Wellington Scoop

With the tunnel, Basin flyover is nonsensical, a sad mistake

by Christine McCarthy
With digging for the Memorial Park Tunnel due to commence, following the imminent enacting of the National War Memorial Park (Pukeahu) Empowering Bill, it is time to look again at the Transport Agency’s proposal for the Basin Reserve. The Architectural Centre believes that these two projects (Memorial Park and the Basin Roading Project) cannot be seen in isolation from each other.

Now the government has committed to a tunnel, a flyover at the Basin is nonsensical.

The whole project needs to be relooked at in order to take this significant change into account. NZTA appears to be carrying on as if there is no tunnel. These projects can not be developed in isolation if the best long term solution for the city is to be built.

The Architectural Centre, authors of Option X, endorse the government’s decision to fund a tunnel under Memorial Park. With the construction of the tunnel, much of the Option X scheme will be built.

Option X was proposed in order to provide an appropriate commemorative landscape for the National War Memorial, and to provide major new green connections, which will have the ability to transform the city. The tunnel is also exactly what is needed to separate north/south and east/west traffic at the Basin – but only if it is extended through to the junction of Buckle and Sussex Streets, in accordance with Option X.

Designed properly the tunnel will make a significant and positive contribution to the landscape and traffic planning of the city. Crudely sticking isolated projects together is a sad mistake which will damage this part of town for decades.

Christine McCarthy is president of the Architectural Centre


  1. Cr Paul Bruce, 20. September 2012, 18:30

    Presumably the construction of Memorial Park would reduce the cost estimates of project x downwards in comparison to escalating costs of a flyover.

  2. insider, 21. September 2012, 13:54

    You presume wrong Paul because project X was unworkable as proposed. Two buses could not go round the same corner in opposing directions at the same time. There would need to be signficant property aquisition and demolition to make it work. All the flats along sussex St and the corner site on Rugby/Adelaide Rd. That would add $10m or more then all the additional engineering.


    it’s odd that the same people who want grand open boulevards and greater options for pedestrians and cyclists all around the Basin are willing to seriously compromise those views by shoehorning a major road into a space that is too small.

    That’s the risk when people who design buildings try to design roads. What next? urban planners designing IT strategies? Pchaw!

  3. Sridhar, 21. September 2012, 15:19

    Insider: are you saying option x is worse than demolishing houses and building a flyover? Isn’t it a case of minimising damages as well?

    Like it or not, something is going to be done. If it was only light rail, then there would have been no demolitions, but NZTA is determined to do something there. What is your choice then?

  4. Outsider, 21. September 2012, 16:52

    Insider – rubbish. Not so at all.
    I think that was just a desperate attempt by NZTA planners to try and discredit a scheme that was demonstrably better than theirs….

  5. elmer, 21. September 2012, 17:05

    “That’s the risk when people who design buildings try to design roads”.

    Oh please. Like the “insiders” are doing a sterling job of jock strapping our city with asphalt.

  6. Guy, 21. September 2012, 19:22

    “Two buses could not go round the same corner in opposing directions at the same time.” Insider – whoever you are – this comment is patently untrue. The corners of the Basin Reserve, around Sussex Street, are exceptionally wide, as they have planted traffic islands in the corners to take up some of the excess road width. Clearly, corners were not the issue.

    Local government rules require road widths of 3.2m, while motorway/State highway design requires widths of 3.5m per lane width. A bus itself is only 2.5m wide. Seeing as the road replan was only intended for local traffic, and not as a motorway, 3.2m (the standard required width for all new roads in Wellington – although many, many existing roads are much less) was used as a design factor.

    So, in Sussex Street, with 3 existing full lanes of traffic and one lane of parked cars, combined with two wide footpaths, the traffic could easily be re-organised into 2 lanes of traffic each way. There was just enough room if another metre width of roadway could be found from the existing footpaths – and, while one side of the street was populated with existing buildings, the other side of the street has only the small, projecting verandah of the old (heritage, but earthquake-prone) cricket stand as a “bottle-neck”. Very easy to solve that issue!

    However – NZTA chose to say that instead, the entire row of buildings down the entire other side of the street would all have to be purchased and demolished. Entirely unnecessary, and clutching at straws / lacking in imagination in how to deal with a problem….

    And, before you say what about a cycle way – that was catered for in Option X as well, by routing cyclists along a much safer, traffic-calmed Tasman Street route. So, overall, not really any serious issues with width.

  7. Alana, 23. September 2012, 22:38

    A reminder – the next meeting to organise opposition to the flyover and the traffic plan proposed by NZTA is on
    Wednesday 26 September
    5.30 to 7pm
    Ground floor meeting room one
    Greater Wellington Wakefield Street

    Please arrive on time. The doors lock about 5.30pm but we will check the door periodically.

