Flyover: the city council fails to defend its strategies or its ratepayers

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.

 

7 comments:

  1. Traveller, 7. February 2014, 9:12

    WCCC – the Wellington City Cricket Council?

     
  2. CC, 7. February 2014, 10:17

    One thing that Wellington residents can always rely on is that the Council will say one thing in its planning and policy statements but roll over to appease those (other than ratepayers of course) who hold purse strings.

     
  3. Nora, 7. February 2014, 11:50

    CC – I agree with your comments. Another example is “consultation” on Kumutoto Site 10 where a 6-storey office building is planned. Bang go the views of the harbour, Mt Victoria, fishing boats, ferries etc, but instead we are promised “view shafts”….

     
  4. Guy, 9. February 2014, 9:30

    Nora, your comment is incorrect. The District Plan is all about view shafts. Indeed, there is no such thing in New Zealand law as a protected view of the seaside, whereas the concept of Viewshafts is enshrined in our Wellington District Plan. Look up the Plan, and you will see what they are. You may well be horrified, but that is all that the Plan allows, in the Plan that the people of Wellington have agreed to. Thin, narrow shafts of protected views, from certain spots only. Nothing more.

    I would certainly argue that the idea that people walking alongside the NZ Post building, and especially those driving alongside the NZ Post building, should have their views protected, is just wrong. People driving cars should be looking at the road ahead of them, and people walking can quite as easily walk on the very wide pedestrian promenade along the waterfront.

    If the proposal was to block off the Viewshaft, then you would be rightfully horrified. But it is not.

     
  5. Traveller, 9. February 2014, 10:10

    The reason for the council’s sad position at the board of inquiry is that two councillors changed sides. John Morrison said he would never vote for the flyover, and then he voted for it. Andy Foster changed sides last August – when he voted for the flyover after opposing it at all previous meetings. His switch meant that the council no longer had a majority committed to fighting the flyover. Hence the strange stance of the council’s lawyer – but perhaps most of her fee was being paid by the Basin Reserve Trust. I hope ratepayers aren’t having to pay for all the time she spent talking about cricket and cricketers.

     
  6. Nora, 9. February 2014, 21:45

    Guy, most cars coming from north or south have passengers, quite often visitors, who enjoy their views of our harbour and hills. Pedestrians coming from the city via Waring Taylor, Ballance and Whitmore Streets also appreciate views of a working port, with ferries, cranes, in the background……I commend a camera stop at the corner near the Z service station with white clouds racing past in the blue skies.

     
  7. Elaine E, 10. February 2014, 11:39

    Abandoning ratepayers to the not so tender mercies and “mitigations” of the NZ Transport Agency – this is already happening in Kapiti.

    Don’t call the Kapiti Coast District Council with a question about the changing of the permitted path of the motorway, which is still being moved closer to and even eliminating properties that weren’t supposed to be affected. Also don’t complain about noise or the fact that your property is worth half as much as it used to be with no reduction in your rates. They will tell only tell you to call the Transport Agency.

     

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