Wellington Scoop

Divided over the flyover

by Lindsay Shelton
The city council has voted in favour of a flyover at the Basin Reserve, in spite of the fact that the city continues to be deeply divided over the issue.

The vote, by 7 to 6, is a disappointment for Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who has argued against the flyover since she successfully campaigned for the mayoralty against the pro-flyover mayor Kerry Prendergast. It was a narrow win, and for a while the new council had a one-vote majority against the flyover. But then Andy Foster changed sides.

The mayor has had to choose her words carefully when releasing council statements. Here’s what she said on Monday.

“The Council has been concerned about the whole-of-city effects of the flyover, such as urban design, heritage and multi-modal transport. Therefore we looked at alternatives … The Council has consistently preferred undergrounding and, when it was announced Memorial Park traffic could be undergrounded, further investigations were essential given the concerns of many Wellingtonians. Our aim is to improve this project as far as possible and maintain a constructive approach on the many other Wellington transport issues…”

But during yesterday’s meeting, via Twitter:

“I cannot vote in support of the flyover, despite improvements. It may be symbolic, but $90m on SH1 doesn’t answer climate change at all.”

The Regional Council also voted for the flyover this week. Only two councillors opposed the concrete structure, but others had concerns which they didn’t act on.

“The flyover isn’t a good solution …[apart from grade separation] and we have reached this point as a result of a deeply flawed process; one in which the NZTA makes up its mind in advance what option it wants and leaves the councils with a take it or leave it decision.”
– Chris Laidlaw – August 22. (But he voted for the flyover.)

There were lobby groups on both sides of the debate, including the Employers Chamber of Commerce which has repeatedly instructed the city council that it must support the flyover.

“…separating the north-south traffic from the east-west flows is absolutely necessary to address congestion and to future-proof the road. A flyover or ‘bridge’ is the only feasible way to achieve grade separation and must be supported.”
– Raewyn Bleakley, chief executive of Employers Chamber of Commerce – August 22 (In a submission to the city council.)

On the opposite side, a citizens’ lobby group continues to speak out against the plan.

“The proposed flyover would be an ugly, unnecessary and ineffective blot on our city and on the beautiful Basin Reserve.”
– Joanna Newman, Save the Basin spokesperson. March 22

And there’ve been unheeded warnings that one flyover will not be enough for the Transport Agency and its planners.

“We believe that one flyover will pave the way for a second. A second flyover will not deliver any positive urban design outcomes for Wellington; both flyovers will permanently divide the city, causing irreparable damage to Wellington’s character and reputation … A second flyover will significantly compromise public transport initiatives and outcomes; and continue to prioritise and subsidise movement of east-west highway traffic when most predicted growth is north-south local traffic.”
– Richard Reid, August 12.

Even the Transport Agency admits there are problems.

“The orientation of the bridge to the prevailing winds means that pedestrians and cyclists will be exposed to wind flows from the side, for which they are less prepared. The main risks to vehicles are from strong cross winds. These risks are greater for high-sided vehicles, such as lightly loaded trucks, and motorcycles … Effects can range from causing tracking variations to complete overturning.”
– NZ Transport Agency assessment of environmental effects.

“We … recognise that the Basin Bridge will have a significant impact on the area.”
– Jenny Chetwynd of the NZ Transport Agency, June 18.

Five political parties oppose the flyover.

“The flyover is a concrete monstrosity that will fundamentally change the character of the area.”
– Grant Robertson, June 18.

And many individuals, too.

“I haven’t met a Wellingtonian who doesn’t think the Basin flyover is a ludicrous idea – ugly, old-fashioned, and in contravention of all modern transport thinking.”
– Mary Varnham, March 24.

“If the answer is a flyover, then we’ve asked the wrong question,”
– Celia Wade-Brown. March 21.

“There’s a big group of people who are antagonistic to it… We’ve said twice we’re not keen on it.”
– Andy Foster. March 21, before voting in favour of it.

“I can assure you I have never voted for a flyover and I certainly won’t be voting for one in the future.”
– John Morrison, in a comment which he sent to wellington.scoop in February 2010.

“Whether he becomes Mayor or not, he would become the catalyst for positive public submissions that support the Basin Flyover.”
– Statement on John Morrison’s mayoral-campaign website, published yesterday after he had changed his mind and voted for the flyover. (And he criticises other people for flip-flopping …)


  1. Traveller, 23. August 2013, 22:18

    What? Councillor Morrison changed his mind? Would he agree that he flip-flopped?

  2. Peter Kennedy, 24. August 2013, 0:23

    Okay, as someone not born and bred in Wellington, but who has lived here for over 20 years, let’s get a little bit provocative and realistic. Time to pull the head out and see the real world. NZTA offered a solution to the congestion at the Basin Reserve. Protesting was never a solution. Only offering viable alternatives from Day One was the alternative.

  3. Alana, 25. August 2013, 22:25

    Cr Andy Foster provided the most confusing analysis ever of the BCR, to dismiss the problems with the NZTA’s financial analysis of the flyover.

  4. Curtis Nixon, 26. August 2013, 9:24

    In the real world, there is a minor traffic jam around the Basin at rush (half) hour. All the other choke points like Ngauranga Gorge and The Terrace tunnel are way, way worse. The jam is caused by the ridiculous traffic lights on the bypass north of Buckle St. A hideous flyover WONT help this. It will put the traffic jam up in the air for all to see and hear.
    In the real world an at-grade solution such as Richard Reid’s would be the cheapest and best. At least build the second tunnel under Mt Vic first – until that is done it will be a flyover to nowhere south.

