Transport Realities Are Changing Fast. Is The Government Starting To Take Notice?

“Peak car” acknowledged by the Ministry of Transport

Following each General Election, Government departments prepare a Briefing for the Incoming Minister (BIM). Patrick Morgan of Cycle Aware Wellington has drawn my attention to the following passage from the Ministry of Transport’s BIM – emphasis is mine:

The average distance travelled per-person in light passenger vehicles has fallen by around 8 percent, from a peak of about 7,600km in 2004, to around 7,000km in 2013. The total distance travelled over the same period has increased marginally (from 39.3 billion kilometres in 2004 to 40.4 billion kilometres in 2013) as a result of population growth. This trend is not unique to New Zealand – it has been observed in a number of developed countries.

There is some debate as to whether this trend is the result of economic factors or a more structural shift in attitudes towards personal transportation. The fact that this trend emerged before the onset of the global financial crisis gives cause to believe that social, behavioural and lifestyle factors (such as the proliferation of smart phones, social media, online shopping and video conferencing) may also be having an influence. A related trend is a reduction in the number of driver licences being issued. In particular, fewer young people are choosing to drive. This suggests that in some groups, the perceived merit of car ownership and use may be declining.”

(from http://www.transport.govt.nz/about/publications/briefingtoincomingminister/)

Save the Basin has already drawn attention in the media to New Zealand research showing that young people in urban centres are turning away from driving private cars. It’s great to see that the Ministry of Transport has picked up on this. The question now is: are the Government and NZTA willing and able to realise that the assumptions on which their transport thinking is based no longer apply?

Photo by Patrick Morgan

Photo by Patrick Morgan

Presentation draws together the many health benefits of reorienting transport planning

OraTaiao, the New Zealand Climate & Health Council, is playing an increasing role in drawing attention to the negative health implications of the Government’s obsession with funding motorways while depriving sustainable transport and active modes of financial support. Last week, Russell Tregonning of OraTaiao delivered an excellent presentation entitled Transport, Climate and Health: Wellington at the cross-roads that draws together:

  • the urgent need to reorient transport planning and spending to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport
  • the other public health and economic benefits that would flow from doing so – such as reductions in crashes, air pollution, and obesity and related ailments
  • the changing patterns of transport behaviour that are helping to change transport planners’ and Government’s transport thinking worldwide

We encourage you to download, read and share Russell’s presentation.

Matthew Palmer QC Will Represent Save The Basin At NZTA’s High Court Appeal

As reported by Wellington Scoop, the Save the Basin Campaign Inc will be represented by Matthew Palmer QC at the High Court, which will be hearing the New Zealand Transport Agency’s appeal against the Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry’s decision to decline resource consent for a Basin Reserve flyover.

We feel very fortunate to have secured the services of such a distinguished and experienced lawyer, with considerable experience of appeal court hearings, to represent us.

We are now fundraising to meet the costs of this appeal. You can donate via online banking or by mail – we encourage you to consider making a regular payment via online banking.

You can also donate online via Givealittle.

Basin Reserve rainbow. Photo: Patrick Morgan.

Basin Reserve rainbow. Photo: Patrick Morgan.

What Happens Next?

We don’t yet know the date of the High Court appeal, but it has now been confirmed that a case management conference – an organisational meeting that sets the stage for the hearing of the case itself – will be held on Monday 10 November 2014. We have heard that NZTA expects a decision in the case by mid-2015.

Unlike the Board of Inquiry, which was primarily focused on matters of fact, the High Court appeal will be primarily focused on matters of law. The NZTA has challenged a large number of aspects of the Board’s decision on legal grounds – we anticipate that some and possibly many of these grounds of appeal may be abandoned by NZTA before the case goes to trial. The appeal will be heard by Justice MacKenzie.

After the hearing, Justice MacKenzie will consider his decision, a process which could take several more months. He could, as far as I’m aware:

  • decline NZTA’s appeal
  • uphold it in whole or part and make an immediate determination on the issues
  • send the BOI decision back to the reconvened Board of Inquiry, with instructions to reconsider the decision taking into account the High Court judgement on some or all the legal matters raised by NZTA. The Board would not hear new submitter evidence.

