Wellington Scoop

Doing the wrong thing for Wellington: a flyover at the Basin Reserve

The government’s Transport Agency delivered a snub to the Wellington City Council last week when it said it intends to choose one of its two flyover options for the northern side of the Basin Reserve.

The Agency knows that last October, the city council voted against the flyover and sent a clear message to the government opposing the plan.

But included in last week’s announcement of the tunnel under the new memorial park, the Transport Agency’s Wellington state highways manager said:

“Decisions on which option will be progressed in the Basin Reserve area will be announced late next week.”

They key words are “which option.” The Agency has only two of them – and they’re not real options at all, because both are for a flyover. Which the council doesn’t want. In fact, to quote Councillor Iona Pannett speaking last October: “No one in Mount Victoria wants the flyover. It is our job to represent the interests of our constituents. Three residents’ associations say a flyover is unacceptable and a tunnel is the only way.”

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown was prescient when she said in the same month: “if tunnelling would be good for the memorial park, it should also be good for other parts of our city.” She accurately described Option X as an inspirational idea which had captured the public imagination. She said councillors should be speaking up for the people of Wellington. She described hopes for “mitigation” of a flyover as being akin to putting lipstick on a gorilla.

She was supported by Councillor Andy Foster, who holds the Council’s Transport Portfolio. He said Wellingtonians want the best result for the city, and this means going underground.

The Transport Agency has recently shown that it can respond to political pressure – though from national politicians rather than local ones. Last year the Agency said it couldn’t afford a tunnel under the new memorial park. When it changed its mind last week, this was because of intervention from the government. But the opinions of local politicians don’t seem to hold so much sway with the Agency.

A majority of eight councillors opposed the flyover and supported the decision that cut and covering State Highway 1 from the Mount Victoria Tunnel all the way to the Memorial Park would be the best decision for Wellington: Mayor Wade-Brown, Foster, Cook, Eagle, Lester, Pannett, Pepperell, and Ritchie.

Seven councillors voted for the flyover: Ahipene-Mercer, Best, Coughlan, Gill, Marsh, Deputy Mayor McKinnon and Morrison. It had also always been supported by former Mayor Kerry Prendergast. Some people thought her stance was one of the factors in her election defeat.

It’s now being said that the memorial park decision will not only be changing the visual landscape but should also be changing the financial outlook as well. Observers calculate that the Buckle Street tunnel makes Option X more affordable than the flyover*. Whether or not the Agency accepts such a view, one thing is certain: if it insists on a flyover at the Basin Reserve, Wellington and Wellingtonians will continue to fight it.

*Maximus writes:
Option A PLUS Memorial Park trenching could equal $195m, while Option X would still have an upper cost of $165m – and it already includes trenching of the park in its calculations. The lower end cost of Option X must be … is it something like $135m? Take $100m for the trench off that, and suddenly Option X is looking like the cheapest option on the table.

August 17
The Transport Agency announces the flyover


  1. Justin Lester, Councillor, Northern Ward, 14. August 2012, 12:05

    I’ll reinforce my comments from the debate we had at Council on this issue some time ago and my take on the issue.

    For me the area is of critical importance to Wellington’s urban form and heritage, given that it runs adjacent to the Basin Reserve, Government House, Wellington College, Wellington East Girls College and the potential for improvements along Adelaide Road and Cambridge and Kent Terraces.

    I recognise there is a congestion issue in the area around the Basin Reserve and that if car usage continues to be the most popular form of transport for Wellingtonians, steps will need to be taken in time to address the issue.

    I don’t believe a flyover is appropriate for this area, largely because of the ongoing visual impact it will have and will continue to oppose it strongly for this reason. It’s my opinion that it would be a backwards step not only for the area, but also the city generally because of wider implications about what is acceptable design. I believe the decision will be regretted if it does go ahead.

    Instead I continue to support a tunnel. It would enhance the green space, limit the visibility of cars from the Basin Reserve and help work towards a cyclist and pedestrian friendly boulevard along Cambridge and Kent Terraces.

    As a Council we have been told by NZTA that a tunnel is unaffordable at the present time given budget pressures. My response to that is two-fold: (1) If necessary, wait until economic conditions improve and then build a tunnel when we can afford it. Don’t build a cheaper fly-over that we’ll regret; (2) Prioritise funding as was done for the Memorial Park tunnel. We had heard similarly that funds were not available for the Memorial Park Tunnel, that it was simply unaffordable. I applaud this decision entirely, but what has changed? The financial climate hasn’t changed significantly, it’s more a case of political will shifting.

