The Eye of the Fish

Erentz
March 21, 2013

Flyover vote

Later today the Council will vote on their support of the flyover. Related to this, an interesting tidbit came out yesterday and almost slipped me by: “Steps to move state highway traffic off Vivian St are among measures needed to ease the impact of a Basin Reserve flyover, Wellington City Council says.”

Holy-moly. That’s new. Up until now some Councilors have been willing to admit privately that the way the Ngauranga to Airport “strategy” completely ignores Vivien Street is absurd. But the Council in an official capacity has, as far as I know, never said anything to this effect before.

Where did this come from? Who said it? Is this part of official policy now? What do they mean? So great news, the Council is finally talking about the Vivien St traffic sewer. Hopefully they keep this up and start to form some real strategy around it.

But then look at this gem from NZTA state highways manager Rod James: “The future of Vivian St is part of a wider discussion about Wellington city’s long-term transport planning requirements.”

This annoyance-generating statement is well beyond palm-to-the-forehead levels. Did we not go through this whole process of developing a long term “strategy” for Wellington’s transport planning requirements, and completely ignore this issue despite all reasonable folks out there putting their palms up and saying, “WTF – hello, Vivien St, please? Somebody?” (Some of the difficulties of this are discussed in this previous post.) To my mind this is basically an admission that N2A is a lemon.

It’s time to throw the Nguaranga to Airport “strategy” out – and start afresh. It is a mushy waste of paper that proposes dead end ad-hoc “improvements”. But I guess that’s highly unlikely, politicians being politicians and all. (Unless they can somehow point the finger at someone else and pretend they never had anything to do with it in the first place.)

The NZTA it seems wants assurance from the Council that it will not oppose the flyover. It’s not seeking support. But in this situation, not opposing it is obviously implicit support, so the Council can’t have it both ways. On the other hand there is a point where you have to wonder what the compromise should be. You’ve a raving mad minister who wants to pave the world and he has a good chance of getting his way.

I was at the initial public meeting establishing the Save the Basin campaign (I’m lurking everywhere) and there was a point where they were setting their position. They had the option to be staunch, non-negotiable, or to be open to the possibility of a flyover under some circumstances. Naturally all but one person voted to be non-negotiable. The immediate effect of which of course is to remove your group from the negotiation. But the Council is in a slightly different position, it can’t simply not negotiate.

When you ask some people about the matter, they say they could never compromise, never support it. But this clearly isn’t rational. Imagine a compromise where the NZTA said they would build Light Rail to Miramar first, then after that would build a flyover. But you had to accept the flyover. Would you really not take this deal? You’d be insane not to. But of course that’s an extreme example, intended to show that in fact compromise should never be ruled out.

We have had decades of dealing with the subject of SH1 in Wellington. It’s a blighted scar around Te Aro’s southern edge, and a sewer of pollution and congestion right through its center. Regardless of whether you’re pro-car, neutral-car, or anti-car, there needs to be a long term plan for fixing those problems. A plan that doesn’t revolve around weak ideas about building corner parks beside stinking traffic sewers, and then putting your palms up and wondering, “Oh really, didn’t work huh? Still not a pleasant place?”

We need to put it to bed. The WCC must exercise reason. The N2A plan as it stands today is garbage, and it’s producing a garbage result for our city. Time for the WCC to form an official policy that SH1 must be removed from the surface of our small city. Then all future planning about improvements must align to that eventual aim.

I would be really pleased if that was something that came out of today’s meeting. On top of that, coming back to the compromise thing, if you’re a compromising Councilor who is thinking of supporting the flyover, here’s two things that would be great to secure for Wellington: 1) NZTA will purchase the land currently vacant on Adelaide Road to secure it for future widening necessary to permit Light Rail and bike ways and street beautification, 2) NZTA will extend Abel Smith Street to improve local movement within the city, and greatly improve resiliency of the street network.