We plan to be there, opposing NZTA every step of the way through the legal process at the same time as we advocate for better alternatives through the political process. We won in the Board of Inquiry, and with your help, we plan to keep winning.

The Basin Flyover Board of Inquiry Decision Was Clear. Why Are Councils and NZTA Ignoring It?

One of the most interesting (and I wish I could say surprising) things about reaction to the Board of Inquiry decision to decline resource consent for a Basin Reserve flyover is how reluctant the New Zealand Transport Agency, many local councils, and flyover cheerleaders in the business community have been to examine what the Board actually said.

Such organisations appear to regard the Board decision as a toxic document that can be handled only with tongs. The idea of paying serious attention to the Board’s conclusions appears not to have occurred to them.

So I was very struck by the following letter, which Kate Zwartz wrote in response to a report in the Petone Herald of Poririua Mayor Nick Leggett and Kapiti Mayor Ross Church applauding NZTA’s plan to appeal the Board’s decision, and asked her for permission to republish it. Over to you, Kate:

How extraordinary that mayors and council executives can applaud the decision of New Zealand Transport Agency, a government body, to throw more public money after bad.

The decision of the Board of Inquiry, which heard months of detailed evidence from both sides, was crystal clear.  Here are a few direct quotes from the Board’s Final Report and Decision, August 2014:

“… the quantum of transportation benefits is substantially less than originally claimed by the Transport Agency.”  [1317]

“… we do not consider the Project can be credited with being a long term solution.”   [504]

“… we have found that there would be significant adverse effects.”  [1182]

“… it is our view that it is impracticable to avoid this structure dominating this sensitive environment.”  [985]

Why is NZTA reluctant to accept this decision?  Let’s get on with designing proper, fit-for-purpose solutions and drop the failed flyover.

Save the Basin Campaign to respond to NZTA’s Basin Reserve flyover appeal

The Save the Basin Campaign has announced that it will be contesting the New Zealand Transport Agency’s appeal against the Board of Inquiry decision to decline resource consent for a Basin Reserve flyover.

“Along with a number of other community groups, we have indicated our intention to be heard as an interested party in this appeal when it is heard in the High Court”, says spokesperson Joanna Newman.  “That doesn’t mean we’re not extremely disappointed and frustrated.  NZTA appears to have no interest in accepting a decision reached by a robust and democratic process established by this government to make good decisions on such projects.  They seem to be perfectly happy to throw more taxpayer money down the drain in pursuit of their flyover obsession.”

The opposing community groups aim to work together, but taking such action has not been considered lightly, because of the costs involved.  “We haven’t come so far only to sit back and allow NZTA to appeal the decision unopposed.”

Another source of disappointment to Save the Basin Campaign is that NZTA has not even allowed time to evaluate the impact of the recent opening of the Arras Tunnel under Buckle Street on Basin Reserve traffic flows.  “It really does seem fixated on a flyover solution.  The opinion of transport experts who gave evidence at the Board of Inquiry was that, with the introduction of three through lanes in Buckle Street and the removal of the Tory St intersection with Buckle St, the flow of traffic around the Basin Reserve would be greatly improved.”

“Evidence was also provided of opportunities to improve lane markings to optimise the existing roads around the Basin Reserve. NZTA, however, seems reluctant to explore these low cost opportunities, preferring instead to waste more money on legal fees to appeal the Board of Inquiry decision.”

Basin Flyover Appeal: NZ Transport Agency Refuses To Learn From Past Mistakes

The Save the Basin Campaign has described the decision by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to appeal the Board of Inquiry decision declining consent for its proposed Basin Reserve flyover as an indictment of the Agency’s refusal to learn from its mistakes.

“The Board of Inquiry delivered a comprehensive report giving clear reasons for declining the New Zealand Transport Agency’s poorly conceived and badly put together proposal to build a flyover at the Basin Reserve,” Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson Tim Jones said. “The Board’s decision made it clear that a flyover was not an appropriate structure to build at the Basin Reserve.”

