by Lindsay Shelton
If it’s built, will it be known as the Morrison Flyover? Or the Foster Flyover? Or, perhaps, the Athfield Flyover?
Those of us at one of the EPA’s facilitated but frustrating pre-hearing meetings last week were surprised to be told that Athfield Architects had been hired to work on the flyover, to make it as beautiful as possible. (Sounds like a poisoned chalice.)
Before the meeting, some of us had been swapping ideas about how the flyover would be named. John Morrison and Andy Foster were on our list. (The Foster Flyover sounds quite a grand title, as a permanent reminder of how he changed sides.) Now there’s a third name to consider.
Agency staff were on the defensive throughout the meeting. There wasn’t any chance of anything being resolved. On one side, submitters who didn’t want a flyover. (One woman said that Mt Victoria would become an isolated ghetto.) On the other side, Transport Agency staff who insisted that a flyover had to be built, and who weren’t willing to accept any alternatives.
Induced traffic, pollution, urban decay, wider impacts, noise, privacy, loss of sunlight. Submitters raised many issues. The Agency stayed resolutely in denial.
It was interesting to note the response to last week’s Wellington.Scoop article which reported dissatisfaction with the meetings. Our facilitator made a soft attempt to suggest that there should be no reporting of anything that we were going to say. But no one agreed with him. So he gave up. It was a public process, just as the board of inquiry will be.
The facilitator had a thankless task (another poisoned chalice). He had to run a meeting where there was no chance of anyone changing their minds. He said it was intended to help submitters. But every time the submitters raised concerns, the Transport Agency contradicted everything and everyone.
The Agency people tried to sound virtuous by explaining that they had always considered the positive and negative effects of every part of the proposed flyover. When they found negative effects (yes, they’d found some), they had to balance these against the positives. As an example: they could “attenuate” noise effects with a 3 metre high barrier, but this would create visual effects which would be worse. So there won’t be a noise barrier.
Two of them spoke at length about what they are doing to stop graffiti and to make the underneath of the flyover a safe place. (Bright lights!) (Piers which will be placed in gardens which will be inside traffic islands surrounded by traffic, making it impossible for vandals to reach them.) No one believed a word of it.
Architect Roger Walker asked if the Agency had reconsidered the flyover in light of the trenching under Buckle Street. This led to a discussion of alternatives, which everyone wanted to know about. The experts told us that the board of inquiry will have to be persuaded that the Agency has given adequate consideration to these. They said they had considered 73 alternatives. But (of course) none of them was good enough. At this point, submitters started to drift out of the room, including a woman who lived near Patterson Street and had been watching traffic flows at the intersection. She had seen very little evidence of serious congestion, except for short periods twice a day. Her observations were contradicted by the Agency. They’d done surveys. They’d done modelling.
The biggest issue of all, of course, is the damaging visual effects of the flyover. But by the time we got to this topic, the last of many on the facilitator’s whiteboard, our two-hour meeting had been running for two and a half hours. Discussion never got going. Instead it was detoured with news that a study had been commissioned which had surveyed the area from 100 (!!) different viewpoints and had then included views from 37 of them in an assessment of visual effects that has been published somewhere on the huge NZTA website. Then the meeting was over, and we hadn’t been able to talk about the most serious effects of all.