by Lindsay Shelton
A lawyer has told the board of inquiry that the proposed flyover alongside the Basin Reserve does not fit the strategic planning objectives of the Wellington City Council. It doesn’t fit the council’s eco city strategies. It doesn’t fit the council’s smart city ambitions. It certainly doesn’t fit a people-centred city.
But the city council is not defending these strategies. Having decided (by a majority of one) that it would stop opposing the flyover, it has had nothing to say at the hearing about the greater good of the city. In her opening remarks, the council’s lawyer spent most of her time detailing a disproportionate number of concerns about the Basin Reserve and the cricketers who occasionally use the ground.
The council should have been speaking up in defence of its policies for Wellington. It should also have been defending the ratepayers whose neighbourhood will be ruined by the flyover.
But no. The ratepayers have been left to defend themselves. The conflict with council policies was persuasively outlined by Con Anastasiou, the lawyer representing the Mt Victoria Residents Association.
He described how the flyover would be intrusive and environmentally damaging and incompatible with the Memorial Park and the heritage areas. The addition of the cricket pavilion and plantings would, he said, only compound the problem which the new building would create.
“The cricket pavilion creates adverse effects – it’s in the wrong place, and does not fit the layout of the Basin. It is a kneejerk response to a problem created by the flyover.”
No amount of mitigation would fix the inherent flaw in the proposal, said Mr Asastasiou, because the problem is the flyover itself. It would reduce the city’s footprint and would be the antithesis of good urban design for a city like Wellington. Its visual dominance would create a severance which would have serious effects for the entire city. It would cause significant loss of spatial continuity along the main north-south access from the harbour to Cook Strait.
He quoted a professor, who’ll be giving evidence against the flyover, who says that Kent and Cambridge Terraces are a massive boulevard which should be enhanced rather than “disfoliated” by a concrete structure. The flyover would create a wasteland at the end of the boulevard, quite the opposite of Wellington’s reputation as a smart capital.
“The claimed travel benefits, if they occur, will be at the cost of irrevocable adverse effects on the Basin and its environs,” said Con Anastasiou. He said a decrease of traffic in one area could not be justified by an increase of traffic somewhere else.
The flyover plans, he said, had been made without an appropriate level of urban design skills.
“International best urban design practice do not support highways within towns.” A flyover represented outmoded thinking. “The fact that it’s been on the books for fifty years is no argument in favour of building it, when there is a better way of doing it. The flyover would be an over-investment. The problem at the Basin is an inefficient use of space.”
The flyover would not solve existing congestion on Adelaide Road. The key bottlenecks were outside the Basin roundabout. The roundabout is one of the most famous parts of Wellington. (He compared it with famous international roundabouts such as exist in Paris and Washington.)
Con Anastasiou said he will be calling experienced planners to speak about a ground-level option which would solve all problems in an elegant way. “The design team who have prepared the low-cost at-grade plan have a history of successful and elegant solutions to roading problems. Their plan fits with the strategies of the city council and the Transport Agency.”
An outmoded 50-year-old plan which conflicts with city council policies? Or an integrated and elegant solution? The four government-appointed board members will be making this choice at the end of the two-month hearing. The Save the Basin group, the Newtown Residents Association and the Architectural Centre are the other volunteer groups who are stating the arguments against the flyover. Lamentably, with no input or help from the Wellington City Council.