Wellington Scoop

Rivalling War and Peace – epic flyover inquiry starts its second month

by Tim Jones
The Basin “Bridge” Board of Inquiry hearing is turning into an epic to rival War and Peace, but with slightly fewer cannons. The hearing began on Monday 3 February and shows no sign of abating any time soon: it’s been a while since a full timetable was issued, but at this stage, the hearing looks likely to run into mid-April.

But I have to give the Board its due: they do appear to giving the evidence the full and detailed consideration it deserves, and they are allowing extended cross-examinations of witnesses to ensure that evidence is considered in full. This can make the hearings hard going for non-specialists, but through patient sifting of the evidence, many important issues have been unearthed, including many deficiencies in the Transport Agency’s evidence.

These have included errors of fact, attempts to claim benefits for the proposed flyover that can’t be justified even by their own methodology, and serious procedural errors, not least in how the project was assessed against alternatives. This cavalier approach reflects the Transport Agency’s stubborn determination to build a flyover no matter what other options are proposed, and their concept of public consultation as meaning “do you want a flyover here, or a flyover over there?”

The other striking feature is that Transport Agency and Wellington City Council officials keep trying to move the goalposts – as each justification they advance for the flyover project is knocked down, they substitute a new one. With their claim about 7.5 minutes in travel time savings discredited, and their claims about a “step change” in public transport usage abandoned, they are now saying it’s necessary to build a flyover to improve the experience of pedestrians and cyclists!

At the time of writing, transport evidence is being considered, and there is still a great deal of evidence to come – on urban design, heritage, landscape, cricket, and planning issues, among many others. Individual submitters are still to be heard.

If you haven’t already done so, do get along to see how the hearings work. They’re being held at the Amora Hotel in Wakefield St, they’re open to the public, they run from 9.30am to 5pm most days and usually 9-3 on Fridays, and you don’t have to stay for a whole day.

The hearing timetable for each day is usually issued by about 6pm on the previous day. Check the latest details, including start and end times, here: http://www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-management/Basin_Bridge/Pages/Basin_Bridge.aspx

A revised indicative two-week timetable has just been released – see http://www.epa.govt.nz/Publications/Hearing_schedule_3-14_Mar_update.pdf

Tim Jones is co-convenor of the Save the Basin campaign. This article was first published in the Save the Basin’s newsletter. The increased length of the hearing has increased the campaign’s legal costs. If you can help, please consider donating, and encourage your friends and networks to do likewise: http://savethebasin.org.nz/donate