Save the Basin Campaign press release: Transport Agency witness makes revealing admission at Basin Reserve flyover hearing

Landscape architect Gavin Lister, appearing for the New Zealand Transport Agency, has made a revealing admission at the Board of Inquiry hearing into the proposed Basin Reserve flyover. Under questioning by Board of Inquiry member Mr David Collins, Gavin Lister said:

“Flyovers are anathema to urban design thinking because of what they represent. They represent a car dominated city, a sprawling car dominated city which is kind of the antithesis of the compact,  mixed use, high intensity city supported by walkability and public transport”

Commenting on this admission, Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson Tim Jones said “Under detailed questioning from the Board, Gavin Lister admitted what the Save the Basin Campaign has been saying all along: that the idea of building a flyover at the Basin Reserve is a relic of the antiquated, car-dominated transport thinking that modern cities all around the world have abandoned.”

“Having made this admission, Mr Lister then made a rather extraordinary turnabout to say that these were exactly the same reasons the proposed flyover was needed. He did not explain why.”

“When the Transport Agency’s own witnesses make such trenchant criticisms of flyovers, it’s a clear sign that the Basin Reserve flyover project has been badly thought through and inadequately assessed against alternatives.

“Wellingtonians are innovators and forward thinkers. It’s time the Government and the Transport Agency consigned flyovers to the dustbin of transport history and started developing modern, meaningful transport solutions,” Mr Jones concluded.

Moving Beyond Autopia

When a lot of one’s time and energy is going into a particular transport issue, it’s easy to forget that the proposed Basin Reserve flyover, or the Kapiti Expressway, or whatever other specific project the Government is trying to foist on us is just one part of their overall plan to build motorways up and down the country.

Auckland academic Jaqs Clarke (see credit note below) has recently come back from overseas with a new perspective on the Government’s motorway plans, which she discusses in her article

Beyond Autopia: the high social cost of New Zealand’s road building programme

I recommend that you read it in full, but in summary, she starts by saying

After ten months in an urban laboratoire in Paris on a post-doc residency I returned to Auckland recently, to realise that the city of my home and imagination has been most busily morphing into a belated version of sci-fi Autopia.

and goes on discuss Auckland in detail – but this paragraph suggests that the NZTA leopard doesn’t change its spots when moving from one city to another:

In Auckland in 2014 we might not be parking flying saucers, but the journey through these smoothing corridors, that propel us from A-to-B, are as close to flying as one gets at ground level. Nothing could be further from the sensory overload and teeming humanity of the streets of Paris, than the Autopia that is belatedly materialising in the Auckland landscape. Seduced by these cruise control fantasy zones, the lack of clutter not to mention pedestrians, the seconds-savings of our journey, we now move across landscapes that have lost all reference points, as the visual field is cleansed of messiness by concrete fresco walls and sound-barriers set against monocultures of New Zealand native plants.

Turning to Wellington, she writes:

Moving south the brave citizens of Wellington are currently attempting to place limits upon the architects of Autopia’s offering of a flyover. A flyover is an Autopian architectural typology that regards the landscape underneath it as clutter. A flyover lifts us from the forces of gravity and allows us to hover unimpeded, even temporarily.

and goes on to discuss how the natural flow point at the Basin Reserve has been repurposed – a problem that a flyover would only exacerbate.

She concludes:

The most resilient cities of the 21st century are not Autopian. The most resilient cities do not privilege cars, but sustain a complexity of urban values, are built upon a positive urban dynamism in which intimate pathways are given as much consideration as those of national significance. As New Zealanders we deserve our cities to be designed around best practice resilience models, not throwbacks to an era of fantasy and delusion.

Unfortunately, the current Government and the NZTA still have their heads firmly fixed in that era of fantasy and delusion. But the coming General Election offers an opportunity to change that.

About the author: Jaqs Clarke (PhD) is an urban theorist and writer. She completed her PhD in the Philosophy of Architecture at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland in 2012. She recently returned from a post-doc residency in the urban laboratoire AMP at Ecole Nationale d’Architecture Paris La Villette . She currently has a short term research position at the University of Auckland and is completing her first book. Amphibious: six liquid metaphors for a 21st century creative imagination. Other writings can be found on her blog:  http://ecologyurbanismculture.wordpress.com

Basin Flyover Hearing Heads To The Basin Reserve

With the three-month extension to the Basin Reserve flyover hearing, the hearing has had to find a new venue – and it has settled on the Norwood Room in the RA Vance Stand at the Basin Reserve, where the hearing will be held from today (Monday 31 March) onwards.

