Wellington Scoop

Concrete jungle … naked concrete flyover

by Lindsay Shelton
On the same day that an overseas expert condemned Auckland for building a “concrete jungle” in its CBD, the Wellington City Council was told that it couldn’t do anything to stop the Transport Agency building a “naked concrete” flyover across a historic part of the city.

“The Basin Reserve and Kent/Cambridge Terraces must not be blighted by a naked block of concrete,” said Mayor Wade-Brown when the council yesterday announced the result of a two-month investigation into alternative roading plans. But such a blight is becoming more likely, because the investigation has found that the benefits of the alternatives “do not surpass” those of the concrete flyover.

The mayor and a majority of her councillors will have been surprised and disappointed that the report fails to support anything better. Though there are brave words in yesterday’s announcement of the results, the findings aren’t even mentioned till the ninth paragraph:

alternative options, while providing distinct benefits, did not surpass those presented in NZTA’s Option A flyover

(For Wellington.Scoop, I wasn’t so evasive – I rearranged the paragraphs so the result was near the top of the report.)

But there’s no reason to expect that either the mayor or the transport portfolio leader Andy Foster will change their opposition to the flyover and the damage that it’ll cause to central Wellington. The same goes for the other six councillors who spoke against it and voted against it in December. Justin Lester has a set of photographs which convincingly show the visual damage done by flyovers in less important parts of the city. Iona Pannett has said the flyover will be a scar on the city. Each of the others has given strong reasons for their opposition. And even the Transport Agency’s experts have reservations about the flyover. In January they gave it a negative mark in seven out of nine categories.

It’s becoming a battle about what’s best for traffic versus what’s best for the city’s urban design. Traffic seems to be winning. Urban design will be the loser if the flyover is built. It’s also a battle between the Transport Agency with unlimited funds and a development process that’s taken years, and the city council which allocated $50,000 for a roading investigation that was limited to two months, a deadline enforced by the Agency. Unlimited funds – the Transport Agency is spending more than $3billion (and rising) on Transmission Gully, yet all indications are that it wants to rearrange Basin Reserve traffic at the cheapest cost. Regardless of the consequences for Wellington.

What happens next? The council is to debate the report on March 21. It will then have to decide what stance to take at the board of inquiry. There’s going to be a lot of debate before the 21st.

And I hope that no one accepts the myth that there’s any possibility of “mitigating” the flyover. Patsy Reddy of the NZTA repeated this impossible dream in her statement welcoming the council report. But planting trees will do nothing to hide a concrete bridge that’s 9 metres high and 380 metres long.


  1. mark, 2. March 2013, 11:28

    “It’s becoming a battle about what’s best for traffic versus what’s best for the city’s urban design”

    But is it really going to give better traffic flow? And where is this traffic going anyway? It’s become an article of faith at NZTA that a motorway from the Airport to Levin (now ÅŒtaki) will solve every traffic problem along that corridor. That’s not going to happen. Motorways increase congestion; they don’t resolve problems but create more.

  2. Lindsay, 2. March 2013, 12:05

    Re traffic flow: the flyover is designed for two lanes of traffic coming out of the one lane in the Mt Vic tunnel and heading west. The Adelaide Road intersection will be bypassed and everyone will be driving under Tory Street instead of crossing it. Otherwise, there’ll be no improvement in traffic flow: vehicles will still have to stop at the Taranaki Street lights, and the Victoria Street lights, and the Cuba Street lights, and the Willis Street lights … no change after spending $90m.

  3. Elaine, 2. March 2013, 14:44

    “Planting trees will do nothing to hide a concrete flyover 9 meters high…’ Trees take 150 years to grow.
    At our meeting with N Z T A employees, we were told the flyover would be 7.4 meters to the underside, BUT at its maximum as a structure it would be 16 meters in some places.
    Noise is projected to increase, pollution is not correctly measured but a modeled table is used
    Correct and relevant information allowing an informed decision to be made should not be so difficult to access.
    Also in this race to the cheapest, nastiest, option – haven’t we forgotten the old adage ‘cheapest is dearest.’ A liveable capital city deserves better

  4. Curtis Nixon, 2. March 2013, 23:24

    Uberbridge = hideous abomination.
    A mid-air traffic jam.
    Civic vandalism as a solution to a non-existent problem.
    The fix is in.

  5. Trish, 4. March 2013, 12:37

    I have finally got it ! The idea is to park the cars that will still be stuck in the peak hour queue from the Badminton Hall to Taranaki St up in the air (and in the tunnel), where they will be out of the way of the buses and cars heading from Kent Tce to Newtown. OK then. But now I feel sorry for all the people living in Tawa who thought it was about getting home faster from the airport.

  6. Phil C, 6. March 2013, 1:26

    Bummer. First they buggered my homeland on a national level, and now they’re vandalising it on a local level.

    It’s becoming an ever-larger diaspora around the world, watching aghast as New Zealand makes mistakes that it could avoid by learning from other countries, as NZ used to do. But no, that bloody-minded, fast buck, free market attitude of the Kiwi ruling caste ensures the last people left in NZ will be a few financiers, some uber-rich and a vast class of abused, ignored untermenschen.

    Me and my ex-pat mates have been making bets on how long it is before Australia has to step in and contain the dissolution of NZ and the flood of people trying to leave. It’s working out at about 25 years at the moment.