In response to the defeat of their Basin Flyover proposal in the Board of Inquiry Hearing, NZTA commissioned a Lessons Learnt Review (PDF) from Synergine Consulting. Now, as a result of an Official Information Act request, that November 2014 review has been released. It makes interesting, but depressing, reading – because it look as though NZTA has learned the wrong lessons from their failure of their flyover proposal.
What makes us say that? This quote on p. 7 sums it up:
In all the interviews the LLR (Lessons Learnt Review) team has carried out and in the LLR workshop there was strong support for the bridge option, Option A.
Option A is the flyover NZTA was so keen on building along the Basin Reserve’s north-western boundary. In its detailed analysis of NZTA’s review, which is well worth reading, Wellington Scoop says:
The report indirectly acknowledges opposition to the flyover, but seems to believe that this could somehow have been overcome if the Transport Agency had done more communicating.
Of course, NZTA’s high-handed, arrogant communication and “consultation” process didn’t help matters – but the real problem is that building a flyover at the Basin Reserve is a really, really bad idea – and no amount of improved communication or better coordination between project partners is going to change that. Some lessons, it seems, will take a while to learn.
This very timely event has been organised by FIT Wellington, who collaborated with Save the Basin on our Pizza and Panel Evening in 2014. With the future of Wellington’s transport system now very much on the table, this will be the place to be on Wednesday 2 December.
Are we on track?
Come and hear a discussion of the merits of Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail for Wellington.
|Greater Wellington||Cr Paul Swain|
|Wellington City Council||Cr Andy Foster|
|FIT Wellington||John Rankin|
|Trams-Action Wellington||Demetrius Christoforou|
|Date:||Wednesday 2 December 2015|
|Time:||6 to 8pm|
|Venue:||Aro Valley Community Hall, 48 Aro Street, Wellington|
|Koha:||$15 ($5 students and unwaged) in support of our cause|
The six-member Ngauranga to Airport Governance Group, consisting of two representative each from NZTA, Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington, is the official body with the job of running the post-Basin Flyover decision-making process. You can find out more about it at NZTA’s new Basin Connections website.
Both NZTA and the Minister of Transport made statements in the wake of NZTA’s decision not to pursue further legal action signalling that things were going to change and that NZTA would be turning over a new leaf: out with secrecy and spurious “consultation” processes about decisions already made behind closed door, in with openness and transparency. But the early signals out of the Governance Group were not encouraging.
However, and following pressure applied from various quarters, the just-released minutes of the Governance Group’s 20 October meeting look a lot more promising:
The agreed Programme will be managed in 5 main phases:
1. Engagement with the community and other key stakeholders on establishing process and confirming scope, to begin in early November.
2. Jointly developing urban design and transport principles to guide assessment of scenarios which will be developed in Phase 2.
3. Jointly developing scenarios which will be assessed against criteria based on the agreed principles.
4. Assessment of scenarios to determine the preferred options for more detailed assessment and consent application.
5. Consultation on the assessment of scenarios and on the preferred options to be taken forward to further analysis before consent application.
On the face of it, this process looks closer to the type of thorough and early engagement with the community Save the Basin has been calling for.
Now, all sorts of words of caution are advisable at this point. “Words are wind,” as George R. R. Martin has observed; and, since the Game of Thrones books contain an awful lot of them, he should know. Deeds, not words, will determine whether these promising signs bear fruit. But the possibility is at least worth exploring.
Save the Basin’s feature article on post-flyover next steps appeared in the Dominion Post last Friday. The core of the article is this seven-point plan of next steps at and around the Basin. This has received a good reception so far, but we’re still trying to get to grips with the consultation process on post-flyover options. We’ve been told that it will be open and consultative, but it remains shrouded in secrecy so far.
But when the six-member Governance Group is ready to listen, we’re ready to talk. Here is our set of proposed next steps:
- Reframe the Basin as a sporting, urban development and heritage area as well as a transport corridor. The politicians and the NZTA need to grab the opportunity to engage the community in thinking about the future of the Basin and its surroundings.
- Create a master plan for the whole area. Its national significance needs to be given appropriate recognition: instead of seeing the Basin, Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, the Governor General’s residence, numerous local schools and the heritage of Mt Victoria as isolated pieces, the rich history of the whole area should be celebrated.