Note: Picture is of the giant crane on the current work going for the Memorial Park underpass (it’s so short, it doesn’t warrant the definition tunnel). It turns out that all the iron I-beams they’ve driven into the ground are not part of the tunnel construction. They’re actually just to form a retaining wall for another road that has been built alongside the path of the tunnel. This dirt road seen on the inside of the fence is for the giant cranes to run backwards and forwards on while they dig out the ground on the other side of the I-beams and presumably lower in big bits of concrete sections to form the tunnel. Then when it’s finished the I-beams and the _two_ temporary roads are removed. Cool stuff.

Julian
21 - 03 - 13

Yeah baby: http://postimage.org/image/w8lcjef4l/
That’ll save Vivian Street.

Erentz
21 - 03 - 13

Fingers crossed that’s not what NZTA and the Council come up with again.

Eastie
21 - 03 - 13

I’m confused- If the traffic is not going to go through Vivan Street it will have to be on a new road causing a bigger cut and destroy even more of our city? Shouldn’t we be looking at ways to decrease the amount of private motor vehicle transport from N2A? NZTA is forever assuming that more traffic is going to occur. Petrol is not going to get any cheaper. We should therefore be looking at other transport modes instead of the private motor vehicles.

And I say the private motor vehicle as the N2A is just a joke for large oversized dangerous good trucks as they do not go through either the Terrace or Mt Victoria tunnels.

Maximus
21 - 03 - 13

I’m not 100% sure, but i don’t think that NZTA are in any way (yet) advocating that SH1 doesn’t go down Vivian St. What i think they are doing, is just doing some minor monkeying around with road markings, possibly squeezing in a extra lane or a pot plant or something. But not shifting it away.

Kent Duston
21 - 03 - 13

Oddly enough, I was at the same Save The Basin meeting … !

The problem with the flyover is that it’s impossible to put one in without completely buggering the Basin Reserve. There are – and always have been – transport options that are just as workable, and the campaign has been a staunch proponent of those solutions. Opposition arose because NZTA simply refused to rethink its dumb-ass 1960s ideas.

And let’s be clear, it’s NZTA that has refused to negotiate. They would not participate in any of the public meetings, and every single one of them – from the Minister to the Deputy Minister to the Board to the Chief Executive to Jenny Chetwynd to slimy old Rod James – have refused to meet with the campaign. When they ran their “public information” days, it was Opus that fronted the sessions, with not a single NTZA manager to be seen – both Chetwynd and James were notable by their absence, spending all their time hiding behind press releases.

So let me translate Rod James comments above. When he said “the future of Vivian St is part of a wider discussion about Wellington city’s long-term transport planning requirements”, what he actually meant was “we’ve been discussing amongst ourselves the arbitrary and capricious decisions we’ll be making about SH1 that will pay absolutely no heed to what you Wellingtonians want, and you peasants can just go fuck yourselves.”

Erentz
21 - 03 - 13

Wow — looks like Andy Foster voted for the flyover. So it’ll be interesting to see now, if it is going ahead, what concessions the Council can get from the NZTA for their support. I hope they work together and try to get something reasonable. Assets that will useful well into the future and on after the flyover is inevitably pulled down in a couple of decades.

Eastie: No scars, Tunnels! Also quite right, VMT isn’t increasing. Sensible thing has always been to improve PT first, arguably IMO also extend Abel Smith St (because that’s a “better have a plan to do it before you can’t do it” matter and it’s useful on many levels), and then in the future see what if anything should be done — with the likely answer IMO being a deep bore bypass of the city for SH1.

But (IMO again) burying SH1 is not about increasing capacity for imagined or otherwise traffic growth. It’s also about livability, making the surface of our city a more hospitable place for its inhabitants.

Erentz
21 - 03 - 13

Kent — just to clarify, not meant as an attack in case it is read that way, it works better for the Save the Basin group to be the clear, rational opposition. A much needed role. It’s not there to do the job of the Council.

“we’ve been discussing amongst ourselves the arbitrary and capricious decisions we’ll be making about SH1 that will pay absolutely no heed to what you Wellingtonians want, and you peasants can just go fuck yourselves.”