    I’d like to see a similar movement in political support from a fly-over towards a tunnel.

  2. Lovely, 14. August 2012, 14:46

    What Wellington really needs is to encourage motorists out of the city and on to excellent public transport ie light rail and maybe a monorail! Why not? It is the Capitol City after all and should be a state of the art design. The rest of the world is moving towards and in some cities have already achieved making the streets people friendly…NO cars in the city = no congestion = no pollution = no noise a wonderful place to be and live….it’s a no brainer!

  3. F. Hendriks, 14. August 2012, 22:15

    They must know that a flyover will create massive protests and could result in people obstructing the construction of such a monstrosity.
    All of Wellington should vote for any party but National at the next election if the flyover is approved.

  4. Michael Gibson, 15. August 2012, 10:36

    Cr. Lester’s comments are pathetic – why don’t Councillors actually get out and lead the debate, instead of having ridiculous “recommendations” put up by officers then sitting back & arguing pointlessly?

  5. Maximus, 15. August 2012, 19:45

    Michael Gibson – what’s your problem? I have not met Cr. Lester, but his comments seem reasoned and completely fair to me. He is not arguing pointlessly, but makes a quite rational and perfectly valid point, unlike yourself. Pull your head in man!

  6. Ben, 15. August 2012, 20:58

    I agree with Michael. It’s high time for the mayor and her councillors to stand up for Wellington and tell the government in no uncertain terms that the city doesn’t want a 1960s-era flyover and that Brownlee and his NZTA neanderthals need to get real and either drop it or wait until the state can afford a tunnel. Hopefully by that time we’ll have an efficient and modern public transport system so we won’t need such a measure.

  7. Maximus, 15. August 2012, 23:06

    Ben – if you had been paying attention at all over the last few months, you would see that is exactly what the Mayor has been doing. The Mayor and Councilors did indeed say that they wanted neither option A, nor B, and that instead they wanted a tunnel.

  8. lindsay, 16. August 2012, 8:39

    Ben – here’s our report (how could you have missed it?) from last October: Mayor wins vote, council supports tunnel, not flyover . The decision is repeated in the article on which you’re commenting. I hope you’re pleased to discover that the mayor and council have done what you wanted – almost a year ago.

  9. Michael Gibson, 16. August 2012, 9:11

    Is Maximus a pseudonym for Cr. Lester?

  10. lindsay, 16. August 2012, 9:13

    Michael: you ought to be familiar with Maximus (whose identity is an efficiently-guarded secret) from his entertaining blog eyeofthefish

  11. Maximus, 16. August 2012, 10:48

    Michael: no, it is not. In fact, I thought that the name Justin Lester was in itself a pseudonym, or even an anagram, for Lustin’ Jester, but I thought that no one would be that bold….

    Lindsay – who says I’m a he ?

  12. lindsay, 16. August 2012, 11:04

    Maximus – I have always assumed (wrongly?) that, if you were a she, you would be calling yourself Maxima. (Isn’t that the name of the Princess of Holland?) If you are indeed a he, perhaps you should be renaming yourself Maximo.

  13. Maximus, 16. August 2012, 11:34

    Lindsay – its all Greek to me ! or Dutch! Whoops – Latin !
    Some have suggested it is from gluteaus maximus…. which is sexless. We all have one – or two of those. But then again, fish don’t have bums. Or do they? I dunno ! Off topic!

    Back on topic – have you ever met Councilor Lester? I can’t remember him running for Council! (hold on a sec – while I google) – Wow! That’s him! He’s cute! and friendly! And – sadly – has a thing for Churton Park….

  14. Sridhar, 16. August 2012, 13:20

    @ Michael Gibson. Maybe you should just accept that you got it wrong. Aren’t the councillors and the mayor doing what you wanted them to be doing in the first place?

  15. Matt, 16. August 2012, 16:12

    Personality and egos should be set aside. Most people have lost track of why at this time we should borrow to re-road, tunnel the bypass, or build flyovers and highways through the city .
    We have higher priorities and needs. One is a women’s shelter and two is a homeless shelter.
    We have mass commercial vacancies so why not convert a building into what we need.
    We don’t need highways and flyovers, we need to understand what is needed right now (not NZTA’s imagination /dreams for 2022).

  16. Stephanie Cook, 17. August 2012, 9:46

    NZTA are systematically destroying inner Wellington! First there was the motorway, then the bypass and now this monstrous flyover. They are still living in the 60s and do not have the imagination to look for 21st century solutions.