  5. Polly, 26. August 2013, 10:36

    Very good points Curtis. But the flyover will only cater for traffic travelling from the airport and eastern suburbs, many of whom already travel via Evans Bay/Oriental Bay.

  6. Wellington Commuter, 26. August 2013, 11:53

    I spent over 5 years driving to/from Johnsonville to Newtown every day, some of that time via Ngauranga AND the Terrace Tunnel. I found the Rasin Reserve congestion was every bit as bad as the other congestion points.

    At least, from Johnsonville, I could avoid both the Ngauranga merge and the Terrace Tunnel and drove along the waterfront (which is somewhat quicker). That said, the morning queue on Kent Terrace stretches to the Courtenay Place lights. In the evening the queue back along Adelaide Road was even worse (and to be avoided).

    Before my Newtown job, I always took public transport but bus commutes of well over an hour each way to travel only 12km are no joke and I had to buy a car to get a hour/day back into my life.

    Having a grade separated intersection is essential to handle the volumes travelling around the Basin today. It is vital that we build to increase the transport capacity and other infrastructure needed by our growing city.

    The Spine Study examination of options that will improve PT recommended Bus Rapid Transit but it also showed building the flyover is essential to improving the PT service no matter what option was chosen. It is amazing how councillors from Wellington South do not recognise that their residents and businesses are the biggest beneficials from building the flyover. Andy Foster does make hard work of some decisions but at least he is willing to make a hard call and take the heat. Mayor Celia Wade-Brown’s literally last minute flip-flop on supporting her own council’s recommendations to support the flyover shows . . . what ?

  7. Elaine E, 26. August 2013, 13:02

    Nixon has the best understanding of the “problem” of anything I have read – except his support of the second tunnel for cars which eventually would require another hideous flyover. There are already two tunnels, one for cars and one for buses. A third tunnel utilizing the pilot tunnel which was drilled previously would encourage pedestrians and bicycles. As a new resident, I could hardly believe that a supposed first world country allowed people, including many school children, to share an exhaust-filled tunnel with autos and trucks. The passive ventilation that currently exists vents unfiltered and unmonitored gases directly unto the grounds of East Wellington Girls School. The proposed second car and truck tunnel will also allow pedestrians!

  8. Maximus, 26. August 2013, 19:32

    Elaine: your dislike for a second road tunnel is illogical. You don’t like the existing badly ventilated tunnel shared with cars, trucks and pedestrians. Fair enough.
    Other tunnels: the bus tunnel cannot be used by pedestrians – fair enough.
    The pilot tunnel – is too small to be used by pedestrians and cyclists – fair enough.
    The only logical answer is to build a new tunnel, and this has been chosen to be a combined vehicle / pedestrian tunnel, but with a separately ventilated space for pedestrians – fair enough! What’s not to like or not to understand about that? End of story woman – move on!

  9. Paul. D, 26. August 2013, 20:05

    Maximus – man, chill.

  10. andy foster, 26. August 2013, 20:52

    Alana – If you wanted an explanation of the meaning of the way the BC system works you had only to ask. My comment was as part of my ‘right of reply’ and in this case to one of my colleagues who clearly also didn’t understand. Benefits (savings in travel time, vehicle operating costs and reductions in crashes) are discounted over a period of time (currently up to 30 years) at a given discount rate (currently 8% is generally used). That is a saving next year is considered to be worth 8% less than a saving this year. In year two you discount the saving again by 8%. Just think of it as being like compound interest in reverse – or as the saying goes ‘a bird in the hand is (now) worth two in the bush (future)’. I understand that the discount rates are likely to be reduced (to 6%) and the timeframes increased (from 30 years). The effect of both would be to increase the level of benefits of any given project. It makes sense in a low inflation/low interest rate environment. Happy to help if that is still not clear.

    Warmest regards
    Andy Foster
    Transport Leader
    Wellington City Council

  11. Maximus, 27. August 2013, 7:56

    Paul: I’ll chill when I want to. I just can’t stand stupidity.
    Andy, Alana: re BCR, you may be interested to look at this:
    The decline of economic efficiency in NZ.

  12. Alana, 28. August 2013, 0:51

    Maximus – Your usually thoughtful, careful comments aren’t reflected in these recent posts. Your postings using “woman” and “stupidity” are insulting and not very helpful to progressing the discussion.

  13. Maximus, 28. August 2013, 16:51

    Alana – you’re conflating my use of the word “woman” in one post, with the use of the word “stupidity” in another post. No insult intended to Elaine by calling her a woman.

    The comment re stupidity was a general one, not addressed at her, but at Paul, as you can see above: Paul was telling me to chill because I had posted 3 comments, on different posts. I thought this was a forum for discussion. Bye!

  14. Alana, 29. August 2013, 0:38

    Maximus – regardless of the above, thanks for the reference to a very useful article.

  15. Nora, 4. September 2013, 16:50

    Well I thought I had heard everything re the advantages of the Flyover. But this morning heard Deputy Mayor McKinnon (of course he is on the airport board) in an interview on Newstalkzb saying how lucky Wellington was, as where else in the world would you have an airport 12 minutes from the town centre! So why does he want to spend millions of ratepayers’ and taxpayers’ money to save a few minutes at the most.