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Divided over the flyover

by Lindsay Shelton
The city council has voted in favour of a flyover at the Basin Reserve, in spite of the fact that the city continues to be deeply divided over the issue.

The vote, by 7 to 6, is a disappointment for Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who has argued against the flyover [1] since she successfully campaigned for the mayoralty against the pro-flyover mayor Kerry Prendergast. It was a narrow win, and for a while the new council had a one-vote majority against the flyover. But then Andy Foster changed sides.

The mayor has had to choose her words carefully when releasing council statements. Here’s what she said on Monday. [2]

“The Council has been concerned about the whole-of-city effects of the flyover, such as urban design, heritage and multi-modal transport. Therefore we looked at alternatives … The Council has consistently preferred undergrounding and, when it was announced Memorial Park traffic could be undergrounded, further investigations were essential given the concerns of many Wellingtonians. Our aim is to improve this project as far as possible and maintain a constructive approach on the many other Wellington transport issues…”

But during yesterday’s meeting, via Twitter:

“I cannot vote in support of the flyover, despite improvements. It may be symbolic, but $90m on SH1 doesn’t answer climate change at all.”

The Regional Council also voted for the flyover this week. Only two councillors opposed the concrete structure, but others had concerns which they didn’t act on.

“The flyover isn’t a good solution …[apart from grade separation] and we have reached this point as a result of a deeply flawed process; one in which the NZTA makes up its mind in advance what option it wants and leaves the councils with a take it or leave it decision.”
– Chris Laidlaw – August 22 [3]. (But he voted for the flyover.)

There were lobby groups on both sides of the debate, including the Employers Chamber of Commerce which has repeatedly instructed the city council that it must support the flyover.

“…separating the north-south traffic from the east-west flows is absolutely necessary to address congestion and to future-proof the road. A flyover or ‘bridge’ is the only feasible way to achieve grade separation and must be supported.”
– Raewyn Bleakley, chief executive of Employers Chamber of Commerce – August 22 [4] (In a submission to the city council.)

On the opposite side, a citizens’ lobby group continues to speak out against the plan.

“The proposed flyover would be an ugly, unnecessary and ineffective blot on our city and on the beautiful Basin Reserve.”
– Joanna Newman, Save the Basin spokesperson. March 22 [5]

And there’ve been unheeded warnings that one flyover will not be enough for the Transport Agency and its planners.

“We believe that one flyover will pave the way for a second. A second flyover will not deliver any positive urban design outcomes for Wellington; both flyovers will permanently divide the city, causing irreparable damage to Wellington’s character and reputation … A second flyover will significantly compromise public transport initiatives and outcomes; and continue to prioritise and subsidise movement of east-west highway traffic when most predicted growth is north-south local traffic.”
– Richard Reid, August 12 [6].

Even the Transport Agency admits there are problems.

“The orientation of the bridge to the prevailing winds means that pedestrians and cyclists will be exposed to wind flows from the side, for which they are less prepared. The main risks to vehicles are from strong cross winds. These risks are greater for high-sided vehicles, such as lightly loaded trucks, and motorcycles … Effects can range from causing tracking variations to complete overturning.”
– NZ Transport Agency assessment of environmental effects [7].

“We … recognise that the Basin Bridge will have a significant impact on the area.”
– Jenny Chetwynd of the NZ Transport Agency, June 18 [8].

Five political parties oppose the flyover.

“The flyover is a concrete monstrosity that will fundamentally change the character of the area.”
– Grant Robertson, June 18 [9].

And many individuals, too.

“I haven’t met a Wellingtonian who doesn’t think the Basin flyover is a ludicrous idea – ugly, old-fashioned, and in contravention of all modern transport thinking.”
– Mary Varnham, March 24 [10].

“If the answer is a flyover, then we’ve asked the wrong question,”
– Celia Wade-Brown. March 21 [11].

“There’s a big group of people who are antagonistic to it… We’ve said twice we’re not keen on it.”
– Andy Foster. March 21 [11], before voting in favour of it.

“I can assure you I have never voted for a flyover and I certainly won’t be voting for one in the future.”
– John Morrison, in a comment which he sent to wellington.scoop in February 2010 [12].

“Whether he becomes Mayor or not, he would become the catalyst for positive public submissions that support the Basin Flyover.”
– Statement on John Morrison’s mayoral-campaign website, published yesterday [13] after he had changed his mind and voted for the flyover. (And he criticises other people for flip-flopping …)