Wellington Scoop

Talking to the Transport Agency

by Lindsay Shelton
I’ve decided that Transport Agency people should be given more chances to meet the public. And we should get more chances to talk to them, too. I met some of them at their public information day on Saturday.

Their cynical process of “public consultation” hasn’t worked. But talking face to face is a different experience. Not, though, on the subject of their Basin flyover proposal, which they have been trained to defend at all costs, and for which they’ve created a new set of drawings such as the one above showing a couple sunbathing under the overhead traffic.

Their public information day was in the same space where 100 people had voted to oppose the flyover four days earlier. The room has floor to ceiling windows looking out on traffic going to and from the Mt Victoria Tunnel. If the Agency gets its way, the flyover will raise the west-bound traffic to eye level outside the windows.

The designers of the flyover asked me what I thought of it. So I told them. I don’t like it. Why not? Because the massive concrete structure is out of place – just plain wrong – for an inner-city urban setting. They looked glum. Or dubious. Perhaps they were trying to look neutral.

The drawings on display reinforce local people’s concerns about the huge slab of concrete hanging nine metres above the road. None of the Agency’s carefully-chosen words (“slim line” is especially risible) can make it look better. Nor can trees or landscaping. But for the Transport Agency, it’s see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. So as they weren’t going to admit to any faults in their design, I thought we should change the subject. There’s so much else to discuss about Wellington’s roads.

I asked about roundabouts. They identified a cheerful young designer who said these were his speciality. Why, I asked him cautiously, are the three roundabouts on the way to the airport all so badly designed? Roundabouts are supposed to enable traffic to merge smoothly without obstruction, but the lanes marked on these roundabouts force every driver to stop. The roundabout specialist drew circles in his notebook. Was he agreeing that there might be better ways of aligning the lanes round the roundabouts, at least so that the left lane of traffic didn’t have to stop?

I also wanted to know why when you’re driving to the airport there’s only one lane of traffic alongside the runway. One lane doesn’t seem enough for an airport which includes “international” in its name. The road is two lanes wide, but the left lane is marked only for traffic turning left. No one could answer this question. Safety, perhaps, they pondered. Apparently there’s a different group of people who deal in safety matters.

So we moved on to traffic lights. Why (I asked) are so many of the city’s traffic lights badly adjusted, changing to red as you approach, and making you stop when there’s no cross traffic in view. On this subject, the Transport Agency people agreed: Wellington has too many lights that are out of adjustment. But they couldn’t be blamed for this. The lights, they said, are run by the city council, from a central computer. Richard MacLean, where are you? Let’s have a public information day where city drivers can meet the people who control that central computer. We can tell them about all the lights which their computer isn’t coping with.

I had one final question. Why does the Buckle Street tunnel stop before Taranaki Street? A Transport Agency road builder (“I don’t design them, I just build them”) told me the tunnel couldn’t continue under Taranaki Street, because there are too many water mains and sewer pipes and other complex bits of the city’s infrastructure in that area.

So … the flyover may not be solving many problems for its two lanes of west travelling traffic, because when you drive out of the tunnel you’ll have to stop at the Taranaki Street lights. Surely the Agency won’t want traffic to back up in its new tunnel. Perhaps its staff will get together with the council’s computer operators, to start the improvements which should have been done years ago.


  1. Grant Buist, 26. November 2012, 9:58

    Despite the horrendous noise, the couple in the top photo are sitting under the flyover because it’s the only place where they don’t have to actually LOOK at it.

  2. Alana, 26. November 2012, 13:06

    Baffling that NZTA is sticking with this design despite its many flaws and extraordinary cost. The drawing shows a ridiculous trellis to “mitigate” the damage to the Grandstand apartment building, and there is discussion going on with the cricket ground management, NZTA says, about erecting a wall along one side of the flyover to “mitigate” the distraction to cricket players. This grand, historic cricket ground deserves better. The book, A Fan’s guide to World Cricket, describes the Basin Reserve as “the most picturesque ground in New Zealand.” I hope NZTA is made to listen to reason.

