Wellington Scoop

“Shocked and furious;” Helene Ritchie opposes use of town belt land for flyover

Wellington city councillor Helene Ritchie has today taken the unusual step of releasing a letter which she has sent to the council’s chief executive Kevin Lavery. In the letter, she expresses concern about the Basin flyover plan which she says would take Town Belt land to use for a pillar of the flyover. She says this would be contrary to a council decision.

To: Dr Lavery CEO Wellington City Council
Dear Dr Lavery,

I am in receipt of a Report 5: Basin Bridge Project Proposal which is to be voted on by the Council tomorrow 22 August.

There has been no more serious action this triennium or maybe ever on Council, which quite frankly shows callous disregard for and disrespect of Council, Councillors, our forefathers who established the Town Belt, the public and the Town Belt itself.

I am shocked and furious to see Recommendation 9 which in effect if passed, and then acted upon, nullifies a clear Council decision regarding protection of the Town Belt. Further, it causes in effect : causes precedent for future protection, undermines the future protection of the Town Belt, undermines future legislation (Council has decided on the drafting instructions for the Bill) which will add land to the Town Belt; undermines all the work that Council has done to protect and enhance the Town belt for future generations ( this triennium; undermines the role of Councillors as Trustees of the Town Belt; undermines the Deed protecting the Town Belt.

It also undermines submissions made by the public – and there were some 260 of them, that process of hearings and decision-making, the democratic process of decision-making and democracy itself.

Council cannot make such a U-turn on the protection of the Town Belt.


It is bound to draw legal challenge and should.


1. On 27 June 2013 Wellington City Council made a very clear and unanimous decision ..which said, “..That there be no voluntary agreement with the Crown over land taken compulsorily under the Public Works Act as that would be contrary to Council’s (Town Belt) trustee obligation.”

2. An attempt was made at Council and prior at the Town Belt subcommittee hearings meetings, by Councillor Foster, to delete that. That attempt failed and was significantly lost on the vote by his colleague councillors.

3. I am concerned that this report written by officers, and clearly approved by the Chair/ and Portfolio leader Councillor Foster – both in public statements and evidenced in the documents attached to the report recommends that Council note (ii that it is able…to consent to part of the Canal Reserve (i.e. Town Belt) being able to be declared road.”

4. This is clearly contrary to Council’s decision and no one has authority to do or to say this or to note this.


If any councillor is of a mind to revoke the unanimous resolution and decision of Council on 27 June 2013, to protect the Town Belt then there are processes to do that. I would not support that but the processes exist.


Some have argued that no mitigation can be possible for a huge concrete structure attracting more traffic, with dubious (stated) benefit even to traffic, with future detrimental climate change implications… Others have argued that it can proceed and the impact can be mitigated.

Further it has been argued that the piece of land being taken on the Canal Reserve is small. But the impact is hugely significant directly on the Canal Reserve itself. If the report is to be understood, the green space there may well be diminished in size for further roading and the remainder may be replanted…but it is already a green space.

Perhaps more relevant is that this piece of Town Belt land is pivotal to the entire Flyover project – because presumably the pillar which needs to rest on this Town Belt land is essential to the newly named (bridge)-flyover project and that if the project is to proceed there should be substantial compensation for the City..


In the meantime, I am asking you to ensure that Recommendation 9 properly reflects and states (and does not by implication revoke in any way), the Council decision (as above) regarding the Town Belt.

Please assure me and my colleagues who made their unanimous decision as a Council of the Capital City proud and wanting to protect the Town Belt; that that the wording will be changed to correctly reflect the Council’s resolution.

Because of the significant impact on the future of Wellington and the unanimous decision of Council, I am circulating this letter to the public.

Kind regards
Helene Ritchie
Wellington City Councillor
Portfolio Leader Natural Environment


  1. Pauline, 21. August 2013, 19:46

    Well said Helene – thank you.

  2. Wellington Commuter, 22. August 2013, 8:32

    Helene, what do you think of the need to take a strip of town belt land to give buses their own dedicated lanes to and from the Mt Vic Tunnels under the recommended Bus Rapid Transit Option?

  3. Cynical, 22. August 2013, 10:38

    Roll on October, time to roll Helene from Northern Ward. Time for a fresh face on the council who understands that occasionally you need to build things in order for a city to grow.

  4. Maximus, 22. August 2013, 21:06

    Helene Ritchie has just signed her own death warrant with this outburst of histrionic silliness. No one gives a toss about a couple of square metres of grass being used for a concrete bridge support – the big issue is the flyover itself, not just a pillar. I’m embarrassed that a City Councilor can go off her handle so badly over this issue – and the real land grab from the Town Belt is still to come – next Resource Consent will be for the 6 lane expressway through the grass on the other side of the mountain. That’s the real battle for which Helene should be gearing up for, not this insipid little patch of dirt.

  5. CC, 23. August 2013, 7:52

    Maximus has made a good point but there is some background that deserves consideration. The Town Belt was established in 1873 with its own protective legislation that has variously been abused and disregarded, especially by successive governments and Councils. Recent councils have attempted to recover ‘lost’ land, but have been inconsistent and even fought in Court against Action for the Environment when it attempted to establish primacy of the Town Belt Deed. Councillor Ritchie has invested a great deal of energy in trying to see that the residents of Wellington legally retain the Town Belt so it is hardly surprising that she has reacted to ‘a couple of square metres of grass being used for a concrete bridge support’. Besides, the loss of the Town Belt starts with the first couple of metres.

  6. Maximus, 23. August 2013, 11:13

    CC – thanks – and yes, I agree that Ritchie has performed an admirable service to try to safeguard the Town Belt from future nibbling – but to blow all her political capital over a patch smaller than a single cabbage patch is incredibly foolish, when we all know that in the next year or two, a massive amount of hectares is going to be forcibly removed form the Town Belt to provide for the RONS to the airport. Sadly, she’ll most likely be gone by then because of her lack of control and lack of forethought now.

  7. The City is Ours Inc., 26. August 2013, 11:40

    As the Basin is noted for liquafaction, we expect an in depth report that considers the size and weight of the proposed flyover, which must be subject to thorough testing by independent engineers.

  8. Alan, 26. August 2013, 16:10

    How is the ‘canal’ reserve’ even part of the town belt? From my point of view the two are completely unrelated. Surely it is just a council reserve/park?

    Pretty silly getting so worked up over this part of the flyover when there are so many other reasons to be worried about it.

  9. Maximus, 26. August 2013, 19:25

    City is ours – yes, we can be pretty sure that the issue of the stability of the ground in this region will have been the subject of thorough and exhaustive tests. Probably for about 2 or 3 years. And so your point is….?

    We all know that it was a canal reserve, and that mud and peat go down some depth. NZTA engineers have been drilling test bores here for some time, and some of this info has been published at: