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The flyover … What flyover?

Wellington.Scoop
by Lindsay Shelton
At yesterday’s Civic Trust seminar which discussed changes to roads around the Basin Reserve, the New Zealand Transport Agency claimed unconvincingly that “we don’t know what the [roading] options will be.” Participants at the seminar were better informed. Their concerns focused on the option of a flyover on the edge of the Basin and how much it would damage their part of town.

If the Transport Agency doesn’t know about the options (hard to believe, when it’s doing the planning), the city council has no such uncertainty. The flyover option was signalled by Wellington Mayor Prendergast last December when she issued a press release with the heading “…Flyover option shaping up”. In it she claimed “there is a great deal of support for the flyover option …”

On February 4, another council press release showed that the flyover option was taking hold. Cr Iona Pannett referred to the Basin Reserve flyover in the context of concern about changes to the Resource Management Act “which would make it easier for road builders and developers to push through yet more projects bad for the environment.”

By March, the unpopularity of the flyover was becoming recognised. Regional Council chair Fran Wilde mentioned bus lanes, but not the flyover, in a press release about changes to the roads. “If we are serious about enhancing public transport between Wellington City and the southern and eastern suburbs, then reducing traffic congestion and conflict around the Basin Reserve is imperative.” It was an omission which made many of us believe that the flyover option was there between the lines.

Kent Duston, convenor of the Save the Basin Campaign, is in no doubt that a flyover is being planned. His concise summary of the issues, written before the weekend forum, mentions it several times.

And at the start of yesterday’s seminar, chairman Dr Morgan Williams acknowledged that the Basin Reserve plans “arouse public concern.” In what seemed to be a direct reference to the flyover idea, he said that international trends are to remove overhead roading structures rather than to build them.

Mayor Prendergast’s December enthusiasm for a flyover was qualified however. She said: “One of the ‘bottom-line’ agreements between Greater Wellington Regional Council, the City Council and the NZ Transport Agency is that the ambience and relative tranquility of the Basin Reserve will not be compromised by any changes to the road. That’s why we’re looking at ideas such as enclosing the flyover within buildings and other structures. Such an approach would be aimed at removing visual and noise impacts.”

Dr Deb Hume of the Transport Agency quoted the first sentence of this (but not the second) in her presentation yesterday in the hope, I guess, of placating the locals. But the idea that a flyover at the end of Kent and Cambridge Terrace would be acceptable if it’s disguised as a building is not a credible one.

There was a disconnect between the concerns of the planners and the local residents. Speakers representing the Mt Victoria and Mt Cook communities talked about saving streets and buildings which have been there since the 19th Century. They asked why they hadn’t been involved in the planning process so far. Jessica Closson of the Mt Victoria Residents Association talked about the negative pedestrian experience that a flyover would create. School pupils talked about the difficulties of cycling or walking to Wellington East and Wellington College.

A solution to the problems is available, however. It was revealed by Don Neely of the Basin Reserve Trust: a 1909 plan for a tunnel under the Basin, linking Kent and Cambridge Terraces with Adelaide Road. It seems so logical. But will it be included in the options when the Transport Agency makes them public early next year? Or will the flyover continue to be a threat to the Mt Victoria and Mt Cook communities?

Read also :
Kent Dolan’s live blog from the Civic Trust seminar.

1 comment:

  1. mechaniker, 18. August 2009, 17:35

    Why does a tunnel under the Basin seem so “logical”?

    People complain when rates go up, but then they want a massively expensive tunnel to be built instead of a fly over?