“Instead of accepting this decision, acknowledging the failure of its flyover plans and moving on to develop a better proposal in partnership with the people of Wellington and with community groups, the NZTA has chosen to continue pursuing its flyover plan through the courts,” Mr Jones said. “It seems that the NZTA’s wounded pride is more important to it than developing good transport solutions.”

On Radio New Zealand this week, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said in reference to the Basin flyover Board of Inquiry that “good process should not be stalled to save costs”. Clearly, he regards the Board of Inquiry as a good process, but the New Zealand Transport Agency does not. The Save the Basin Campaign thinks that the Minister should have instructed NZTA to stop obsessing over its failed flyover project,  accept the decision and start working on an alternative solution that works for Wellington, rather than wasting more taxpayer dollars on an appeal.

“Wellington is a modern capital city that deserves sustainable, modern transport solutions that take account of a unique urban environment,” Mr Jones said. “It’s time that the NZ Transport Agency recognised that and stopped flogging a dead horse.”

Mr Jones said that Save the Basin would be carefully considering its detailed response to NZTA’s appeal once it had received the appeal documents.

General Election 2014: A Clear Choice on Wellington Transport

Most transport policy discussions this election have focused on Auckland. So it was great to see that the Green Party has today released its Wellington transport policy.

As reported in the Dominion Post, the Greens’ plan is centred on a light rail system for Wellington, including light rail to the airport by 2025, and includes the retention of trolleybuses and the provision of new electric buses. There’s also money for cycleways and footpaths, and the funding comes from money National has earmarked for motorways. The plan is based on Generation Zero’s Fast Forward Wellington plan – another big tick for the effectiveness of Generation Zero’s transport lobbying.

greens_transport_plan

New Zealand First also supports a light rail link to Wellington airport, and the centrepiece of its transport policy is a Railways of National Importance programme.

Labour’s Phil Twyford is reported in today’s Dominion Post as saying that Labour will concentrate on funding public transport, specifically bus rapid transit. Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson, who like the Green’s Julie Anne Genter, has been a strong opponent of plans to build a Basin Reserve flyover, has said that “Labour is committed to building a 21st Century integrated public transport network for Wellington” and that “Labour will support evidence based solutions that reduce traffic congestion and integrate public transport improvements.”

The Mana Movement makes a strong commitment to public transport in the nation’s cities: “Develop free and frequent integrated public transport systems in all major population centres, including buses, rail, ferries, walkways, and cycle lanes, to increase the use of public transport, eliminate gridlock problems.”

I couldn’t find the Internet Party’s transport policy as a separate document, but in their environment policy they have expressed support for smart and sustainable transport solutions.

United Future’s transport policy calls for the completion of the Roads of National Significance, but Peter Dunne has frequently expressed his opposition to a Basin Reserve flyover.

So those are the transport polices from the parties that oppose a Basin Reserve flyover. In contrast, apart from some welcome money for cycleways, National is still fixated on its Roads of National Significance – even ACT, with its call for benefit-cost ratios to be strictly applied, is arguably better. (I was unable to find transport policies for the Maori and Conservative parties.)

This may have been a murky election campaign, but on transport, there are clear choices between parties that support sustainable transport options, and those – primarily National – that want a future of more motorways and continued adherence to failed and outdated transport solutions.

 

Time to move on from failed flyover plan

The Save the Basin Campaign is telling local and national politicians it’s “time to move on” from the NZ Transport Agency’s failed plan to build a flyover at the Basin Reserve in central Wellington.

The call comes in the wake of today’s final decision by the basin Bridge Board of Inquiry to decline the NZTA’s resource consent application for its proposed flyover.

Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson Tim Jones says, “The Board’s decision confirms what Save the Basin and many other submitters have said all along. It’s completely inappropriate to build a flyover at the Basin Reserve, and the NZTA, Greater Wellington and Wellington City Council got it wrong when they refused to seriously consider alternative proposals.”

