reserve is a very special element of Wellington and one most enjoyed by the non-motor vehicle traffic that passes through the Basin Reserve to and from work. Construction of a raised road would destroy this vista. The nonsensical suggestion of building an additional stand at the Basin, simply to block out the road and its noise, has caused this whole issue to descend into farce.
This city already has a so-called by-pass which locks traffic into stop-start jams because it crosses several major arteries. A raised road would do nothing but shave seconds from a journey at a very high cost, and then only serve to drive the traffic to the next traffic jam.
I am puzzled that Transport Agency keep referring to “the new Mt. Victoria Tunnel” as though it were some fait accompli. A second tunnel is far from being on the agenda. Reference to such development is mischievous and gives the impression that the deal is done and dusted. If the raised road option were to go ahead, after completion we would still be left with the narrow artery that is the Mount Victoria tunnel.
To resolve the peak flow congestion problem, we desperately need to look at methods other than increased roading capacity for our small city. As someone who often walks around the Basin Reserve at peak times, I am amazed how quickly the peak flow dissipates. We could make the existing roading work for many more years by experimenting with encouraging people to stagger the times that they leave for work and home. A lot of Wellington drivers work in jobs which have some degree of flexible hours. Not everyone has to be on the shop-floor at 8:30am and leave at 5:30pm. Small shifts of even 5 or 10 minutes would mean that traffic would flow much more smoothly through the tunnel and around the Basin Reserve.
Moving the pinch point several hundred meters west of the Basin Reserve is not going to help. We need to work to understand how we can get people to move more freely through existing roading by looking at why we have such acute and short lived peak flows. Building flyovers may look like someone is doing something. But all they would do is ruin our lovely city environment.
I have lived in cities outside New Zealand and I have seen how badly they can be disfigured by knee-jerk reactions to roading. I’ve also seen how local communities can be marginalised by “big-road” schemes. I chose to live in Wellington 25 years ago and I would be very reluctant for it to go down the path of those other cities becoming visually and environmentally dominated by the motor vehicle.
Dave Shea is a resident of Mt Cook. This is a revised version of an article which we first published on October 24, 2011 .