Wellington Scoop

22 months to stop a motorway

takapu valley

It’s been 22 stressful months for the residents of Takapu Valley, since they discovered that the Transport Agency was planning to bulldoze a four lane motorway through their farms.

The saga began in January last year when they learnt that their farms were to be cut in half by the new road.

The locals confronted the Transport Agency to protest against the plan which they said was illogical, odd, unplanned, mysterious and secretive. They’d learnt about the proposed road in a map that had been accidentally left by Transport Agency officials who’d been visiting the valley. They were quick to speak out against it:

“The new Grenada to Transmission Gully road through Takapu Valley has appeared overnight despite Transmission Gully planning of 20 years; it’s secretive, it’s weird and looks like it’s extremely rushed to approve it before the election.” Locals are concerned that the road appears in no public planning or strategy documents and is being rushed through urgently. “They’re restarting plans that were stopped by commonsense in 1990 by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Helen Hughes; they’re being underhand.”

In March last year, the plan was challenged by the authoritative Transport Blog which called it an “unnecessary motorway through the beautiful Takapu Valley:”

The plan, incredibly, gives equal weight to a short term gain for traffic management and the loss forever of a rural asset, productive farmland, environment, and a community. At an NZTA open day these were called ‘esoteric costs’ which didn’t count.

A month later, a meeting of concerned residents was supported by local MP Peter Dunne, who said the NZTA had been using soothing platitudes. And soon afterwards, the Regional Council voted to oppose the road

Takapu Valley people assembled strong evidence against the proposed motorway, and also uncovered errors in Transport Agency claims about the results of consultation.

Then in March this year, the chief executives of all local councils inexplicably ignored the strength of local opposition and produced a report supporting the road. Their report contained some dubious claims. Takapu Valley resident T.Duran wrote convincingly about faults and fallacies in their report and in the Agency’s proposal.

Rightly, the chief executives’ slanted views were not accepted. Andy Foster explained why:

I have to say that the report was disappointingly thin on the evidence behind the recommendations. I find those reasons unconvincing at this stage and in the case of opening up more rural land for subdivision, actually undesirable in retaining and enhancing a compact urban form, let alone the damaging effect it would have on the rural landscape.

The Wellington City Council then voted against the Takapu Valley plan. And valley residents continued to campaign against it, for a second year. What were they fighting to protect:

– 700 hectares of pristine rural valley
– The last undeveloped headwaters of the Porirua Harbour (no trout / lots of native fish)
– The healthy headwaters of the ‘sick’ Porirua Stream
– The last surviving remnant of one of Wellington’s oldest rural communities; several families have been in the valley since the 1860s, when Takapu Valley farms were the ‘country acre’ (100acre blocks) linked to the The Terrace ‘town acre’. If you purchased an acre on The Terrace, you were given 100 acres in Takapu to develop.
– Access to western Belmont Regional Park and a major north Wellington sporting hub.

In April, Peter Dunne accused the Transport Agency of using arrogant tactics in continuing with the Takapu Valley plan:

The Transport Agency’s sublime arrogance in proceeding with a link road proposal that neither local people nor local authorities want or think is even necessary is breathtaking in the extreme. But what is more repugnant is its clumsy attempts at blackmail – threatening to withdraw funding from the widely supported Petone to Grenada road unless it gets its own way on the link road.

And almost two years after its plans had been discovered, the Transport Agency this week gave up, and announced there’d be no new road through Takapu Valley. It was a victory for the local people, but it was a win that was achieved only after almost two years of campaigning and two years of anxiety.

Does the Takapu Valley decision represent a new attitude to local communities by the Transport Agency? Concerned Kapiti residents failed in their attempts to stop it bulldozing an expressway through their quiet towns. And Horokiwi residents were furious when it closed a road against their wishes. Most recently Mt Victoria residents, abandoned by the Wellington City Council, had to fight their own battle against the Agency’s plan to build a concrete flyover alongside the Basin Reserve. The Agency refused to listen to them, but its plan was rejected by a Board of Inquiry and then also by the High Court – thanks to the huge efforts of local people.


  1. Sam, 19. November 2015, 9:06

    The NZTA ran a cynical battle trying to pitch one group against the other. Some people may have been fooled – but I wasn’t.

