Capital’s Liveability Essential for Basin’s Transport Future

1 March 2013

If the NZTA’s proposed flyover goes ahead any negative effects from must be mitigated, with a strong emphasis on a 21st Century solution for the local historical and cultural significance of the Basin precinct and for all of Wellington, says Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

Wellington City Mayor and Transport Portfolio Leader Andy Foster today met with the NZTA Board to discuss the Council’s findings from a two-month study into alternative engineering solutions to the NZTA’s favoured flyover around the Basin Reserve.

"Wellington is an incredibly liveable city and we’ve got to be so careful not to spoil it," says Mayor Wade-Brown. "This week’s Quality of Life survey showed 93 percent of residents think Wellington is a great place to live, and today Hong Kong-based Professor Michael Enright ranked Wellington first for liveability in New Zealand in a major report on New Zealand’s competitiveness.

"A strong economy is more than just the movement of objects. A strong economy flows from people loving where they live, so we must strive to continuously enhance liveability."

Councillors were briefed yesterday on the findings of the two-month study. Three options were compared: Option A of a flyover, the Architecture Centre’s tunnel design Option X, and an at-grade proposal by Richard Reid and Associates. All assumed a future duplication of the Mt Victoria Tunnel and future improvements to public transport.

"The NZTA is clearly charged by central government to provide an engineering solution, as part of the Roads of National Significance package but our focus must remain on finding the best solution for the city as a whole. A strong economy, urban design, sense of place, quality of life and optimal transport outcomes are all priorities for Wellington City," said the Mayor.

"We must have the best possible public transport through this area as immediately as possible, safer walking and cycling routes through this precinct as part of a wider city network, and that the Basin Reserve and Kent / Cambridge Terraces aren’t blighted by a naked block of concrete.

"Memorial Park’s development provides an opportunity to substantially enhance this area. We need to do more than put lipstick on a gorilla, we’re transforming this area’s social and cultural value, and providing a comprehensive multi-model transport approach for the benefit of the wider city."

The review by Council staff and peer-reviewed by independent traffic and urban design experts concluded that more areas of NZTA’s Option A needed mitigation than initially analysed, and that the alternative options, while providing some distinct benefits, did not surpass those presented in NZTA’s Option A.

Councillor Foster said the review was incredibly important given the deeply held concerns by the public on the adverse effects of NZTA’s flyover proposal.

"This review analysed the three major options and how they would impact on the economy; the look and feel of the city and Basin Reserve area; public transport; walking and cycling connections; traffic volumes; journey times; and how to mitigate less desirable effects," he said.

"The review concluded that at-grade solutions didn’t stack up in transport terms. Option X produced similar transport benefits to Option A but work on assessing underground conditions and services indicated it would cost significantly more than we hoped," he said.

"The first stage Public transport improvements need to be ready before a proposed flyover goes ahead. We have yet to see details of proposed changes inside the Basin and have suggested additional mitigation of Ellice St, on Kent and Cambridge Tces, and some rethinking about the design of the flyover itself.

"We’re also thinking of the bigger picture of the corridor between the Terrace Tunnel and the Basin, which has not delivered the best outcomes for transport through the city and to the south."

The Mayor said there will be considerable public interest in the report, available here:

Basin Reserve - Assessment of Alternative Options for Transport Improvements (3MB PDF)

"There will be recommendations to the Strategy and Policy Committee outlining a number of improvements to NZTA’s preferred option," said Mayor Wade-Brown. "We want Wellington to be a city where talent wants to live, not just pass through."