- Go through a robust process to evaluate which of the transport options highlighted by the Board will have the most benefits. Start by carrying out small improvements to bring relief to frustrated transport users, and evaluate these before considering whether a more expensive option is justified. .
- Upgrade the Basin and strengthen and preserve the Museum Stand.
- Prioritise a Reserve Management Plan for the Basin (as already agreed by the City Council) that will establish key principles on how the ground should be preserved.
- Put in place heritage protection for the whole ground in the City Council’s District Plan.
- Re-develop Kent and Cambridge Terraces as grand public and private spaces well connected to the Basin – which could include uncovering Waitangi Stream that flows between them.
In a letter to the Save the Basin Campaign (in response to one we sent to John Key soon after the High Court decision was announced), Transport Minister Simon Bridges says some encouraging things:
The NZ Transport Agency advises me that … it intends to enter into an open and collaborative process with councils and the community to spark new conversations and ideas about the best way to deliver substantive solutions to the congestion at the Basin and other pinch points in the network.
I appreciate that you have had a strong interest in this issue over a period of time, and thank you for the time that you have already committed to developing and presenting alternative solutions for consideration.
This is great to hear – but there are concerns that the process adopted so far is neither open nor collaborative, and furthermore that the experts who have developed alternative solutions which the Board of Inquiry said deserved further consideration have not been consulted in the wake of the flyover decision.
Let’s hope that Minister Bridges’ views, as expressed in the letter above, result in the Regional Transport Committee, City and Regional Councillors, and NZTA officials demonstrating a new openness and willingness to genuinely and widely consult on the Basin, and on the best options for Wellington’s transport network.
As Wellington Scoop reported on 10 September, a small group of local body politicians and NZTA officials has taken it upon themselves to make decisions about the future of the Basin Reserve – and all but one of those local body politicians was in the pro-flyover camp:
At yesterday’s regional council meeting, three councillors sought an integrated approach to deciding on at-grade roading improvements around the Basin. Paul Bruce and Sue Kedgley were supported by Barbara Donaldson. But Paul Swain refused. He said that a small governance group of himself, Fran Wilde, Celia Wade Brown and Andy Foster, plus two Transport Agency staffers, would make the decision, and would then report back.
In a comment on this article, Councillor Helene Ritchie christened this group the “Secret Six”.
This group subsequently promised to work with the community, but there remain concerns about how well this work will in practice given the composition of that group, and whether they will be prepared to take a fresh and unbiased look at non-flyover options they had previously rejected out of hand.
In the Dominion Post, columnist Dave Armstrong came up with a memorable analogy:
It’s like getting the Keep Our Old Flag Society to design a new flag. Will this group report back with recommendations that are the urban design equivalent of three boring silver ferns and a koru that looks like a cow doing number twos?
Wellington Scoop has dug further into the track record of the members of this “governance group”, and what it has found does not inspire confidence.
For its part, Save the Basin hopes that NZTA’s decision not to pursue its flyover plans through the courts will enable even the most entrenched flyover supporters to think afresh, and we are pleased that the New Zealand Transport Agency has indicated it will take a new and more genuinely consultative approach to post-flyover discussion and decision-making. But we’re mindful of the point the preceding Wellington Scoop report makes in its final paragraph:
No doubt there’s no way of excluding Transport Agency representatives from the next round of road planning for the Basin. But the Agency should consider its past bad behaviour and find some new faces who have the ability to listen, rather than to threaten or dictate or just misrepresent.
As both Wellington Scoop and the Dominion Post have pointed out in these articles, there are real alternatives on the table at the Basin, including the BRREO, Option X and tunnelling. As Dave Armstrong points out, it makes sense to focus on approaches which are low-cost and don’t foreclose other options if they become necessary:
Some critics say that BRREO is only a short-term solution. Even if that is true, wouldn’t it be worth giving it a go? If it works, keep it; if it doesn’t, start digging for a longer-term alternative. When you look at the time and money already been wasted by myopic officials intent on a flyover, BRREO and Option X deserve some serious consideration, not just by sore losers.