It seems appropriate that a hearing on a project that could, according to cricket witnesses called by the Basin Reserve Trust, place the future of Basin Reserve as a Test cricket ground in jeopardy, is heading to ‘the scene of the crime’. There remains a lot to be said at the Hearing about the urban design, heritage, landscape and cricket-related flaws of NZTA’s flyover plans. It will be easier to make those flaws vivid when the setting that would be affected is right outside the window.

A recent Dominion Post article highlights the threat to the Basin Reserve as a cricket ground from the proposed flyover:

Flyover view may dismiss Basin Tests.

There’ll be more to come!

Three Months, Two Flyovers, And Some Branded Umbrellas

Last week was quite a week for the campaign to stop a motorway flyover being built at the Basin Reserve. Events happened so rapidly that we never got round to covering them here, so here is a quick recap of the week.

Three-month extension to Basin Flyover Board of Inquiry

It had been evident for some time that the Basin “Bridge” Board of Inquiry was not going to meet its original, or even its revised, timetable. To their credit, the Board wrote to the minister and asked for an extension, which the Minister has now granted.

The Board was due to present its final report on 31 May. It now has until 31 August to report, which means that its final report, and any consequent legal action, will be happening around the time of the General Election.

Subsequent to this decision, the Board released a revised draft hearing timetable.

If you are a submitter who is making an oral submission, someone calling witnesses, or an expert witness, make sure you check this timetable and the further changes that have already occurred. Some submitters have already found that they have been scheduled to appear twice. Most individual submitters will now be scheduled to appear on Fridays. Due to the extension, there may also be a change in the hearing venue, which is currently the Amora Hotel.

Coverage of the three-month extension

Three-month extension announced – Minister “disappointed” (Wellington Scoop)

Reaction to decision (including Save the Basin’s reaction) (Dominion Post)

Delay to flyover hearing “good news, inevitable” say Labour MPs (Wellington Scoop)

Correspondence from Board’s lawyers shows that strength of cross-examination from flyover opponents was a major factor in the Board’s request for an extension (Wellington Scoop)

Other highlights of the week

New pictures give clearer view of Basin flyover impact (Dominion Post)

Radio New Zealand investigates all the money the New Zealand Transport Agency has been splurging on promoting the Government’s Roads of National Significance Projects – aka its plan to cover the country in motorways. (Although it’s the smallest item discussed, I particularly liked the fact that NZTA spent some  money on ‘branded umbrellas’. I feel we can all sleep more soundly knowing how well public money is being spent.)

The Wellington Civic Trust raises an issue that’s been bubbling under at the flyover hearings: the likelihood that approval for one Basin Reserve flyover would soon lead to a second flyover, running in the opposite direction, being built. (Dominion Post)

NZTA forced to combat allegations that it added the sub-standard combined pedestrian walkway/cycleway to the flyover proposal as a sop to Wellington City Council. (Dominion Post)

Save the Basin Quiz Night

Join the fun -  Make up a team of 8

When? 7.30pm, Thursday 27th March 2014

Where? Gasworks Pub,  11 Tauhinu Road, Miramar (off Miramar Ave – through the Miramar Cutting). See Google Map.

How Much?

1. $10 pre-pay by no later than 20th March 2014

2. Pay online to Save The Basin Inc 38-9015-0205683-00 with name in reference

3. Email stoptheflyover@gmail.com with the name(s) covered by the payment

No Door Sales

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/856881284327345/

NZTA Admits It Has Worked On Plans For A Second Basin Reserve Flyover

At the Basin Reserve flyover Board of Inquiry, NZTA’s Wayne Stewart has been forced to admit that planning has been done for a second Basin Reserve flyover. The currently proposed flyover would be a one-way road going from east to west – that is, from the Mt Victoria tunnel towards War Memorial Park. Under questioning from the Board of Inquiry, NZTA have confirmed that they have done planning for a second flyover going from west to east.