Beautiful.

davidp
21 - 03 - 13

>arguably IMO also extend Abel Smith St

Extend it to where? The only direction I can see would push it straight through the middle of a school. And why extend it?

andy foster
21 - 03 - 13

Hi Folks

I’ve detailed what we agreed today below. Having unfortunately come to the conclusion through the review that we could not find an alternative that stacked up it seemed the best thing we could do was focus on mitigation, and that is what the resolutions do. In my view there are some very significant additional mitigation works that we have identified and are now working with NZTA on, with the intention that they form part of any application. You have picked up on the Vivian St issue. For me that became very apparent, not so much as part of N2A, but as part of the then Minister of Transport’s announcement of the Wellington RONS which set out doing something on every segment of SH1 from north of Levin to Wellington Airport except for the section between the Terrace tunnel and the Basin.

Warmest Regards

Andy

Resolutions agreed today:

1. Receive the information
2. Note Council’s previous resolution to support a multi-modal package of transport investments including separation of north-south and east-west traffic at this location as outlined in the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan
3. Note Council’s previously stated preference for an underground solution to achieve that separation.
4. Receive the Assessment of Alternatives report.
5. Thank Council officers, NZTA officials and consultants, the Architecture Centre, and Richard Reid for their work on the review.
6. Note that Option X and RRA at grade solution are not developed to the same level of detail as Option A.
7. Note the report’s findings that none of the roading alternatives evaluated in the review are assessed as better than Option A overall in terms of cost, transport and urban form outcomes.
8. Request officers to continue to work with NZTA to achieve optimum mitigation outcomes for the city in respect of Option A, and in particular work with NZTA to achieve the following additional mitigation elements identified through the review process
a. Ellice Street corner (visual and noise issues)
b. Kent and Cambridge Terrace (potential boulevard or vegetation, art and landscape treatment)
c. Bridge design (identifiably Wellington)
d. Public Transport priority on Adelaide Road and Kent and Cambridge Terraces and north/south bus lanes implemented immediately on construction of the flyover
e. Karo Drive (address longstanding amenity issues)
f. Long term corridor planning between Terrace Tunnel and Basin Reserve including future use of Vivian St as State Highway
g. Addressing any effects on strategic cycle and walking routes from the south and east of the city

9. Agree that officers will report back to Strategy and Policy Committee at the appropriate time with a draft submission focussed on mitigation.
10. Request officers to commence work with the Mayor and Transport Portfolio Leaders on refreshing the Council’s Transport Strategy to emphasise travel demand management , emergency and freight priority, better walking, cycling and public transport to provide real transport choices for more people and report back to Strategy and Policy in June on an engagement plan.
11. Agree to write to the Minister for the Environment requesting that any application for resource consents to build the Basin Reserve Flyover is heard by the Environment Court rather than a Board of Inquiry.

Erentz
22 - 03 - 13

Thanks for that update Andy.

DavidP: “Extend it to where? The only direction I can see would push it straight through the middle of a school. And why extend it?”

Extend to Cambridge Tce. Yep, schools aren’t sacred ground though. It would require planning so you could get all your ducks in a row. But that’s what planning is right? In this case that small little school is in the middle of what should be an intensifying area with growing population. At some point it will no longer be fit for purpose, it’ll need more space, or new buildings, and whathaveyou. If you’ve a plan to extend Abel Smith Street, then that should influence the future developments at that school.

But why? Contrary to what most people think, the Basin Reserve isn’t our largest round about. The superblocks of eastern Te Aro are our largest round abouts. Take a look at them. We’ve a very poorly connected city, especially that part of the city. More richly connected networks enable better movement, more public space, improve land values. So on. (A decent architect or urban designer can articulate the values of richly connected networks vs sparsely connected networks much better than I can.) In our case it’ll also improve the resiliency of our network.

Kent Duston
22 - 03 - 13

Andy – It’s difficult to see this as anything other than a complete debacle.

For starters, as you’re entirely aware NZTA has a truly appalling track record when it comes to completing the non-roading components of their projects. The proof is on our doorstep, in the form of the Inner City Bypass; the mitigations applied by the Environment Court have been performed half-heartedly and barely to the letter of the law, resulting in the long-standing amenity issues on Karo Drive that you’re still trying to get them to take ownership for a decade later – and which they are consistently ignoring.

