Wellington Scoop

Blackmail and (more) threats from NZTA

Criticism of the NZ Transport Agency peaked this week when Ohariu MP Peter Dunne said it was dealing in blackmail by telling Wellington city councillors they had to choose between two unwanted roading options.

He questioned whether it was time for the Transport Agency’s board and senior management to be dumped, because of its

sublime arrogance in proceeding with a link road proposal that neither local people nor local authorities want or think is even necessary …

He then defined the Agency’s blackmailing:

… what is more repugnant is NZTA’s clumsy attempts at blackmail – threatening to withdraw funding from the widely supported Petone to Grenada road unless it gets its own way on the link road.

This is not the first time that the Agency has threatened the Wellington City Council. During early planning for the concrete flyover that it wanted to build alongside the Basin Reserve, it twice threatened the council.

The most notorious threat was made in April 2011 by Alick Shaw, a former city councillor and deputy mayor who was then a board member of the Transport Agency. His identity was revealed by an Official Information request, six months after the DomPost published his anonymous statements saying that if the council didn’t support the flyover, the Transport Agency could ditch Wellington roading projects to use the money somewhere else.

One year later, the Transport Agency continued these tactics. This time, they were delivered in a letter signed by the chief executive Geoff Dangerfield, who made some specific threats:

“We are particularly concerned about the council taking a position to oppose the construction of a bridge at the Basin Reserve. This would have serious implications for future transport investments in Wellington City that rely on fixing the traffic woes at the Basin … Withdrawal of support for the bridge proposal at this late stage may have significant implications for investment in Wellington’s wider transport network and ultimately on the growth and prosperity of the city.”

This week’s events have shown that the Transport Agency hasn’t changed. It continues to show itself as a bullying organisation. But this time, its insistence that councillors must choose between two unpopular roading options has resulted in Peter Dunne’s accusation of blackmail. And it has also brought a deluge of critical responses from Takapu Valley residents, here and here, detailing specific reasons why neither roading plan is necessary. The angry residents seem to be providing more detailed information than the Transport Agency.

It’s time for chairman Chris Moller, deputy chair Dame Patsy Reddy and their six fellow board members (Gill Cox, Tony Lanigan, Jerry Rickman, Nick Rogers, Mark Oldfield and Adrienne Young-Cooper)to start paying attention to the fact that their organisation is being so widely criticised. And to the fact that a Government Minister is asking whether it’s time for them (and their senior management) to be dumped.

Listening and consulting instead of threatening and bullying. Or is it too difficult for the Transport Agency to change its ways?