Wellington Scoop

Leaving it to the locals to fight the flyover

flyover sunbathers

There’s less than seven months remaining of the nine-month period for making a decision on whether or not to allow a flyover alongside the Basin Reserve. And the fight against the 300-metre-long concrete bridge is being left to local volunteers – because neither the Wellington City Council nor the Regional Council is opposing the huge structure.

The locals have got a tough job. The Transport Agency has had years to prepare its case and has produced an overwhelming amount of highly technical evidence. The volunteers have a very limited amount of time to evaluate it and respond. But they can point to substantial public support. A hundred and seventy-eight submissions are opposed to the flyover in full or in part. That’s 82 per cent of the total received by the Environmental Protection Authority, which is running the board of inquiry which will decide on the flyover.

The citizens’ groups who are leading the opposition are made up of people who live in the area and whose communities will be changed for the worse if the flyover is built. The list includes the Mt Victoria Residents Association, the Mt Victoria Historical Society, the Save the Basin group (which is based in Mt Victoria), and the Newtown Residents Association.

And though the two councils weren’t willing to help them, they do have support from some high-profile individuals who are opposing the flyover.

Leading architect Roger Walker is giving expert evidence about its damaging visual effects. Lawyer Denis Foot is to give evidence on heritage concerns. Transport economist Neil Douglas and architect and urban designer Daryl Cockburn are other experts who are opposing the plan. Richard Reid, the Auckland planner who has come up with an alternative proposal, is another expert witness against the flyover. With a track record of having worked successfully with the Transport Agency, his evidence will cover transport planning, urban design, architecture and landscape architecture.

The Mt Victoria Residents Association will be calling six experts (including Reid) who will give reasons why the flyover should not be approved. In its written submission, the association specified negative effects on Ellice Street, Brougham Street, Paterson Street, and Dufferin Street and it described the consequences of wind-blown pollutants coming from the raised road.

The Newtown Residents Association opposes the flyover “because of the detrimental effects it will have on Newtown and the southern suburbs.” It states, undeniably: “Nowhere in the world has a highway flyover improved the surrounding city.”

The Architectural Centre, which was first to design an alternative plan, warns that the flyover will be out of scale with its neighbourhood, which does not have a cityscape capable of accommodating such a large and unappealing structure. Its lawyer is calling three expert witnesses (in association with the Newtown group) who will speak on planning, urban design/landscape, and wind/noise.

Residents of the Grandstand Apartments, which will be only eight metres from the flyover, are also on the list of the flyover’s opponents. They are concerned about increased noise, vibration, dust and smells, as well as adverse economic and health effects. Their quality of life will be affected by the raised traffic outside their south-facing windows.

The Clyde Quay School Board’s submission is concerned about environment safety and health. St Marks School expects “significant adverse effects which are of grave concern to us” including not only pollution and noise but also financial losses during the three-year construction period if its access is blocked and parents decide to send their children to other schools.

Regional Wines and Spirits in Ellice Street have asked for resource consent to be declined, not only because the flyover will generate dust, noise and vibration but also because it will decrease the store’s visibility and limit access for customers and delivery trucks. They will be calling two expert witnesses, one speaking on traffic engineering, the other on resource management planning.

But it’s a David and Goliath situation. The Transport Agency, with enormous financial resources, employed 24 consultants in April last year to write reports favouring the flyover. The locals don’t have the money or the resources to assemble an equal range of opponents. One example: the Transport Agency is putting forward eight experts to defend the landscape/effects of the flyover. Their opponents have only five.

Though the formal hearing doesn’t begin till the end of January, the experts are being called together for “conferencing” starting next week and and ending on 18 December. There are to be 11 intense days when all the experts must “confer and attempt to reach agreement on issues or at least to clearly identify the issues on which they cannot agree and the reasons for that disagreement.” It’s evident that the board hasn’t been deterred by the failure of its earlier series of meetings (involving individual submitters and Transport Agency staff) which were notable for failing to reach agreement on any of the contentious issues. There is, however, one difference. And it’s not a good one. Reports on the submitters’ meetings were published in various media, including on Wellington.Scoop here and here. But the experts have been told their discussion is “privileged” and the public cannot be told what’s been going on except by signed joint witness statements. What should be an open process is moving behind closed doors.

The conferencing process has also been criticised because the requirement to participate in 11 days of meetings will divert submitters from writing their evidence. There’s also concern that rebuttal evidence will not be due till 21 January, leaving submitters with only three working days to prepare their responses before the hearing begins on the 27th.

The over-riding time constraints are caused because the board of inquiry must deliver its decision by the end of May. The time-frame has been set by the government, which refuses to allow any flexibility about the end date. A group of submitters told the Minister that the timeline is unreasonable, specially as it includes the Christmas and New Year holidays. They wrote (in part)

“The applicant has had years to prepare for this application… [But} the submitters will not see potentially significant evidence till 13 December. The parties remain concerned that the proposed commencement date for the hearing puts unreasonable pressure on submitters, their experts and their representatives and disadvantages them in comparison with the applicant who began its own preparation years ago.”

They asked for more time. Their request was rejected.

Read also
Board of Inquiry process stacked against submitters
City Council divided
Nine months to make the decision
Flyover nonsensical, a sad mistake

1 comment:

  1. B Smyth, 25. November 2013, 14:49

    I am so disappointed with the Wellington City Council and the Regional Council for not opposing this huge structure. Do the public realise that you will only travel on the flyover on the way back from the airport – one important factor in a disastrous decision.