And their record hasn’t improved since – NZTA have, for instance, simply omitted the pedestrian walkway on the Newmarket Viaduct. And as everyone who has been involved in transport in this city knows, NZTA has been stonewalling all attempts to get a safe pedestrian crossing over George Bolt Drive to the Indoor Sports Centre for years, with complete impunity.

So the idea that they are now going to take action on any of the mitigation issues for the flyover, after you’ve handed them a blank cheque, is simply naive. If they haven’t listened to the WCC in the past, what on earth makes you think they are about to start now? After all, past behaviour predicts future behaviour, and if you can’t get Karo Drive to look like something other than an urban wasteland in a decade, then you don’t have a snowball’s chance of getting a flyover mitigated to any believable degree.

But what’s particularly galling about these surrender-monkey tactics is that you’ve given away any chance that the Council could finally have played hardball with NZTA. Even if you think the flyover is a done deal or an inevitability, you owe the people of Wellington the best possible outcome you could achieve. And sometimes, that means going toe-to-toe with NZTA, pushing back as hard as you can, in order to at least take the edge off the worst of the impacts. We can’t always get the outcomes we desire, but we can put our shoulder to the wheels of bureaucracy at NZTA, drive them to the negotiating table, and at least modify the trajectory of a truly dire project.

Instead, you’ve simply rolled over and given away any negotiating position the Council had. Why should NZTA come to the table when they’ve already got everything they wanted? You’ve given away the moral authority of the city for … what, exactly? Sure, they’ll have a few meetings where they look serious, but fundamentally they’re going to pat you on the head, send you on your way, and do exactly nothing beyond what the courts will compel them to do. Because that’s their track record, and they already know that the WCC will not stand up to them on our behalf.

It’s disappointing to have to point this out to you, but sometimes being a politician means standing up to bullies on behalf of your constituents. It’s not to your credit that you’ve failed to do this.

KL
22 - 03 - 13

Cheese-eating surrender monkey ?

Kent Duston
22 - 03 - 13

KL – I have no view on Cr Foster’s propensity for cheese.

Lindsay
22 - 03 - 13

The flyover issue is getting weird. Chris Finlayson has issued a press release complaining that the city council isn’t doing enough to progress the flyover. He obviously wasn’t told about yesterday’s resolution to work with the NZTA. Finlayson blames all councillors “for failing to seize this important opportunity” except Councillor McKinnon. http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=53891

Erentz
23 - 03 - 13

That’s a perplexing press release.

Elaine Hampton
23 - 03 - 13

Vivian St
When we met Greg Lee and other N Z T A people we asked why the state highway was allowed to run through a C B D particularly along Vivian St.
Answer …………wait for it
“This allows traffic to get on and off the highway” Sort of a lot of on and off ramps.

And yes Andy what were your motives, because it really looks like betrayal, would you like to expand your comment?

Curtis Nixon
23 - 03 - 13

Betrayal it is, Andy Foster. Civic vandalism. If you can’t find an alternative that stacks up it’s because we need one that doesn’t stack up – like a hideous concrete uber-bridge stacks up. Richard Reid’s at-grade concept was going in the right direction – simply expand the existing Basin roads by adding extra lanes after demolishing the buildings on the corners of Paterson, Dufferin, Rugby and Adelaide Rds; remove CAR PARKS blocking extra lanes (yeah, we’ve got room for car parks but not road lanes – go figure!)and move the drop off/pick up in front of St Marks School to where a car yard is now (Oh wait, it’s a culturally valuable car sales area). Lots of extra room. Problem solved.

DLF
23 - 03 - 13

Curious motives indeed from Andy Foster. When is local government election year? Oh, that’s right…. But what Foster has done could be construed as political suicide. Those right wingers on the council will still get voted back in by their right wing constituents, and the lefties will get back in from theirs. But there is little room for fence sitters. I think that Foster has signed not only the permit for a new flyover, but also signed his own political death warrant.