What’s more, Wellington transport needs much more than a rethink at the Basin. FIT Wellington and Generation Zero have made a valuable and timely contribution to this debate with their revamped light rail (modern trams) proposal for Wellington, released last week.
On Tuesday morning, Wellington’s Regional Transport Committee met – the first such meeting since NZTA abandoned its pursuit of a Basin Reserve flyover through the courts. That issue was prominent in public participation, and below you can read what we said in our three-minute slot.
Comments to RLTC public participation – 8/9/15 – Tim Jones, Co-Convenor, Save the Basin Campaign Inc.
- The NZTA decision not to pursue further legal action over its Basin flyover plans provides a welcome opportunity to advance modern, sustainable transport options for Wellington. But that discussion needs to be about more than transport. As the Board of Inquiry clearly showed in its 2014 report, the landscape, urban design and heritage aspects of the Basin Reserve precinct are of vital importance. This time round, they must be taken into full consideration.
- NZTA’s concept of proceeding to make limited optimisation improvements soon is worthwhile. At the Basin, such an approach is entirely compatible with the Basin Reserve Roundabout Enhancement Option (BRREO) or a development thereof. BRREO would be far cheaper and quicker to implement than any other option at the Basin, and it doesn’t foreclose other options if they later prove to be needed. I agree with the Mt Victoria Residents’ Association call for a detailed and fair-minded reconsideration of the BRREO proposal.
- The effect of at-grade changes at the Basin can be enhanced by making changes along Kent and Cambridge Tces – I understand the Newtown Residents’ Association and Mt Victoria Residents Association have done some further thinking about what this could entail.
- Evidence presented to the Board showed that the congestion problem identified with the Basin has its roots in other parts of Wellington’s transport system. Therefore, we need to look at solutions that can be made across Wellington. To quote Ellen Blake of Living Streets Aotearoa, “What we need is an integrated look at transport issues in Wellington combined with decent urban design and planning”.
- It’s time for Greater Wellington and the WCC to work cooperatively on this issue, both with each other and with the community, including community groups and groups with expertise in sustainable transport solutions.
The New Zealand Transport Agency has decided not to seek leave to appeal the High Court decision which upheld the Board of Inquiry decision to decline resource consent for a Basin Reserve flyover.
Here is the NZTA statement: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/media-releases/transport-agency-decides-not-to-appeal-high-court-basin-bridge-decision/
The following paragraph is of especial interest:
Ms Chetwynd said that the High Court ruling means this project will not proceed as the Transport Agency does not have the required approvals. She says the Agency is committed to working together with the community and local councils, particularly Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council, to spark new conversations and ideas about the best way forward for delivering vital transport improvements for the Capital.
Who will be part of these conversations, and whose voices will be heard? It’s important that, this time, community voices and sustainable transport alternatives are to the fore.
Save the Basin’s press statement in reaction to NZTA’s announcement is below.
Save the Basin Campaign Congratulates New Zealand Transport Agency On Decision Not To Appeal Basin Reserve Flyover Issue Further
The Save the Basin Campaign today said that it was pleased that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has decided not to seek leave from the Supreme Court to appeal the High Court decision on its proposed Basin Reserve flyover.
“It’s taken a long time for the NZTA to come to its senses,” said Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson Tim Jones, “but the decision not to pursue further legal action means central and local government and community groups such as ourselves can finally sit down and have a meaningful discussion about the best alternatives for Wellington.”
“That discussion needs to be about more than transport,” Mr Jones added. “As the Board of Inquiry clearly showed in its report, the landscape, urban design and heritage aspects of the Basin Reserve precinct are of vital importance. And what’s more, the transport issue is about more than the Basin Reserve. The decision not to pursue a flyover provides an opportunity for Wellington to develop a modern, sustainable transport system that is appropriate for the 21st century.”
“If central and local government agencies are ready to engage in open, constructive discussion,” Mr Jones concluded, “then Save the Basin will be keen to play its part.”
NZTA has until Friday 4 September to decide whether it will seek leave from the Supreme Court to appeal its defeat in the High Court over its Basin Reserve flyover plans.
While we wait to see what their next move is and respond accordingly, it’s well worth reading this excellent analysis of NZTA’s options by The Architectural Centre.