The Eye of the Fish

June 16, 2013

$300 million airport extension and Light Rail for free with every second Mt Vic tunnel built…

OK – Hear me out here people. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle over a couple of things this week – one is the proposed $43m strengthening of the old Town Hall, and the other is the proposed $300m extension of the airport.

First things first : where have those figures come from? Put them back at once – you don’t know where they have been! They’re dirty! Who knows what they are based on? Yes, they could be more – but then again, they could be less. They are not fixed contract prices, nor are they based on completed contract drawings. So, just hold your horses there peoples, and let’s think laterally – after all, Wellington is the creative capital, right?

So – what about that airport extension? That cost – as near as dammit plucked out of thin air – and what is it based on? Trucking in a lot of soil – hard fill – half a mountain basically, and a lot of suction down there on the Miramar sea bed to vacuum out the old dead sea slugs that currently reside there in the top ten feet of rotting organic matter. They need a lot of mountain to fill that in.

Where do you get a lot of mountain from? Well, for starters, there is a big bit of hill right next door, owned by Wellington Airport, currently only just holding up a much maligned sign saying Welling-t-o-n and a big advert for Hyundai cars. That could go in the hole for starters. But they’ll need more soil than that. There are potentially millions of tonnes of stone fill needed, and if you bring each load in by truck, then yes, it will cost millions. So we need to think different.

That’s where, if we (the City) are thinking cleverly, we could kill two birds with one stone (so to speak) – maybe three. We have a bloody great big flyover heading our way, which will do stuff all to make the airport traffic fly any faster, unless it also has a second Mt Victoria tunnel bored through that hill. There is a whole lot of prime hard rock fill going to be coming out of that hole, and it hasn’t got a home yet. With a bit of kiwi ingenuity, some lateral thinking, and a whole lot of number 8 wire (and some quite larger bits of steel), we can put these together. What we need is a rail system to connect point A with point B, ie Mt Vic to Miramar, so that they can run wagons full of dirt down there.

This isn’t a new or silly proposal at all – in fact, it is a rehash of the actual system used when they built the first Mt Vic tunnel system (by hand, I might remind you) way back in the 1920s/30s. There is a lovely website full of historical info on this – but the long and the short of it was that all the soil coming out the Haitaitai side was put into small rail based wagons, and sent on tracks down through Haitaitai to arrive at the fill site in Kilbirnie. It was very eco-friendly, and clever in the way that only the old railmen of days of yore could be: the incline was such that the (full) wagons would make their way down Moxham Ave under their own gravity load, and gather speed – and then slow down on the flat area at the base, where, by the time they reached the end, they could be tipped out and the soil spread over that boggy pond that is now a cricket ground. Simple really! And then a horse could pull the empty wagon back up the hill. Low energy, clever solution, and all done for a lot less than $300m. But we can do better than horses these days.

So – we need another Mt Vic tunnel (Iona Pannett disagrees, but we do), and there is nothing wrong with boring holes in mountainsides. So, we buy a tunnel-boring machine, or a large road-header, and start to dig. The spoil comes out the rear, and is railroaded along to Miramar wher it fills in the hole in the sea (after dredging back the sea floor). The great thing is that if the city was clever, the rail tracks could be used for running a light rail system along later – we all know it needs to go along the foreshore there – and so for the price of the tunnel (which NZTA is planning to do anyway out of it’s vast and endless budget of taxpayer money), then you:
A) solve the problem of where to put the spoil from the tunnel
B) get a half-price (or less) cost of reclamation of the Airport extension
C) get a free set of train tracks installed from Mt Vic to Miramar.

Now THAT is clever thinking. Councilors, are you listening? Present and Future Mayors of Wellington, are you listening? Infratil, are you listening? Stephen Joyce, are you listening? I’ve just saved the city / the country about $150m plus! I’m going to leave this post up here till the whole country agrees!

Wellington, I give you this idea – for free! The Maximus express!

Just Do It.

16 - 06 - 13

Are you thinking big enough?

Area to fill: 250*100*20=500,000
Area of the tunnel: 500*10*10=50,000

Seems we need to think bigger, as in MORE tunnels of course. What if we built two twin bore tunnels from Kilbernie to the Terrace: 3,500*(PI*5^2)*2=549,779

That’ll do it!

It sounds like a big chunk of the cost also might be wrapped up in building two tunnels under the runway.

16 - 06 - 13

Oh. Another option I’ve long fantasized about is leveling the southern half of the hill that Overtoun Tce sits on into the bay. I’m sure that’d go down a treat today.

Paul Aitken
16 - 06 - 13

Why does the extension proposal change every time it is trotted out? The previous one was for just enough North to tidy up the road/powerline area and around 300m South.

The Dompost has had one letter to the Editor from a retired aviation type saying that the slope from the existing runway to the top of Newlands is already marginal. What has changed to allow the runway to move northwards? I recall plans from Don Huse’s days hitting a similar snag related to the hills either side of the runway.

If it does go ahead and river gravel is any use, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage in the Hutt that could be dumped there instead of other parts of the harbour.

16 - 06 - 13

At Madeira Airport, they built a bridge structure out to sea instead of reclaiming land.

16 - 06 - 13

Much as the retired aviation chappie deserves respect, I’m pretty sure that they are not yet skimming the rooftops of Newlands, and they could do this without too much head scrastching. You’d really have to hope that, seeing as the proposal came from Wellington Airport itself, they would have checked out the flight path as step 1 along the way…

16 - 06 - 13

And who knows, maybe the reclamation material could also come from Newlands Ridge if needed.

60 MPa
17 - 06 - 13

Damn fine idea, Max.

17 - 06 - 13

I know, right?!

Seamonkey Madness
18 - 06 - 13

GENIUS! Although I have to agree with Erentz Max; you’re not thinking large enough. ;)

To get the 500,000m³ how about we extend the new tunnel underneath Moxham Ave, Hamilton Rd and Overtoun Tce, having the southern portal come out opposite the Zephyrometer?
Sure, this might entail rejigging the Cobham Drive (SH1), Evans Bays Parade intersection. BUT we could then future-proof the design for light-rail at the same time. =)

Winner, winner! Chicken dinner!

18 - 06 - 13

Still thinking small… Here’s a much better idea:

I guess it will require a bit of an upgrade to the Interislander terminal. They were just too quick off the mark giving the OPT to Athfields.

Sarah Free
18 - 06 - 13

I have to agree, its an interesting suggestion.

18 - 06 - 13

Aren’t you all being a bit hasty? Who owns the foreshore and sea bed around the coast in New Zealand? Who has customary fishing rights over this bay that it is proposed to extend into and infill? And what about the giant Taniwha that lives in the Harbour / below Miramar? This is going to be an interesting / long drawn out Resource Consent process, which is why WCC are looking at starting the process a year out…

19 - 06 - 13

And there’s more. Airline pilots want the runway extension to be even longer. They’re talking about safety.

Elaine Hampton
20 - 06 - 13

This is just brilliant, big tunnel, light rail I suppose can do waste wagons, lengthen the runway, more taxi charges for Infratil, the airport will only be able to function in the day time because of the surrounding hills like Queenstown

AND we won’t need the Flyover to ruin the Bssin cricket ground and area because we will have light rail,transporting all the freight coming from Asia !!!! $90 million plus over run costs contributed towards Light Rail