Wellington Scoop

Redefining the flyover – “a slimline elevated street”

by Lindsay Shelton
What do you do if you’re under attack? You call in a public relations company. And that’s what the Transport Agency seems to have done, as opponents of its Basin flyover start gearing up their campaign.

Evidence of PR expenditure is on display in the compliant, supportive DomPost this morning.

On the op-ed page, Jenny Chetwynd attempts to redefine the concrete flyover. She has accepted PR advice that it should be referred to as a “slimline sweeping elevated street.”

However she can’t altogether avoid reality. The agency’s photoshopped drawings don’t show a slimline structure – but a solid slab of concrete six metres above Kent and Cambridge Terrace.

Her op-ed article admits there’s a need to “visually mitigate the effects of the bridge.” But her only concern is to “visually mitigate” the visual effects for cricketers on the Basin. And what’s being planned sounds alarming: “a new structure that will be an appropriate fit for the ground.” Is this the new grandstand that the Basin Reserve Trust have been demanding?

On page 5 of the DomPost, project co-ordinator Selwyn Blackmore is more forthcoming. He says a new Basin Reserve grandstand is “a work in progress.” And he repeats concerns about cricketers being distracted. “There is some concern that the bridge will impact on batsmen’s views looking northwest, so we just haven’t got there with the design yet.”

The Agency is showing a disproportionate amount of concern for a few cricketers. The rest of us will have to look at the elevated concrete slabs every day. No amount of landscaping will hide them.

DomPost reporters Michael Forbes and Paul Easton are also doing their best to create a new version of reality. They write that there have been “eleventh hour attempts to reignite debate over a Basin Reserve tunnel instead of a flyover.” But this is not what Regional Councillor Paul Bruce’s successful resolution was proposing. The Regional Council voted to

work with the NZ Transport Agency and the Wellington City Council to ensure that the full range of options for freeing up public transport movements through the Basin Reserve are on the table.

It wasn’t “a tunnel motion,” as Fran Wilde is quoted as saying. It was a vote to consider the full range of options, and the decision came as a result of a vote by the entire Regional Council. Very different from its controversial decision a year ago to support the flyover, a decision which was reached without a vote being allowed.

The issue of accuracy has also been raised by Civic Trust chairman Alan Smith. In a letter published yesterday, he points out an error in a DomPost headline, which said the new flyover would provide “a faster way to the east.” Not correct. The flyover will carry only traffic travelling west. It won’t do anything to help traffic heading to the airport, which will still have to go through the stop-start experience of Vivian Street, before queuing to get into the single lane of the Mt Victoria Tunnel. And the westbound traffic: after the flyover and the tunnel under Buckle Street, it will still be stopped by traffic lights at Taranaki Street. And Cuba Street. And Willis Street.

Public meeting votes to reject flyover plan
Transport Agency wants to tell us more about the flyover plan


  1. erentz, 22. November 2012, 11:00

    “And the westbound traffic: after the flyover and the tunnel under Buckle Street, it will still be stopped by traffic lights at Taranaki Street. And Cuba Street. And Willis Street.”

    …And Victoria St.

    I can’t quite wrap my brain around the push for a new stand at the Basin Reserve. It hardly ever seems full to me, and to my mind what makes it great is the lack of stands. I’d like to see the city pushing in the other direction, OPENing up the Basin and better stitching it into the urban fabric, so that it can be a great amenity on the 95% of days when there isn’t a game on. A new stand is surely a con for the Basin, not a pro.

  2. lindsay, 22. November 2012, 11:21

    I agree that a new stand isn’t needed. I agree that the appeal of the Basin is its lack of stands and its open-ness. Opening it up more, and using it more often … great ideas. A flyover would not help to achieve either of these aims.

  3. Alana, 22. November 2012, 15:28

    Apparently international test cricket rules require a minimum grandstand seating capacity, and with the Museum stand closed because it is vulnerable in an earthquake – I do hate the phrase “Earthquake Prone” as though the structure itself sets off the EQ – the current capacity is a problem. That’s why John Morrison has been negotiating to get a new grandstand built as part of a deal to stop potential opposition by Basin Reserve Trust.

  4. traveller, 22. November 2012, 16:55

    How many test days per year are scheduled at the Basin?