  2. donna, 19. November 2015, 21:16

    Well done. But don’t worry. They’ll be back. Making a noise about public consultation, and then doing a consultation riddled with misinformation or a lack of relevant information (we’ve just been through this in my little Auckland suburb).
    wrt a ‘new attitude’, NZTA is not interested in what communities think or even, it appears, what will benefit the cities people live in. They are interested in building roads.

  3. Relieved, 19. November 2015, 23:58

    We’re just so relieved. We can now go on planting natives and improving our property/land for the future. We can go on enjoying the increasing populations of native birds. Huge thanks to the key people who unpicked the NZTA’s nonsense.

  4. Ange, 20. November 2015, 12:16

    I would hate to think how much these blunders have cost the taxpayers? Good on the local MP and community for standing up and fighting.

  5. Rick, 20. November 2015, 12:22

    NZTA are paid to do this everyday, you would think by now they would get it right.
    The locals did this in their own time and money, and they won! The local community should be giving lessons to the NZTA.

  6. Trev, 20. November 2015, 13:48

    We had a lot of calls from other communities around NZ that had experienced NZTA’s brutal behaviour. This is not the Kiwi way. NZ was founded on small communities working together.

    NZTA’s culture is bad, they do not listen, they have no empathy. Their work was clumsy and error ridden, and they would arrogantly not even acknowledge or correct major peer-reviewed errors that were found. They are an organisation used to railroading their plans through with ultimate power. The Wellington office seems particularly bad.

  7. MIke, 20. November 2015, 22:38

    The NZTA take their lead from their master the National Party who’ve not caught up with the 21st century and the need to cut global emissions, whose dogma it is to build roads anywhere (60 years behind the times).

  8. Merrill, 21. November 2015, 8:12

    Excellent article, Wellington.Scoop. NZTA’s culture, particularly in the Wellington office, needs close examination in the wake of both the Basin debacle and now the Takapu Valley/Tawa failures. Certainly in the latter case, NZTA failed in all respects to put up a well researched, professional case for any of the P2G follow-on options and suffered accordingly.

  9. Mike Mellor, 23. November 2015, 14:27

    This is a classic use by NZTA of the “fatal alternative” approach. They don’t ask whether the project is wanted; they ask whether you want one option or another, focusing on this artificial choice rather than the real decision. As sales professionals know, it works a treat in getting people to agree (explicitly or implicitly) to one option because they don’t want the other, in this case the Takapu Valley motorway. The essential point, whether Petone to Grenada should get built, gets overlooked and the rejection of one option is treated by NZTA as approval for another.

    NZTA did exactly the same thing with their options for the Basin – a flyover or a flyover.

    (The Flag Consideration Project is another example of this sales technique being used).

  10. LindsayM, 23. November 2015, 19:02

    Thanks Wellington.Scoop for bringing this “fight” out in the open, you really helped get the debate into the public arena.

  11. MIke, 23. November 2015, 21:52

    It’s a good job that Wellington.Scoop did. The local press are still taking their ‘facts’ from the NZTA and then just regurgitating them, hook, line and sinker. No critical thinking or checking whether what they are being spoon fed is correct. They are just acting as infomercials – or is it advertorial.?

    The private radio stations and TV programmes that pass as ‘current affairs’ at key slots in the morning and evening are manned by National Party stooges – what chance has any other message of gaining traction? They’ll peddle the lie that all road building – no matter what the cost or actual logistics – is ‘progress’, and take half the population with them. (It’s the 50% who think Key is a good guy, National are doing a good job, and Labour don’t have any policies).

    The level of debate in this country is a worry, with RNZ the only quality broadcaster under attack, with its funding frozen since 2008. Long may it and blogs like yours survive.

  12. Bob, 25. November 2015, 20:38

    The truth is the NZTA are acting on directives from the top. They have been charged with undertaking Government policy – and given the tools – to build the Roads of National Significance, and to prioritise the building of roads above all other forms of transport. It’s a policy based on dogma and is often out of step with their would be backers such as Mainfreight who in the real world take a more balanced approach using a combination of rail and road. They have criticized the government for being so narrow.

    Peter Dunne has been a brilliant advocate. He has backed the Tawa and Takapu people all the way. He’s attending meetings, speaking passionately and been with us in the valley when it was needed as well as everything he has written in the media or blogs. The ironic thing is that it is the actions and policies of the government he is a part of that he was having to fight against.

    The NZTA isn’t going to change direction, until the country does and they get pointed in the direction of building us more sustainable and environmentally friendly transport solutions that will take us into the next century with something that the future generations can be glad that we did. We need to change the government.

