Wellington Scoop

Basin Reserve flyover: a new campaign is born

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 enlarge
Councillor 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

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  1. john morrison, 16. January 2009, 15:32

    Firstly I am not the Chair of the Basin Reserve Trust, I am a Trustee.
    What a pity some of the people who protested didn’t bother talking to Transit, the Wellington Regional Council, the Wellington City Council and the Basin Reserve Trust —- there has been some very constructive debate and discussion of how to solve the issue of the traffic bottleneck and ensure we retain and enhance the atmosphere, the ambiance and the qualities of the Basin Reserve we value so much. The Basin Reserve Trust is extremely conscious of the need to make absolutely sure the many values of the ground are not compromised in any shape or form.
    As the protesters would know if they had bothered to comunicate — there are in fact a number of options on the table at present, some of them not including a flyover at all. The protesters would have also had an opportunity of joining all parties at a three day workshop which worked through most of the issues confronting the problems in front of us.
    The artist’s impressions that have been used to embelish the protesters story are just so innacurate —- again a shame the artist didn’t bother talking with any parties involved.
    The inference given by the protesters suggests there are no traffic problems at the moment which of course is quite ridiculous, the Basin is suffering from the impact of the traffic congestion at present, hopefully given some of the amazing design options that traffic impact can be reduced in a number of very creative ways.
    The Basin Trust remains absolutely committed to preserving and enhancing the many cherished qualities of the great old ground — be absolutely assured of that.
    We invite anyone interested in solving a very difficult array of problems to come into the tent rather than simply throwing rocks on it.
    John Morrison

  2. Kent Duston, 20. January 2009, 10:16

    Cr Morrison is being disingenuous when he claims that the Wellingtonians opposing the flyover at the Basin Reserve have not engaged with the NZ Transport Agency nor the Councils. As he well knows, many of us made multiple submissions on the issue as part of the Regional Land Transport Strategy and the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan – and some 79% of the submissions that mentioned the Basin Reserve were opposed to the flyover. It’s not that we haven’t been talking and engaging – it’s that the responsible agencies have been ignoring the wishes of Wellington.

    And for Cr Morrison to be critical of the artists impressions provided by the Save The Basin campaign is very unhelpful. To date, neither NZTA nor the Councils have provided an integrated view of what the immense concrete flyover will look like – and it simply beggars belief that Cr Morrison would then vote in favour of the flyover, sight unseen. It’s hard to see how his uncritical acceptance of these ill-defined plans is consistent with his role as Trustee of the Basin.

    We welcome the chance to engage in a constructive public debate about how to ameliorate the traffic congestion around the Basin Reserve. But if Cr Morrison wants to be taken seriously on this issue, he needs to put these “amazing design options” and “creative” solutions on the table. And we agree – it would have been useful for those with deep concerns about the flyover to attend the three day workshop that Cr Morrison mentions. Unfortunately, it was closed to public participation, as he well knows.

    So NZTA and the Councils need to come clean with Wellington, put their plans on the table, and be honest about their intentions for the Basin Reserve. And they should have done this before they voted to build the flyover, not afterwards.

    Kent Duston
    Save The Basin Reserve Trust

  3. rphighnam, 13. February 2009, 16:15

    I totally agree with John Morrison, it’s fully time that the Basin was recognized as being prime road & development land and moved to the outer suburbs somewhere.

    But seriously, if you have a world-class feature such as the Basin Reserve why would you even risk wrecking it?

  4. Luke D, 28. February 2009, 13:49

    when will the council ever learn

    waste of money

    they could spend the money on some new lights and a grandstand for basin

    they’ll build it and no one will use it