by Lindsay Shelton
On television earlier in the evening, Wellington city councillor John Morrison, speaking as chairman of the Basin Reserve Trust, referred to them obscurely as “Johnny come latelys.” An hour later, a hundred of them stood and looked out towards the Basin Reserve through the floor to ceiling windows of the new St Joseph’s Church in Brougham Street.They were told that if a new concrete flyover was built across the northern edge of the Basin, then traffic would be raised to a height of ten metres – the same level as the heads of the tallest members of the audience.
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Drawings of the proposed flyover – prepared by the Save the Basin Reserve campaign. No equivalent drawings have been provided by the council.
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Click to enlargeCouncillor Morrison seemed to support the flyover. But by the end of a tightly-run 90 minute meeting, a campaign had been launched to oppose it.Seventy chairs weren’t enough, and 30 people stood or sat on the floor. The audience included four city councillors and three regional councillors. Regional councillor Judith Aitken helped serve tea and coffee.City councillor Iona Pannett – one of the leaders of the campaign which opposed the city’s bypass – was the first speaker. She referred sadly to the fact that public consultation, showing 79 per cent opposition to the flyover, had been ignored by the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Greater Wellington Regional Council in giving approval for the big structure.
Green MP Sue Kedgley spoke ominously about the prospect of the flyover being the first step in a stealthy and fast-tracked process to create a four-lane motorway from the bypass to the airport, with destructive results for the quiet streets of Mt Victoria.
She said both the city council and the regional council had voted to support the flyover before it had been designed, with no plans available to show what they were getting or how much it would cost. Her opinion of creating a flyover to carry four lanes of traffic into the two-lane Mt Victoria Tunnel: absurd. And a second tunnel? Unfundable.
Councillor Celia Wade-Brown spoke of the joys of walking and cycling, and how the Basin Reserve was an oasis for pedestrians and cyclists heading into the city. An oasis which would be destroyed if the flyover was built.
Organiser Kent Duston said the flyover would lift traffic up above the fenceline into full view of Basin Reserve crowds, with traffic noise and pollution being blown across the cricket ground. It wouldn’t solve traffic congestion, but would succeed only in moving it to a new position 300 metres away. Drivers might save an average 55 seconds in travel time – but he didn’t believe this was worth the destruction of the character of the Basin Reserve and its neighbourhood.
He showed photos of other Wellington flyovers – ugly structures with degrading concrete and graffiti which would inevitably become a feature of any Basin Reserve flyover.
He felt that congestion problems could readily be resolved by travel demand management (encouraging more than one person to use every car, and staggering the start of shifts and school days) and by re-phasing traffic lights. (This is a big subject. I’ll be writing more about it soon).
Among the audience was Pauline Swann from Waterfront Watch. Her organization has long campaigned – without success – for restoration of the iconic viewshaft which once ran along Kent and Cambridge Terraces from the harbour to the Basin Reserve, but which is now blocked by the New World Supermarket.
She didn’t speak. But she must have been thinking with dismay that the flyover would ensure that the viewshaft could never be restored. Not only a supermarket, but also four lanes of traffic 10 metres above the ground. How can any city allow stunning views to be destroyed so despicably? What’s happened to civic pride?
All of which contributes to a substantial list of reasons why the flyover deserves to be stopped. But, as with other major town planning issues, decision-makers don’t seem willing to respond to anything they don’t agree with. An ability to hear opposing arguments and to take them seriously doesn’t seem to be possible till debate is moved to the Environment Court.
The last word came from Kent Duston. He said traffic surveys were showing a decrease in traffic throughout Wellington. The flyover, he said, could become the Overseas Passenger Terminal of the 21st Century. If it was built, it would be a structure which wasn’t needed or wanted. Time would have passed it by.
The Mayor wants quick progress on the flyover. READ her comments in this WCC Press Release