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Knowing better than the locals

by Lindsay Shelton
The Wellington Airport campaign to promote a longer runway is similar to the Transport Agency’s campaign about building a flyover at the Basin Reserve. Both commissioned large numbers of experts to support what they wanted to do. Both failed to connect with the communities who would be most affected.

The Transport Agency commissioned 21 reports in support of its flyover idea – ten of them from Opus Consulting [1]. This led to a discussion about conflict of interest, which was followed by the resignation [2] of one of the four government-appointed members of the board of inquiry.

(At the same time as Opus was supporting the flyover plan, it was also writing a report for the Regional Council, warning that the consequences of building new motorways would increase congestion [3] in Wellington. A reminder that experts can be commissioned to write reports that reflect different, even conflicting, points of view.)

The Transport Agency’s 21 reports failed to convince the board of inquiry, or the High Court, both of whom rejected the flyover.

And now the airport has released 27 reports, all singing the praises of a longer runway.

The one that we’ve focussed on is the noise report [4] – which tells us that to build the runway there’ll need to be a truck-and-trailer-load of rocks travelling through the city every sixty seconds [5], ten hours a day, from Monday to Friday, for six months.

But there are many more reports [6], all of them online, if you can clear the time to read them. They deal with landscape and visual effects, ecological issues, surf breaks, cultural values, archaelogical impacts, sediment contamination, air quality and dust … so many issues. And it’s no surprise to expect that they’ll all tell us that any issues can be controlled, dealt with, mitigated …

This is certainly the message that’s delivered by the transportation assessment report, [7] which claims that the city’s existing state highways and local road networks are quite capable of supporting trucks and trailers every sixty seconds, as long as there’s a “Construction Traffic Management Plan.”

haulage operations shall not occur during the weekday morning and evening peak hour traffic periods in order to minimise any adverse traffic related impacts during these time periods to other road users. In a similar manner, no haulage related transportation will occur on the road network on weekends. Accordingly, the CTMP will define the times of the day when haulage operators are able to transport and deliver construction materials to the site;

inbound haulage trucks will use a southbound route through the airport precinct…with the corresponding outbound route following roads on the west side of the airport. The proposed separate inbound and outbound haulage movements will reduce (halve) the likely impact which would otherwise exist in relation to local residents, businesses, schools and other public facilities located adjacent to Wellington Airport in the event all trucks used local roads on the west side of the airport

There’s more:

local temporary improvements are needed at the Rongotai Road / Cairns Street intersection, Rongotai Road / Jean Batten Street intersection, and within Jean Batten Street including forming a new exit to Cobham Drive

When all these plans have been put into effect, the report promises that the extra heavy traffic – trucks and trailers 23metres long, every sixty seconds, ten hours a day, five days a week – “would not unduly compromise the function, capacity and safety of the road network.” Not unduly?

A map in the report shows that the rock-laden truck-and-trailer units leaving the Ngauranga quarry will first have to drive north on the SH1 motorway to the Newlands interchange, before changing direction and travelling back down the Ngauranga Gorge. Similarly, trucks leaving the Horokiwi quarry will first have to travel north on the SH2 motorway to the Petone roundabout, before changing direction and heading south back towards the city and the airport. The maps show clearly that the trucks with their trailers will travel through the Terrace tunnel and along the full stop-start length of Vivian Street, and then through the Terrace tunnel.

At the airport, there are complications. Because of the entry gates on Stewart Duff Drive, “over-dimensioned vehicles” can’t use this route. A map on page 17 of the report makes the startling proposal that the trucks will be driving into the airport and in front of the terminal to reach their destination, “subject to strict airport permissions.” Sounds as if there’ll be traffic jams – involving taxi-ing aircraft as well as fully laden trucks and trailers.

And what of carrying rocks by sea, to avoid some of these roading issues?

… barging may present a viable alternative for transporting some main materials direct to the construction site and, in such instances, will mitigate the road transport needs and effects assessed in this report for the recommended road option. Barge options may, in due course, be deemed appropriate from various locations around the inner harbour, including at Seaview, Petone, Kaiwharawhara and CentrePort. In each instance, transportation by barge would involve an initial road transport component, for which separate assessments will be required in conjunction with the separate consenting for wharf and barge activities. In other instances, materials may be sourced and barged from the Nelson area.

Last week I accepted an invitation from the Transport Agency to hear a lecture on city planning by a professor from the University of London. He spoke for more than an hour about the need for planners to get involved with affected communities, to explain and discuss and listen, before finalising any plans. His Transport Agency audience would have recognised that it had failed on that count. It decided on its flyover before it started talking to the locals. (The professor’s advice: never go to a consultation meeting with the final plan in your back pocket.)

The airport is facing similar problems. The locals are finding more and more reasons to question the plan which the airport insists is necessary.

Dave Armstrong: A wild gamble without an airline [8]