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Flyover appeal – progress and certainty, or confusion and more delays?

by Lindsay Shelton
The Transport Agency, embarrassed by the rejection of its flyover alongside the Basin Reserve, says it’s appealing because the decision could “constrain progress.” Yet for most clear-sighted Wellingtonians a 300-metre-long concrete structure above Kent and Cambridge Terraces would in no way be seen as progress. Quite the contrary.

The appeal announced today talks of wanting greater certainty to guide future development at the Basin and elsewhere. The Agency says its appeal is “prudent and sensible.” Whereas more constructive voices, such as Mayor Wade-Brown in her statement today, are seeking a fresh approach for transport planning at the Basin. The Agency’s appeal, it seems, could delay this.

Less constructive are the mayors of Kapiti and Porirua. They’ve come up with some strange reasoning when they say they applaud the decision to appeal:

… the [flyover] project has many benefits for the wider region. This is about an efficient economic highway that separates local and regional traffic between Wellington Airport and the Manawatu/Rangitikei which in reality is a conduit for prosperity for the lower North Island. “Easy access to Wellington Airport and the hospital is vital to Porirua residents, not to mention those on the Kāpiti Coast and the Hutt Valley,” Mr Leggett says.

He has still failed to learn that the flyover, if it had been built, would not have improved access to the airport because it would have been one-way, carrying traffic away from the airport, and doing nothing to reduce congestion for traffic heading to the airport through the old Mt Victoria Tunnel. His Kapiti colleague is even more deluded. He says

“An efficient highway which allows traffic to flow unimpeded from Kāpiti through Wellington city to key facilities such as the airport is really important and this can’t be achieved at the Wellington end if there is congestion around the Basin Reserve.”

He’s so wrong. He forgets that – flyover or no flyover – there’s no way that traffic from Kapiti can flow unimpeded through Wellington city. He needs to count the traffic lights in Vivian Street, and then he needs to rewrite his statement.

Kirkcaldies’ managing director John Milford is also confused. Speaking on behalf of Wellington employers (do they really all agree with him?) he says

… the Basin remains a bottleneck in transport infrastructure that is vital to driving Wellington’s economy forward.

A vital bottleneck? But perhaps his hopes and dreams are in fact aligned with those of Mayor Wade-Brown. He says

I urge that in the meantime the region presses on with developing a Plan B.

If such progress isn’t delayed by the Transport Agency’s decision to appeal.

The most precise and accurate comment on the appeal decision has come from Wellington’s two Labour MPs, in a statement this morning:

The decision to appeal is hugely disappointing and a massive lost opportunity for Wellington to come together on an alternative plan … “This is a sad and silly decision by NZTA,” says Grant Robertson… “There is now an opportunity and a willingness in the community to sort this out. NZTA should join that effort, not try to re-fight a battle they have lost,” says Annette King.

They say the appeal shows a failure of leadership by the National Government. Which raises the question of whether or not the government gave its approval to the appeal. Only a few days ago, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee was indicating that he expected a different approach. He told Radio New Zealand:

More money would now have to be spent to find a solution. “It’s back to the drawing board and probably a lot more money spent trying to get a solution.”

Back to the drawing board – a good idea. Back to the courts – not a good idea at all.