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Secrecy is not the answer – six people meet to plan Basin changes

by Lindsay Shelton
A secretive six-member group has made a move to decide on the next stage of roading changes at the Basin Reserve. But it’s indefensible that a majority of the group’s six members were supporters of the twice-rejected flyover plan.

At yesterday’s regional council meeting, three councillors sought an integrated approach to deciding on at-grade roading improvements around the Basin. Paul Bruce and Sue Kedgley were supported by Barbara Donaldson. But Paul Swain refused. He said that a small governance group of himself, Fran Wilde, Celia Wade Brown and Andy Foster, plus two Transport Agency staffers, would make the decision, and would then report back.

Speaking on Radio New Zealand yesterday morning, Andy Foster (the city council’s transport committee chair, who voted in favour of the flyover [1]) confirmed that the group has had its first meeting. He said it was “mapping a time frame and looking for alternatives.”

The group doesn’t have to look far.

Richard Reid’s Basin Reserve Roundabout Enhancement Option (BRREO) [2] has been accepted by the Transport Agency as offering significant savings in travel times and immediate benefits to the neighbourhood, at less than five per cent of the cost of the flyover. As Reid said last month: [2]

“In planning terms, BRREO is years ahead of NZTA and the councils in its integrated transport and urban vision for the city. BRREO is the only practicable and attractive option worth adopting. It makes sense that we are given the opportunity to continue to develop BRREO for the benefit of Wellingtonians and the wider Wellington region.”

Reid is one of several experts who have offered to assist with the decision-making process, and who should not be shut out. The Architectural Centre, one of the key opponents of the flyover, has also offered to participate. Its president Christine McCarthy says [3] that it

“… looks forward to working productively with NZTA to pro-actively address urban design and transport issues around the Basin Reserve. This is an area of the city that desperately needs smart thinking and large amounts of TLC. The surrounding areas of the Basin, in particular, have suffered neglect for far too long. We are keen to be in the conversations with NZTA and the councils regarding the Basin’s future. NZTA must improve its processes in order to properly understand and facilitate community needs. The answer to the Basin will not simply be a technical solution.”

There’s a similar offer from Tim Jones [4] of the Save the Basin campaign:

“If central and local government agencies are ready to engage in open, constructive discussion, then Save the Basin will be keen to play its part.”

Sustainable transport advocates must also be involved, so they can ensure that traffic changes include measures such as reducing the numbers of single occupancy cars and taxis and children (who could walk) being dropped off at local schools.

The huge virtues of public decision-making were evident to all during the hearings of the Board of Inquiry and the High Court, which exposed all the faults of the flyover plan that councillors and the Transport Agency had been foolishly pushing for so many years. They had insisted there could be only once choice at the Basin. But they were wrong.

So there should be no question as to whether these same people are willing to accept open discussion and constructive participation. They must not insist on working in secret.

One day after this article was published, the transport planners announced they would work with the community [5]. But they didn’t mention working with the professionals who have already developed new plans for the Basin.