  13. Sam, 25. November 2015, 20:49

    The heads of state head to Paris shortly to talk about climate change. What can our Premier tell them? That we’ve got a programme to undermine the rail network that can mainly run on 80% renewables, and that we’re building more expresssays through unspoilt land so we can put more cars and trucks on the road. Nice one John.

    I see today that Japan is taking people on a train that runs at 500kph (they’ve had it over 600!), France is looking to push its trains up to 350, and Britain isn’t far behind. You’re up to flying speeds there. Take out the check-in times and the distance from the centre of cities – and it’s quicker. This is the future – not more and more roads.

  14. Guy, 25. November 2015, 21:39

    Sam, absolutely, yes, but it’s not going to happen in NZ. We are on mountainous islands with a tiny population, and an antiquated train system on very skinny tracks with low tunnels. The Brits, with their 60 million people, are nearly going broke over the prospect of HS2 (High Speed 2 from London to Scotland) and their country is much, much flatter than ours. Much as I hate to say it, but our train network is only good for freight and metro services. Long distance high speed? never gonna happen.

  15. Mikes sister in England, 26. November 2015, 9:27

    Brilliant news for Takapu Valley – such a determined and passionate fight against the “big bullies”. You should be proud. Future generations can continue enjoying this beautiful valley and the wildlife can breath a sigh of relief.

  16. Sam, 26. November 2015, 20:42

    Guy, Logistically you’d be right. I was making a point as to what is possible with the right political will. Switzerland’s population is about double ours, their tracks at 1m are a bit narrower than ours at 3’6”, they have very mountainous terrain and plenty of trains. The loading gauge here ie width and curvature of the tunnels is similar here to Britain – that’s why they can bring over old British Rail coaches, change the bogies and couplings – and they run here.

    Gisborne for example has only got one tortuous road between it and Napier, that is constantly under repair and quite dangerous – as well as being tenuous. It did have a rail link that had a slip. The local chamber of commerce are desperate to have the rail link operational again to move the fruit and logs out. The government have set their face against it – they don’t believe in rail – although it would probably cost less than the flag referendum we are having, perhaps even less than a farm in the desert. It’s a line that would also be crying out for a rail-car, that could be a tourist attraction as well as providing a means for locals to get between Napier, Wairoa (desperate for more population) and Gisborne. In fact, I think that there would be a lot of lines where a diesel railcar could provide another alternative to driving/buses say in Taranaki.

    This is one time we need a bit of Kiwi Ingenuity to come up with less costly, less destructive, friendlier on the environment ideas instead of those 60 years past their sell by date. We’re already seeing the effect of climate change all over the world. Let’s not build stuff and adopt policies that make it worse.

  17. MIke, 26. November 2015, 22:05

    I wonder if the Takapu Valley was a straw man- to be knocked down. It was so illogical and fraudulent, so the NZTA could get their real objective through which is the Petone to Grenada road. Divert attention to get what they want. Never trust the NZTA using the tactics of warfare. Sad thing to say about a department that should be there for the greater good – but it’s true, we’ve all seen how they roll. Bottom line is this:

    Transmission Gully will sort out a lot of local issues when connected. Not only will it get rid of the crawl through Pukerua Bay at peak times, it’ll connect the main N-S trunk road with a shorter link to the Hutt Valley from Judgeford to Haywards. Porirua and Tawa will have a good connection to Transmission Gully via Kenepuru where the exit at Judgeford will take them to anywhere in the Hutt. The Tawa stretch will become less busy.

    Petone to Grenada becomes an expensive, destructive, white elephant – unless its real reason is an access road to develop that triangle – in which case a road more akin to the one over to Wainuiomata would be more appropriate, less costly, less damaging, and tick all the resilience boxes. And can anyone explain how any of this is going to speed up the traffic along the Petone Esplanade. Surely that traffic would be better sent northerly with a cross valley link meeting with SH2 higher up. Come on Trevor (Mallard) this is your baby!

  18. Sam, 26. November 2015, 22:15

    Guy, if they continue to shift heavy freight by rail – that’s good enough by me.

  19. MIke, 27. November 2015, 21:39

    Bit of a train spotter comment here as to what’s possible.
    The Swiss have a railway running up the mountain next to the Eiger called the Jungfraujoch. Its terminus is at 4,000m (the same as Mt Cook) – the last vertical 2000m is done in a tunnel and was done in 1912. All electric.