“So now it’s time to move on from the failed flyover plan and come up with a better solution. That doesn’t mean, as some local politicians have suggested, attempting to bundle a flyover proposal up with other transport proposals and trying to sneak it through as part of a package. It does mean developing a solution informed by genuine community engagement and participation – because, as the Board of Inquiry acknowledged, there are genuine non-flyover options that would avoid ruining the environment of the Basin Reserve.”

“New Zealanders’ transport behaviour is changing rapidly. Evidence shows that young urban New Zealanders are increasingly choosing not to drive. This means that old transport assumptions and outdated transport models can’t be trusted when considering future transport needs. So a low-cost interim solution that could later be made permanent is one approach that deserves serious consideration,” Tim Jones concluded.

Save the Basin Campaign Media Release: Greater Wellington and the NZ Transport Agency need to learn from their mistakes

The Save the Basin Campaign has criticised the paper that Greater Wellington will be considering on Tuesday about the implications of the Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry’s draft decision to decline consent for a Basin Reserve flyover.

The paper calls for the establishment of a joint governance group between the NZ Transport Agency, Greater Wellington and the Wellington City Council to accelerate planning on local transit projects ‘to enable them to facilitate and support a solution to the Basin Reserve’.

It’s a concern that, despite the Board’s decision, the parties believe ‘the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan is still fit for purpose and forms and appropriate basis for developing the transport network of this key corridor’.

Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson Tim Jones said “The NZ Transport Agency, Greater Wellington and Wellington City Council have already had one go at coming up with a so-called ‘solution to the Basin Reserve’. The end result was their proposal for an outdated, ugly, inappropriate and unnecessary flyover. Rightly, the Board of Inquiry rejected this proposal in its draft decision.”

“Rather than looking at the fundamental flaws in their flyover proposal, it appears that Greater Wellington and the NZ Transport Agency may try to bundle a Basin flyover up with some other transport projects in an attempt to make it more palatable,” Tim Jones said. “But however it is packaged, a flyover is still completely inappropriate for the Basin Reserve and the surrounding environment – as the Board of Inquiry found.”

“It’s time for Greater Wellington and the NZ Transport Agency to recognise that they have been barking up the wrong tree,” Tim Jones said. “It’s time for them to pay attention to what flyover opponents argued and the Board has found: that there are non-flyover transport options worth serious consideration.”

“It’s also time for the Wellington City Council to stand up for Wellington, its heritage, and our iconic Basin Reserve,” Tim Jones concluded. “We need a genuine solution based on Wellington’s needs, not a failed ‘solution’ imposed from above.”

Political Parties, The General Election, And The Basin Reserve Flyover Decision

Tags

How you vote is up to you. But political reaction in the wake of the Board of Inquiry’s draft decision to decline resource consent for a Basin Reserve flyover suggests that you have a very clear choice when considering the view of political parties on the Basin flyover issue.

Politicians’ reactions on social media

As word of the draft decision spread, Save the Basin’s Twitter account got a large number of congratulatory and supportive messages, including these:

Julie Anne Genter ‏@JulieAnneGenter  Jul 22

Reason prevails!!! We won. I am SO thrilled right now. #noflyover http://www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-management/Basin_Bridge/Pages/Basin_Bridge.aspx … @save_the_basin

Gareth Hughes ‏@GarethMP  Jul 22

Basin Reserve decision a victory for common sense & the community! http://www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-management/Basin_Bridge/Pages/Basin_Bridge.aspx … awesome work @save_the_basin

Grant Robertson @grantrobertson1 · Jul 22

Basin Flyover decision damning on NZTA- didn’t properly consider alternatives, sig destruction of heritage +amenity, big ?s over time saving

(My apologies to Peter Dunne, @PeterDunneMP – try as I might, I can no longer find his tweet – I should have saved it at the time! But he has been a consistent opponent of a Basin Reserve flyover.)

Press statements

Political parties, including NZ First, also released press releases supporting the Board’s draft decision:

Labour Party: Basin Flyover Decision An Opportunity For Capital: http://campaign.labour.org.nz/basin_flyover_decision_an_opportunity_for_capital

Green Party: Basin Reserve Decision Victory for Common Sense: https://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/basin-flyover-decision-victory-common-sense

NZ First: Opportunity Knocks for Wellington with Light Rail Link: http://nzfirst.org.nz/news/opportunity-knocks-wellington-light-rail-link

I haven’t seen a statement from Internet Mana on the issue, but the Mana Movement had previously expressed opposition to the proposed flyover.