  5. Nick, 22. November 2012, 20:15

    I’ve done a few sums and over the last 3 years, a total of 17 days of international test cricket have been played at the Basin. Two tests against Pakistan, one against Australia and one vs South Africa. The more popular test matches against Aussie and SA had attendances of around 12,000 over a 4-5 day match. The capacity of the ground is 11,000. So I could guarantee on any of those 17 days the Basin wasn’t close to being full. What about $11m for a new stand though?

  6. Geoff, 22. November 2012, 20:52

    Turn it into a park imo. It’s such a waste of space at the moment.

  7. Sridhar, 22. November 2012, 21:39

    Does NZTA think NZers are so dumb that they will get carried away by changing the name to a “slimline elevated street”?

    And if NZers do get carried away then they are really dumb. I am not getting carried away. It is still a flyover.

  8. Alana, 22. November 2012, 22:06

    Many of us cricket fans sincerely hope that the Basin Reserve Trust joins the effort to stop this structure that will degrade its environment. Even the proposed grandstand being negotiated will only put spectators up in the air and closer to traffic noise. I hope cricket players and cricket associations resist this shoddy buy-off and help preserve this historic and immensely enjoyable ground.

  9. traveller, 22. November 2012, 22:24

    Seventeen days of test cricket over three years. No justification for spending public money on a new grandstand.

  10. Ellie, 23. November 2012, 10:55

    Why isn’t John Morrison negotiating with Council – he is well placed – to get the historic stand earthquake strengthened ? It is a historic gem.

  11. Nora, 23. November 2012, 11:51

    As usual he is sitting on the fence!

  12. Ron M. Oliver, 24. November 2012, 12:46

    All the ideas that seem to be coming from the NZTA and the majority on the regional Council appear to me to be as slick as the oil lobbyists who support the idea that public transport, pedestrians and bicycles should make way for more motor vehicles on inner city transport, motorways or over flies.
    As citizens who end up paying the bill for everything, it looks just a little bit like we are being told to bite our tongues and stop interfering with progress.

  13. Maximus, 25. November 2012, 16:03

    Ellie asks why Councilor John Morrison isn’t doing more to help. This may be because he believes that he is the linchpin in the whole Basin Reserve saga, with the ability to hold NZTA to ransom over the flyover, demanding a new stand as his prize. NZTA say, in contrast, that nothing of the sort has been agreed, and all they’ve said is that they’ll look at what mitigation is possible, and only if anything is proved necessary.

  14. Kent Duston, 25. November 2012, 17:56

    I reckon Maximus is right. The John Morrison “let’s have a new stand we don’t need” scenario will go like this:

    1. NZTA will mumble about “necessary mitigations” without actually committing themselves to building a stand, and there will be no legally-enforecable agreement with the Basin Reserve Trust prior to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Board of Inquiry.
    2. At the Board of Inquiry, NZTA will wheel out a whole pile of independent witnesses they’ve paid to arrive at the conclusion that a stand is not required for mitigation purposes.
    3. Being a compliant group of EPA political appointees – who have yet to decide against a single NZTA project, or even apply significant mitigation conditions to one of their schemes – the Board of Inquiry will obediently roll over and agree with the independent paid-by-NZTA experts that no stand is needed.
    4. Having been thoroughly out-manouvered by both NZTA and the Prendergast-headed Environmental Protection Agency – who, let’s face it, make him look like the rank amateur he really is in the political stakes – John Morrison will be seen standing at the entry to the Basin Reserve, holding the plans for the now-defunct John Morrison Lipstick On The Pig Memorial Stand, having a wee moment alone.

  15. lindsay, 25. November 2012, 23:07

    Over the last 3 years, there was a total of 17 days’ test cricket at the Basin. Why would anyone (even John Morrison) consider spending public money on a grandstand that will have such little use?

  16. jp, 26. November 2012, 2:54

    Because sport is sacred in New Zealand.

  17. Nick, 26. November 2012, 19:21

    It’s called progress. The Basin will have improved capacity for when that first day of a test match is chocka-block. Anyone remember when the last time that was? Then you will be able to drive from the airport back to Wellington a couple of minutes quicker, so long as you’re not held up at lights after the flyover, otherwise it will probably take the same amount of time that it does now. Oh and you get a nice new park situated under a bridge, kind of a similar environment to the Terrace carpark as it is now, with those big structures overhead, don’t you enjoy hanging out there? And even better: you’ll get a bridge that is practically impossible to remove, so we can future proof our car travel through the city for eternity no matter what changes happen to personal or public transport over time. It also gives us the future option of an elevated park (i.e. the New York highline), that in itself is a stroke of nzta genius.