Wellington Scoop

Why do four councillors want the road?

A majority of Wellington city councillors have been decisive in refusing to support a road through the rural Takapu Valley. But four councillors didn’t accept the strength of community opposition to the plan. They refused to vote against the road.

Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Jo Coughlan, Nicola Young and Swampy Marsh were the four dissenters. They voted against Helene Ritchie’s amendment which resulted in yesterday’s decisive decision.

Ray was the only one of the four to explain why he wouldn’t be voting to support the Takapu Valley residents. His reason: he said it was too early to make a decision. Jo Coughlan’s contribution to yesterday’s debate was to ask for an explanation of Option A, thus making it clear that she hadn’t read any of the relevant papers. The other two didn’t say anything. But their votes spoke for them.

The decisive decision was helped by the massive amount of well-researched information assembled by local residents. The vote went against a recommendation from the chief executives of all regional local bodies, whose report has been generally derided as nothing more than reflecting the wishes of the Transport Agency. The chief executives’ report was earlier criticised by MP Peter Dunne who said it showed a “dirty deal” was being done. And Andy Foster said the chief executives’ arguments were “unconvincing and undesirable.”

Not hard, therefore, for councillors to reject it. Inexplicable, however, that four councillors felt they couldn’t oppose the Takapu Valley roading plan. Also inexplicably staying within the minority who are supporting the road is Porirua mayor Nick Leggett. In a rush of comments to wellington.scoop, Porirua residents are saying that no one can understand his stance.

This week’s vote reflects a new decisiveness and confidence by Wellington city councillors.

The council was less confident in its opposition to another unwanted Transport Agency plan – the one for building a 300 metre concrete flyover alongside the Basin Reserve. The council’s initial vote against the flyover was 8/7. But then Andy Foster changed sides, voted for the flyover, and the council’s opposition disappeared. Leaving it to the local community to oppose the flyover at the Board of Inquiry. Successfully, but at considerable cost.

The council is again leaving it to the community to fight the Transport Agency’s appeal against the rejection of its flyover. It should be taking a more active role. Mayor Wade-Brown has been consistent in her opposition to the flyover. This week’s vote indicates it’s time for her to encourage the council to re-visit its stance and to re-affirm its initial opposition to the area around the Basin being disfigured forever by a concrete flyover.

“Councillors sitting on the fence,” alleges John Milford