The Government Reaction: Gerry Brownlee

In stark contrast, the Government expressed dismay and mystification over the decision, as exemplified by Gerry Brownlee:

http://money.msn.co.nz/businessnews/national/8879103/brownlee-disappointed-by-basin-decision

So, as we approach the General Election, voters have a clear choice. Four parties – Labour, the Greens, United Future and NZ First – have expressed clear and consistent opposition to a Basin Reserve flyover, while the Mana Movement has previously expressed opposition.

In contrast, the National Party appears unable to conceive that the NZTA might have got it wrong, or that any other solution than a flyover is possible. The return of a National Government will increase the risk that a flyover is pushed through outside the normal RMA processes, such as by empowering legislation.

Chicken Little versus Reality: Reactions to the Draft Flyover Decision

As you probably know, the Basin Bridge (i.e. flyover) Board of Inquiry released its draft decision on Tuesday 22 July. In its draft decision, the Board:

Cancelled the Notice of Requirement (NoR) for the construction, operation, and maintenance of State Highway 1 in Wellington City between Paterson Street and Buckle Street/Taranaki Street, and to construct (and where necessary operate and maintain) work that avoids, remedies or mitigates adverse effects.

Declined the resource consent applications.

In other words, they turned down the flyover proposed to them by the New Zealand Transport Agency. Parties (including the applicant and submitters) now have until 19 August to submit comments on any factual errors they find within the draft report, and the Board will release its final decision by Saturday 30 August. Parties then have the opportunity to consider making an appeal on matters of law.

You can download the draft decision from the EPA website (PDF, 6MB)

Media reaction

Not surprisingly, there was a flurry of media reaction when the decision was announced – far too much, in fact, to link all of it here. You can get a good flavour by following the flyover coverage categories in Wellington Scoop and in the Dominion Post. Patrick McCombs’ article Pain, Cost and Embarrassment … Because the Transport Agency Didn’t Listen does a great job of highlighting the many deficiencies of NZTA’s case, and the sloppy arrogance with which the Transport Agency approached the Board hearing.

This pair of posts from Wellington’s Eye of the Fish blog – one before and one after the decision – reflect the surprise many pundits felt about the Board’s decision:

There were also a number of congratulatory messages and supportive statements from political parties including Labour, the Greens, United Future and NZ First, which I’ll cover in a subsequent post. (If I’ve missed any parties out from that list, please let me know!)

The sky isn’t falling, and there is a Plan B

Given previous Boards’ track record of approving Government proposals, it’s understandable that many people were surprised at the decision. What’s less understandable is the failure of a number of local business and civic leaders to either accept or adapt to the situation.

Plainly, many flyover supporters had proceeded on the assumption that the project would be rubber-stamped. The weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth extended from Kirkcaldie and Stains to certain inhabitants of various Council chambers.

Well, here’s some news for the Chicken Littles of Wellington: the sky isn’t falling, and contrary to what a number of local and national politicians have said, there is a plan B – in fact, several other options are on the table and were taken seriously by the Board in its report.

For example, here’s what the draft Board decision says about the Basin Reserve Roundabout Enhancement Option (BRREO) developed by Richard Reid & Associates for the Mount Victoria Residents Association, and presented to the Board hearing:

We concluded that the BRREO concept was not suppositional and was at least worthy of consideration. While not delivering equal transportation benefits to the Project, we found that it may nonetheless deliver measurable transport benefits at considerably less cost and considerably less adverse effects on the environment. We bear in mind that BRREO is still at a provisional or indicative stage and could be subject to further adjustment by further analysis. (pp. 438-9)

So. Options are on the table. Pending the final decision, a flyover isn’t one of them. It’s time for an open, reality-based discussion about what happens next.

 

 

http://www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-management/Basin_Bridge/Pages/Basin_Bridge.aspx

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 144 other followers