    If you are unable to come to the meeting and want to help stop the flyover, check out the Facebook pages Stop the Flyover or Save the Basin Reserve, or the same names for our webpages. Or you can email wellington.politics@gmail.com

  8. Elaine Hampton, 24. September 2012, 11:20

    Insider, why would you believe NZTA?
    They came to the workshops re the ‘Basin Flyover’ with slides carrying data from the Auckland Regional Authority, 10 – 15 years out of date, and said ‘it doesn’t matter’ !
    If we have to have something we want Option X which is now half paid for with the trenching of Buckle St.,

  9. insider, 24. September 2012, 12:04

    @ guy

    From the report = “The narrow lanes around the Basin Reserve will require additional widening on the horizontal curves to cater for the tracking of heavy vehicles and buses to avoid intrusion in to the adjacent lanes”

    If you’ve ever towed a trailer or followed a bus on some of our suburban streets you’d understand the concept of tracking or swept path. It’s basic physics and engineering.

    you can go around some corners quite easily while others require you sometimes crossing the centre line to get the rear axle safely round, even though the width of the road is unchanged. This means that someone is going to have to give way if the curve is too tight. Now that’s fine in a suburban street but not acceptable on a major road. And that is waht the opus report is pointing to.

    It’s all very well to quote ,minimum lane width standards, but there are also tracking curve standards. You ignore them at your peril because I suspect the council’s traffic engineers will have a similar view to NZTA’s.

    @ Sridhar – what houses are being demolished?

  10. Guy, 24. September 2012, 21:27

    Insider – we did that already. It’s NOT a problem. Got that ? What other alleged faults do you want to try?

  11. insider, 25. September 2012, 13:09

    @ guy

    Are you saying you incorporated tracking standards into your lane design? From what I’ve read of the standard, that’s pretty detailed and complex work. And surprising because none of the other work on Option X was to anyhting like that level of design (based on what is on your website) – that’s not a criticism BTW. And looking at the drawings, the road widths looked pretty uniform on both straignt and curved sections. What additional allowances above 3.2m did you make and where?

  12. Sridhar, 25. September 2012, 13:21

    @ Insider. The answer to your question is a quote from your own comment “There would need to be significant property acquisition and demolition to make it work” and my comment was based on that.

  13. Guy, 26. September 2012, 11:09

    Insider – no, Arch Centre was not going to produce full working drawings of an alternative scheme for NZTA. That job, producing working drawings of roading projects, is fully the repsonsibility of NZTA and its many well-paid consultants. As a voluntary group of concerned individuals, albeit design professionals with a decent amount of experience, the purpose of the Option X scheme was a chance for NZTA to see that there was an alternative that they had not considered, to allow NZTA and their consultants to have a scheme that offered some real alternative thinking, and to possibly take the scheme on board and produce it as a real option for the people of Wellington.

    I’m surprised by your (implied) criticism Insider – Arch Centre went in to see the people at NZTA / Opus and had nothing but really positive conversations – so if you are inside one of those organisations, then perhaps you were not at the meetings. Tracking standards at the corners were not raised as being of concern to the people in the meetings. Regardless – as can be seen from the plan, there is a lot of room available at the corners.

  14. insider, 26. September 2012, 13:25

    @ guy

    I’m a bit confused. You said you had looked at tracking curve issues- “we did that already. It’s NOT a problem. Got that” – but now you are saying that is Opus NZTA’s job….? Well Opus have looked at it and said your plan is lacking.

    I understand you are a voluntary group, so there is no implied criticism on that note (I explicity said the opposite). But your response to practical and detailed criticism from professionals seems to be to just dismiss them by saying they are unimaginative, and then repeatedly state there is room, but not provide any basis for that – in fact you get circular and say it’s their job to do the detail.

    Given you;ve been talking with Opus and NZTA I;d thought you might have a bit more evidence by now that everything will not only fit but it will fit and be workable, especially as it seems that could be quite a stumbling block for your proposal. There’s no point building a road that doesn’t work as a road, no matter how pretty the space around it.

  15. Guy, 26. September 2012, 14:39

    Insider – the only real stumbling blocks to the proposed Option X are that NZTA does not wish to do it. All of the issues raised are, as you know, completely resolvable. If NZTA was given the order to make it work, then workers would be put on the job to run through any issues and make it work.

    The real issue is that traditional road planning strictures are at stake here. Road planning dogma says: if road is congested, build more road. If road is narrow, make it wider. If road is not correct width as laid down in Austrans manual, then road cannot be done.

    In reality, a vast majority of roads in the old parts of Wellington do not conform. In theory, by modern road planning dogma, those roads could not exist. And yet they do. And people use them happily every day.

    So the challenge of doing away with a giant roundabout, and reducing the amount of intersections, is an affront to more traditional road planners who come up with schemes that do not fit the more orthodox planning system. We’re asking you to think different. It is blatantly clear that huge numbers of Wellingonians do not want a flyover, nor do they want a motorway through the Memorial Park. The flyover is being presented as a solution to the perceived traffic problems, and that it is the best, the cheapest, and the only way to solve the traffic issues. Now that the Memorial Park is to be trenches, and it works out that actually, X is cheaper than A, I would have thought that NZTA might want to sit down and constructively explore alternatives, such as X, that offer some significant advantages.

    Yes, there are some differences, and disadvantages as well, but a clever man such as yourself should be able to swallow that personal pride and say OK, don’t you think?

  16. Elaine Hampton, 27. September 2012, 13:45

    I think that NZTA should immediately hire at whatever cost the prime movers at the Architectural Centre . They have produced an Urban Design for a city that people live in – not just cars / trucks.

    NZTA have produced a concrete flyover – a diabolical, destructive, noisy, one off isolated monstrosity that gives nothing extra and will reduce ambiance and local wellbeing and health outcomes.