Will the Wellington City Council defend the people of the Takapu Valley against the Transport Agency’s sudden threat to bulldoze a highway through their rural community? You’d expect the council (and the mayor) would want to defend such an area. But there’s no sign that the council is willing to take a stand.
The locals say the valley’s history, ecology, and community are treasures worth fighting for. MP Peter Dunne has said the road plans should be scrapped. Eyeofthefish blogger Maximus has written that the Transport Agency need to be told to go back to the drawing board
But the council has done nothing except write a letter (on 28 March) which waffles that it is “not in a position at this time to express a clear preference on the options presented though it is likely to develop a preference for options which maximise the delivery of the benefits and … minimise the disruption to the community …” The council notes that the proposed road runs through a park which is a key sporting hub. It wants “severance to walking and cycling links to be minimised.” (How do you minimise severance?) But on Takapu Valley, all it has to say is:
There are potentially significant changes proposed to the landscape and character of the Takapu Valley should this option proceed. This requires through assessment to determine effects and how they may be mitigated.
If assessment and mitigation are all that the city council can ask for, then it’s given up the fight, even though its letter acknowledges opposition not only from the Takapu Valley community, but also from the Tawa and the Grenada Village communities.
Just as it’s left the people of Newtown and Mt Victoria on their own to fight plans for a flyover at the Basin Reserve, the council seems to be similarly preparing to abandon the people of Takapu Valley.
Though the deadline for submissions to the Transport Agency closes at Easter, Andy Foster’s Friday article tells us the council hasn’t even discussed the Takapu Valley. His article raises issues and asks for information. But the local people have gathered all the information already. Including an impressively detailed and relevant analysis of changing traffic flows when Transmission Gully is completed.
And on their TakapuValley website, the locals provide a disturbing description of the road that the Transport Agency wants to build through their valley:
. This is a new motorway that they are tacking on to the end of the Petone to Grenada link road so they can rush it through without proper oversight.
. It runs from the Grenada end of the link road, paralleling State Highway One for about 6km to connect directly to Transmission Gully.
. It is intended to carry the majority of traffic – heavy trucks in particular – to and from Transmission Gully. Northbound traffic on the proposed road will only be able to continue north on Transmission Gully – you won’t be able to turn west to Porirua.
. It is two lanes – one lane each way. For now. Is limited access – you can only get on it at either end. The farms it runs through won’t have access.
. It will run through all of the properties on the east side of the valley. Some farms – including farms that have been held in the same families since the mid-1800s – will be cut in half. Some smaller properties and several homes will be wiped out completely.
The local people explain why they are fighting the plan
. Transmission Gully was 20 years in the wrangling. The Petone to Grenada link road has been thrashed about for six years, but this Takapu proposal is in none of the public documents.
. They’re shoving it into the plans at the last minute and giving us barely six weeks to scrape together our submissions. Why this sudden change of plans, and why the unseemly haste? Notably, they want to have their decision made in six months, before the next election.
. The proposed Takapu route bypasses SH1 completely – traffic coming from the Hutt would have to navigate multiple roundabouts to get onto SH1. The route seems designed to cut Porirua out of the loop, both northbound and southbound.
. The Parliamentary Commission for the Environment in 1990 directed NZTA to run Transmission Gully to Linden, and stated that Takapu Valley should be protected. The Wellington Regional Council supported this directive with their own report in 1991. Transmission Gully can’t go down Takapu Valley, but NZTA is trying to sneak the road in through the back door, by calling it by a different name.
. They say the costings are the same for the two options (Takapu Valley or SH1), but they haven’t surveyed the Takapu route — they haven’t started the geo-technical, seismic, or ecological work. They don’t know what they don’t know.
They are only looking at project costings, not the cost of maintenance that ratepayers will have to bear going forward.
. They have cherry-picked their criteria to pit neighbors against each other – if the community fights itself instead of them, they get to do what they want.
The importance of the valley has been well described by Gloria writing on eyeofthefish:
I can see why the residents of Takapu Valley don’t want it touched – it is a very special slice of heaven. There are brick red barns of rusting corrugated iron and peeling weatherboards. There are tiny tiny horses, not even as tall as a fencepost, who look sooo cute, and gave me a haughty look while they trotted away. The road is small, wiggly and narrow, at places only one lane wide – in fact, in most places only one lane wide – and with big jutty stone walls and clumps of thick bush either side. The road is even more narrow than that mad route out to Makara! It’s extraordinary that such a place can exist so close to the city. . .
. . . there is no doubt to me that this would be a monumentally inappropriate place to build a motorway. The residents are not exaggerating when they say it would kill the valley if a big road went through – it would absolutely destroy the entire valley if you did that. There would have to be massive earthworks, really massive earthworks, in order to get a straightish 20m wide swathe up a valley that is currently only about 2.5m wide.
Locals have sent more than sixty concerned comments to wellington.scoop since we started reporting their plight. Some of them believe the council is being influenced by the possibility that rock from excavations for their valley could be used for the new cycleway from Petone to Ngauranga. Others are suspicious of the council’s December deal with the Transport Agency in which mayor Wade-Brown said the council was now “inside the tent.” If you’re inside the tent, they wonder, does this stop you opposing anything the Transport Agency wants to do?
Before the deal was signed, the mayor had been consistent in opposing the Agency’s Basin flyover plans, though she was finally outvoted. And when she announced the deal, she said the council had kept the right to disagree on specific projects. A situation which should have enabled her to speak out in support of the Takapu Valley, its environmental values and its people, and against a plan which would build a highway to destroy their lives and their valley.