Richard Reid, appearing for the Mt Victoria Residents’ Association, has previously raised the concern that one flyover would soon lead to another. Despite NZTA’s attempts to minimise the issue, it has been placed firmly on the table at the Board of Inquiry hearing, which has been told by NZTA’s Wayne Stewart that in 2010 the agency looked at duplicating the War Memorial Park tunnel and building a second flyover at the Basin going from west to east.

“Lines were drawn on a map,” he is reported as saying, though he claimed planning had not gone any further.

As Richard Reid has noted, if NZTA gets approval for its present one-way flyover proposal, it will be much harder to fight a proposal for a second flyover. So one flyover could well bring a second in its wake.

I think we know what tends to happen once NZTA starts drawing lines on maos – unless they are stopped now, before any further damage is done.

Monday At The Basin Reserve Flyover Hearing: Transport Evidence Going Against NZTA

When I arrived at the Basin Reserve flyover Board of Inquiry hearing this morning, I walked right past an anxious-looking gathering of NZTA’s hearing team. I’m not surprised they were looking anxious, because the hearing has been going badly for them right from the start way back on Monday 3 February – and matters have most certainly not improved since the hearing moved on to consider transport evidence.

You might think that the one area in which the New Zealand Transport Agency might exhibit some level of assurance is transport. I mean, it says “Transport” in their name, right? But so far, not only have they been forced to repeatedly shift the grounds on which they are advancing their long-cherished flyover project, but they have not been able to find a convincing comeback to the very cogent and detailed criticisms of their proposal put forward by witnesses called by Save the Basin and other organisations.

A star witness in this regard has been John Foster. Himself a former transport planner, he was able to point out flaws in NZTA’s evidence as his appearance began last week, as covered by the Dominion Post:

The traffic predictions used to justify the Basin Reserve flyover were based on dodgy calculations, critics say.

Retired transport planner John Foster set about discrediting the New Zealand Transport Agency’s transport modelling at the flyover’s board of inquiry hearing this morning.

Mr Foster, who previously worked on the Transmission Gully highway, Dowse Interchange and Wellington’s Inner City Bypass, appeared for flyover opposition group Save the Basin.

In documents presented to the four-member board, he said the benefits of the $90 million project had been overstated, mainly due to errors on the transport agency’s part.

(For more, see Critics question benefits of flyover.)

On Monday morning, John Foster was able to point out further basic errors in NZTA’s figures and assumptions – and after he finished, Richard Reid, appearing as an expert witness for the Mount Victoria Residents Association, provided a very clear and cogent presentation of his “Basin Reserve Roundabout Enhancement Option” (BRREO), which lays out a plan for improving traffic flows around the Basin Reserve at-grade, without needing to build either flyovers or underpasses.

All NZTA has proved able to do in return is attack the witness – not his evidence.

All of which leaves me with two thoughts:

1) A phrase I’ve used about building a flyover at the Basin Reserve is that it would be ugly, unnecessary and unjustified. The hearing so far has been shown how it’s unjustified, because NZTA avoided consulting seriously on any option that wasn’t a flyover. Now the hearing is being shown how a flyover is unnecessary to meet transport needs. And in coming weeks they’ll be hearing a whole lot about how ugly a massive motorway flyover imposed on an iconic part of Wellington would be.

2) The more I see of NZTA’s hearing evidence, the more surprised I am at its low quality. For an organisation that brags about its expertise, it has done a very poor job of presenting its case. Perhaps over-confidence is the problem, or perhaps NZTA’s case is fundamentally deficient to begin with?

Media Release: Teens Turn Off Driving – Time To Turn Off Flyover Plans

The Save the Basin Campaign says the news that there has been a dramatic drop in the number of Wellington teens getting their drivers’ licences backs up its stance that there is no need for the Government and the New Zealand Transport Agency to press ahead with plans for a Basin Reserve flyover.

“According to the report in today’s Sunday Star-Times, NZTA’s own figures show that the number of Wellington teens between 16 and 19 getting their drivers’ licences has fallen by over 50%, and up to 75%, between 2008 and 2013. This dramatic decline reflects a worldwide trend. It shows that teenagers have rejected the car culture and assumptions of endless traffic growth that drive NZTA’s and the Government’s planning for such projects as a Basin Reserve flyover.”