  3. Maximus, 26. November 2012, 17:46

    The more I hear about the flyover (sorry, slimline bridge is just bullshit), the more I believe that the reason that this is all being done is because somewhere down the line, NZTA is planning to shift the SH1 Inbound traffic out of Vivian St, and into a channel dug the other way through Memorial Park. They’ll then be able to take the alternative route of Option B, with the other flyover, and have one road in, and one road out, all carving through the same space. I’m pretty sure that is their Long Term Plan. Could Insider come out of the closet and confirm that to us please?

  4. Mark, 26. November 2012, 18:09

    The view of the NZTA is to look at each project in isolation, as if there were no issues at either end of it, unless you are talking about the BCR or value for money. Then, you not only have to take the whole Wellington Northern Corridor into account, but the entirety of the RoNS nationwide, even though they have nothing in common bu the name.

    Good on you for trying to communicate, Lindsay, but I warn to to stock up on medication as you’ll be banging your head before long.

    If you get to ask them more questions, ask them why SH1 goes to the airport now, when we can’t drive onto a plane and drive off in the South Island. When I was a lad, it went to the ferry and you could.

  5. Michelle, 26. November 2012, 20:07

    Okay. So NZTA aren’t going to listen to the voice of reason. Someone in the Save the Basin group should google “concrete collar birmingham UK“. They spent 20 years getting rid of these things out of their town as it choked development! Yes they pulled them down to improve the economic vitality of their city. Let’s use evidence like this to show NZTA what these things really do to a city.

  6. erentz, 26. November 2012, 20:51

    Michelle: sadly if transport funding in NZ was evidence based this whole thing would’ve been cleared up years ago. These projects are purely political, a fat guy and his mates want to build a road, that’s it, end of story. NZTA isn’t an independent agency, they do what they’re told. The engineers at the agency know how to build roads, that’s all. You’re not gonna make it far in an agency like that if you’re the guy always pointing out common sense and using reason-based arguments, so they get weeded out and it becomes self fulfilling. The only way to defeat the flyover is to delay and wait it out. Either the money will run out or the fat man will be voted out (or have a coronary). Or you somehow put him in a position where he can still build his road, but only if it’s one we can all live with (this will cost us more).

  7. Ferdinand Hendriks, 26. November 2012, 20:58

    Thank you Lindsay for engaging with the Transport Agency people.
    From your conversations with them, (and their answers to your questions), it is the NZTA has engaged people to sell their flyover project who are not up to the job of explaining (and selling) such a major change to the Wellington City landscape. Let alone convincing us of the benefits. The drawings they have produced are just “off this planet”.

    I hope with your approach of engaging the Transport Agency people in direct discussions that we will expose all parties involved in the decision making processes for the Flyover, to show where their true alliances lie, so that the right decision will be made in the end. If the Egyptians can challenge their current leader on the process of democracy, then we in New Zealand can apply the same challenge to the flyover process.

  8. Michelle, 27. November 2012, 8:45

    Erentz – thanks. Yes, I know I escaped from that! I have been pushing evidence-based decision-making for years here in NZ. I came to NZ to help NZTA fund sustainable transport solutions. I’m not giving up now! Fight them … delay them … whatever it takes. I’m tackling all angles.

  9. Malcolm M, 27. November 2012, 19:11

    Melbourne removed a flyover a few years ago – at the Flinders Street – King Street intersection. A discussion forum post says it “… laid waste to that entire corner of the CBD.” Following its removal 3 commercial towers were built adjacent to it.


    What the images can’t show is the noise of vehicles on the flyover. It’s certainly not pleasant. Land values are sure to plummet after the flyover is completed.

  10. Malcolm M, 27. November 2012, 20:03

    Removal of the Melbourne flyover was funded by a developer, and was expected to increase the value of surrounding real estate by 30%.


  11. Stop the Flyover/Save the Basin Reserve, 27. November 2012, 20:37

    Hi Malcolm – We’ve added your references about taking down flyovers to the Stop the Flyover website -under the topic “Freeways and Overpasses – Relics of the Past.