Wellington Scoop

Many congratulations on flyover victory, but none from the city council

Cyclists have welcomed it. The country’s largest walking group has welcomed it. MPs from Labour, the Greens and NZ First have welcomed it. Local residents have welcomed it. But local body politicians aren’t joining in the chorus of congratulations in response to the flyover decision. Nick Leggett is devastated. Fran Wilde sees it as a hugely disappointing setback. Wayne Guppy says it’s catastrophic. (Are they prone to hyperbole in Upper Hutt?)

The Wellington City Council’s response stands out as gloomily unenthusiastic. The best that deputy mayor Justin Lester can offer is “it’s appropriate to thank those who participated in the process and made their views known.” He does however say the council will work constructively … to find a publically acceptable solution to traffic congestion issues.

Like Justin Lester, Mayor Wade-Brown has been consistent in voting against the flyover. Yet (in the council release) she doesn’t have a word of congratulation to the locals who fought the long fight against the flyover after the council gave up. She talks only about the need to “make the best of our role in improving all aspects of traffic to reduce congestion, including better walking, cycling, and public transport.” But last night she gave a glimpse of a more positive side of her personality in a twitter message, where she wrote:

No flyover blot – Buckle St underpass is on track and will cut jams. WCC will work with GW & NZTA on better Basin plan.

Andy Foster, whose single vote stopped the council continuing its opposition to the flyover, sounds less optimistic. In the council release he says consent for the flyover “was never guaranteed.” On Radio NZ he said the axing of the proposal “puts other investments in the city at risk and sets back public transport in the city a decade.” And in the DomPost this morning he’s in darker mood:

” … potential ramifications for the city are a serious concern … If NZTA decided not to come up with a flyover alternative, then future projects such as a $375m second tunnel through Mt Victoria would disappear, and plans to build a $268m bus rapid transit network between the CBD and southern suburbs would be stymied.

Will the Transport Agency refuse to consider alternatives, and spend the money somewhere else? Wellington’s Labour MPs are warning that the money allocated for the flyover must be spent in the city.

The Agency was blatant about making such threats when the city council was opposing the flyover. But faced with the reality of the 500+ pages of the board of inquiry’s findings, it needs to start accepting what local people want.

The Transport Agency’s Anthony Firth has told the NZ Herald:

“We will be taking the time to closely consider this decision before determining our next steps.”

And those next steps? To quote Jo Newman of Save the Basin:

We hope that the Transport Agency and the Government have seen sense and will not attempt to overturn this decision. However, if they do try to overturn it, the community will certainly be ready for them.