“These figures back up what Save the Basin has been saying all along,” Tim Jones said. “Not only would a flyover be ugly, disruptive, and put the future of the Basin Reserve at risk – it simply isn’t necessary. Young Wellingtonians are turning off driving because it costs too much, it’s unsafe, they don’t need to drive across town to communicate with their friends, and public transport provides good alternatives. So why build a massive flyover that won’t be needed?”

“Rather than wasting money on outmoded motorways and flyovers, we need to be investing in high-speed broadband on the one hand, and public transport on the other. But the Government is full of baby-boomers who grew up with cars on the brain, and it seems that NZTA’s transport planners share the same mentality.”

“It’s time for a change in transport thinking,” Tim Jones concluded. “It’s time to let go of the notion that New Zealanders are wedded to their cars, because that’s no longer what the evidence says. It’s time to abandon the 1960s transport thinking that says the answer is always a flyover or a motorway. It’s time to plan for the future, not the past.”

UPDATE: See TV One’s coverage of the issue: http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/fewer-teens-apply-driver-licence-video-5855551

ENDS

Tim Jones
Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson
027 359 0293

Cloud Cuckoo Land

At the Basin flyover Board of Inquiry hearing:

First NZTA said that a Basin Reserve flyover would save 7.5 minutes on vehicle trips – and we soon showed that, even using their own methodology, six of those minutes were imaginary, or cross-claimed from other projects.

Then NZTA said a Basin Reserve flyover was necessary to enable a “step change” in public transport use – and today, WCC witness Geoff Swainson admitted that the term “step change” was inappropriate, that it was at most a very gentle slope, and that modelling showed hardly any extra trips would occur as a result of a flyover being built.

Today’s “justification” for building a large motorway flyover at the Basin Reserve is that it would improve the experience for pedestrians and cyclists.

And next week, they’ll be saying we need to build a flyover to make our city more beautiful.

Welcome to Cloud Cuckoo Land, courtesy Wellington City Council officials, the Government, and the New Zealand Transport Agency.

7 Reasons Not to Build a Flyover at the Basin Reserve

1) A flyover at the Basin Reserve is unnecessary. The needed transport improvements at the Basin can be achieved by ‘at grade’ changes (i.e. not above or below ground). The major bottlenecks in the system are at other places, such as the Mt Victoria tunnel and at Taranaki St – not at the Basin.

2) A flyover at the Basin would be monumentally ugly. Don’t believe the NZTA concept pictures that make it look like an elven bridge out of Lord of the Rings. Real flyovers are ugly, massive structures. The ground underneath flyovers isn’t a parkland dotted with attractive people taking their ease, as NZTA likes to portray – it’s a wasteland – and, this being Wellington, it would be a very windy wasteland.

3) Not only would a flyover be ugly, but the planned location is a critical part of Wellington. Building a flyover would destroy a lot of heritage values and ruin a central Wellington cityscape.

4) A flyover at the Basin is already budgeted to cost $90 million, and would undoubtedly cost more. It’s a waste of money.

5) Visitors to Wellington have told us repeatedly that they can’t believe a modern country is even thinking about building a flyover near the centre of its capital city. In the rest of the world – the UK, San Francisco, Seoul – flyovers are being torn down. A US expert’s testimony to the Basin Board of Inquiry echoes this point: http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/9723004/Basin-Reserve-flyover-idea-a-50s-relic-expert.

6) A flyover would be bad for cricket at the Basin. Even if the proposed “Northern Gateway Building” (*not* a grandstand – there would be no spectator seating there) were to be built, a flyover would still be visible, and audible, from parts of the Basin. No other international cricket ground has an elevated roadway running right next to it. Umpires, players and spectators would all hear and see a flyover.

7) The Basin Reserve has Test status from the ICC because of its historic use as a Test ground. If a flyover is built at the Basin, plus associated works, it is likely to trigger an assessment of the ground’s suitability as a Test venue by the International Cricket Council – which means, in effect, by India, Australia and England, who have seized power at the ICC. These three countries are trying to carve up the intrnational cricket cake between them. Why risk the future of the Basin, and give the ICC the chance to rule out Test cricket being played there, for the sake of an outdated, ugly flyover that doesn’t need to be built?

A flyover would dominate the view from St Mark's School - With thanks to Wellington Scoop

A flyover would dominate the view from St Mark’s School – With thanks to Wellington Scoop

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