Wellington Scoop

The need for long-term vision

by Keith Flinders
Had NZTA been running things in the 1920s, then the Mt. Victoria tunnel would have been designed to be one lane only, with traffic light control each end I expect. Those running and governing the WCC in the early 1900s displayed a vision which lasted well beyond their terms at the helm.

One only has to look at the decision to invest in the tram systems, which opened up Wellington to become a viable community generating wealth and social cohesion. Proportionally the borrowing per head of the then population was massive, but spread over 50 years in the case of the trams, and 90 years for the Mt. Victoria tunnel, the value is evident. So it will be for the next major investments in vital infrastructure, but not for vanity projects such as the convention centre.

Fast forward 100 years and we see few in power with long term vision with costs, as in what is the cheapest option, being calculated without taking into consideration the environmental and other imposts which are picked up by other agencies, such as the health service.

This is why I see LGWM as currently constructed not ever delivering much in the way of positive outcomes in the medium, let alone longer, term. From them in over three years we have seen a series of talkfests, constructed to get the answer they wanted to see (in my opinion) and little else.

Growth in the eastern suburbs is only going to accelerate. Mitigating the impact of growth on transport, generally, needs decisive management from those who know what they are doing, rather than by those elected every three years who think they are experts. Bustastrophe being a prime example of what the latter group achieved.

The short sighted, and stretched out, attempt at forward planning is holding back this vibrant city, ultimately costing more in the long term to put right. Measure twice, cut once, as my woodwork teacher in the early 1960s used to instil in to his pupils.

Karo Drive is a prime example of what could have been a long term solution changed to suit “the now”, and placate those who said the trench and cover would generate more greenhouse gases when the reverse is true. People are still going to use their cars to the same extent, even if they are stuck in traffic with engines idling. Roll on the proliferation of electric cars so we and the environment can breathe easier, as well as light rail or some other form of electric mass transit. I don’t expect to see the latter operating in my lifetime.

Looking at the Willis Street on ramp to the Terrace Tunnel during construction, it appeared to me that no provision was made to lower the road bed at a later date, should the trench with underpass at Willis, Cuba, Taranaki streets be looked at again. Ditto the exit from the Arras Tunnel which should have allowed for traffic to pass under Taranaki at some stage in the future.

A new Mt Vic. Tunnel is affordable, at a cost of around 1 billion (my guesstimate) spread over 100 plus years. Breaks down to be $10 million per year excluding maintenance. The financing costs of the total sum borrowed over 20 – 30 years becomes minor as inflation increases.

In my former business life I was involved in risk management and forward planning in the mainframe computer industry. Planning during its rapid expansion in the 1970s and 1980s required a lot of forward vision. It frustrates the hell out of me to see how councils and government agencies don’t see beyond the ends of the terms in office.

I stood for election to the GWRC in 2016, but failed. The notion that if elected I could change much was likely a flight of fancy on my part. It is the system that needs changing because the complexities of this modern world need better than elected unskilled people making decisions on things they might pretend to understand.


  1. greenwelly, 11. February 2019, 17:15

    NZTA have decided what they want, it’s simply that they can’t find the $4 billion they think it will cost..
    Resolution 8: The NZTA Board endorsed the LGWM Recommended program of Investment, but then basically said we don’t have the money to do what we want to do…. and until funding is found we cannot proceed to a detailed business case. (Page 13-14) So I’m guessing it’s now sitting on the Minister’s desk as he attempts to get the MP for Wellington Central to let him have some more money.

  2. luke, 11. February 2019, 17:59

    let’s give wellington motorways was setup by the previous government who wanted to build lots of new roads and not much else. 1960s thinking.