  17. Michael Gibson, 17. August 2012, 10:05

    Thank goodness for the 60s!!!
    Wellington would be unthinkable without the “monstrous flyover” through Thorndon.
    Please would Cr. Cook comment on this in connection with her derogatory remark about some of the good things that used to happen in the old days?

  18. Stan Andis, 18. August 2012, 11:05

    What a relief that Wellington Airport has given this project the big tick. I was beginning to worry that this roading authority had slipped by the wayside. I’ve been stopped in my tracks with this remarkable revelation. Life is not complete without the views of Wellington Airport.

  19. Maximus, 18. August 2012, 20:17

    Well, it is, after all, for Wellington Airport’s sake that this is primarily being done. If this was just a road to the eastern suburbs, and nothing else, then I doubt very much that this flyover would be being talked about at all.
    But then again – the flyover will do little, if anything, to relieve congestion, until the accompanying pinch points elsewhere are taken out and dealt with. On one side is the Mt Vic tunnel (and beyond that, the Ruahine St urban motorway); and on the other side are some knarly intersections at Taranaki St and Willis/Victoria St etc. As there are no immediate plans to do the second tunnel, and no plans at all to dig under the intersection at Taranaki St, those pinch points are going to be staying put for years.

  20. Ferdinand Hendriks, 18. August 2012, 20:20

    New Zealand is a democracy and all politicians should take into account the wishes of the people before and when making decisions that have an affect on the people. The people of Wellington elect the councillors on the Wellington City Council and the Wellington City Council voted against the flyover last October. This was done in accordance with the wishes of the people of Wellington.
    The government’s Transport Agency has now announced it intends to choose one of its two flyover options. This is against the wishes expressed by the people of Wellington through their council. What has happened to democracy?

  21. Margaret, 23. August 2012, 14:30

    Perhaps we should now focus on the design of the tunnel we have won, and by extension the one that many yet hope to win in place of the flyover. Since the future of cars is questionable, we should try to ensure that the tunnel system is not only as earthquake and seepage-proof as possible, but also is designed with dimensions adequate to accommodate any overhead services that may be needed by future public transport (e.g. contact with electrical wires), and safe, well-ventillated lanes for active transport modes.

  22. Liz S, 28. August 2012, 21:10

    Um has anyone noticed the climate is changing, and flooding and droughts aren’t that much fun for those whose lives and livelihoods are being destroyed?

    Agree with Cr Lester that we should delay building a city-defacing flyover until economic conditions improve, but I suspect we might also find rising oil prices make airport and road expansion less attractive…and I hope more NZers will demand that we rapidly reduce transport emissions as the reality that people are dying sinks in.

    I also hope councillors, local MPs and Wellington residents can put up a united front on this and force NZTA to forget the flyover and go for smarter solutions like staggering school hours for starters.

  23. Matt, 29. August 2012, 10:04

    Since we don’t need most of these re-roading projects (including the costly work on the new bypass) all of this should stop.
    Regarding the second War Memorial (for an ANZAC day in 2015), war is not sacred and the community do not unanimously support this project either, as was claimed. If you worship war, and all the unnecessary death and suffering it brings, that is exactly what you will get .

  24. Maximus, 29. August 2012, 12:02

    Matt – think of it as worshipping peace, rather than worshipping war. We (collectively, all of us), are very happy and peaceful because there is no war in NZ. We are at peace. This was only brought about by the sacrifice of others.

  25. Matt, 29. August 2012, 12:59

    No you are wrong Maximus, a second war memorial purpose built for a 2015 ANZAC shindig does not celebrate peace. Don’t you know that we have our defense force currently fighting and being killed in Afghanistan (an invasion/war based on a lie). Just because war is not visible to you, do you really think it doesn’t exist. We have not got world peace, and nothing was gained from the lives lost in war.

  26. Maximus, 30. August 2012, 7:55

    Matt – nothing was gained from the lives lost in war? Wow, do you have a dull, dreary, and ignorant view of history. Celebrating 100 years of peace after a war in far off Gallipoli – where thousands died in the mud at the bottom of a cliff, in days, for nothing? The NZ population curve was permanently altered by events like Passchendale where so many young men died. Celebrate the fact that You have not had to go to war in your lifetime, and yes – 5 soldiers dying in Afghanistan is sad, but not on the same scale. We are so incredibly lucky that we in NZ are not under the threat of war (yet) and that our young men like you Matt are not being called up to fight.

  27. Matt, 30. August 2012, 9:58

    So you do know that we do not have peace, Maximus. If we are fighting a war, we do not have peace and nothing was gained from all the wars. The world is in a precarious state right now. Ignorance and hiding your head in the sand doesn’t change facts.
    To celebrate war is insanity.