Wellington Scoop

Is it a land grab?

land grab

The battle to stop a highway being built through the pristine Takapu Valley has been growing this week since a meeting of the regional transport committee (where most of the members are mayors.)

The committee rejected a report from regional chief executives, recommending that the road be built. (Peter Dunne had described the report as a “dirty deal.”) But the report wasn’t thrown out. The committee didn’t find it persuasive, but asked for a rewrite, to be done by – of all people – the Transport Agency.

Fran Wilde continued to be consistent in her opposition to the Takapu Valley roading plan. But Monday’s vote was a narrow one. Mayoral opposition to the plan is fragmented. (Nick Leggett turned out to be an unexpected supporter of the Takapu Valley road. Ray Wallace is an opponent of the road.)

Since Monday’s meeting, observers have been asking if the plan is connected with the Wellington City Council’s deal with the Transport Agency signed 15 months ago in which two of the aims are:

Support economic growth and development in Wellington City …
… Ensure that transport and land use decisions are integrated so that the relationship between urban form and the transport network contributes positively to the current and future “liveability” of Wellington.

Takapu Valley people are suggesting that the plan to force a highway through their valley is connected with the idea of opening it up for new housing developments. This suggestion comes in the same week that the City Council has been debating a list of “special housing areas,” resulting from a deal with the government (signed last June) aiming to fast-track the building of more houses in the city.

But councillors today refused to support the list proposing 13 new special housing areas. There were too many unresolved issues. Landscapes, streams, hilltops, ridgelines, recreational areas, transport…all these and more were concerns which resulted in the list failing to get council support. Just as there are too many concerns affecting the Takapu Valley plan.

No one, however, is against the original plan for a new road between Petone and Grenada. This plan allowed for a fast merge of traffic into SH1 just south of Tawa – traffic would remain at highway speed and flow nicely. But the current controversy has grown since this cost effective option was thrown out and replaced with a plan to push the highway through Takapu Valley, with a complex contortion of roundabouts at Tawa which would ruin traffic flow.

Those attending Monday’s meeting have also been describing what they believe was a threat from a Transport Agency officer. She suggested that roading funds could be pulled from the region if a Takapu Valley road isn’t supported. This reminded them of similar threats in 2012 made by the Transport Agency when the Basin flyover was being debated. And it reminded them that the issue of a highway through Takapu Valley could well become just as big an issue as the Basin flyover. It seems that Takapu residents are preparing for a long fight, and they have the skills to do so.