Transport Experts, Labour Party Agree: Basin Reserve Flyover A Crock

Campaigners criticising a proposed project is one thing. Politicians criticising a proposed project is another thing. But when independent transport experts find gaping flaws in the claimed benefits underlying a proposal, then that proposed project has a problem.

And that’s exactly the situation with the proposed Basin Reserve flyover. A series of traffic and transportation peer review reports from consultants appointed by the Board of Inquiry has shown damning holes, inconsistencies and grossly inflated claims in NZTA’s proposals – faults that NZTA and its experts have chosen to gloss over.

You can find those reports here: http://www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-management/Basin_Bridge/ReportsAdvice/Pages/default.aspx under the heading “Traffic and Transportation peer review report” towards the bottom of the page.

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson has highlighted one of thesee key issues in a recent press release, reported on Wellington Scoop:

Basin flyover “a colossal waste of money,” says Grant Robertson

To quote from the statement:

The travel time saved by the proposed Basin Reserve flyover amounts to only 90 seconds, not the claimed seven-and-a-half minutes, a new statement by experts and witnesses shows, Labour’s MP for Wellington Central Grant Robertson says.

“This flyover is costing $90 million but in the end will only save commuters 90 seconds. That is a colossal waste of money when they are other alternatives available to improve traffic flow.

“The claim has been made that the flyover will give seven-and-a-half minutes of travel time savings, but in material released late last week. The experts now agree six of those minutes actually come from a third lane in the Memorial Park tunnel and changes to the Taranaki Street intersection. These are completely separate developments from the flyover.

“It is significant that witnesses and experts agree on this. It puts into question the cost benefit claims about the project and should weigh heavily on the Board of Inquiry.

And of course, Grant Robertson is far from the only politician to criticise the proposed flyover. In addition to Labour, the Greens, United Future, New Zealand First and Mana have all expressed opposition to the proposed flyover. All these parties recognise a crock when they see one. It’s a pity NZTA and the Government are too blinded by their own arrogance to see the fatal flaws in its proposal.

PS: Here’s the same story covered by the Dominion Post: http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/news/9706340/Flyover-to-shave-90-seconds-off-trip

Big Media Interest In Basin Reserve Flyover Hearings

There has been a lot of media interest in the Board of Inquiry hearing on NZTA’s proposed Basin Reserve flyover, which began this week and is currently scheduled to run for eight weeks. Save the Basin’s media release to mark the start of the hearings, below, got an excellent response, including coverage on both main TV channels:

Save the Basin Campaign hopes for a fair and thorough Board of Inquiry hearing

The Board of Inquiry hearing into the motorway flyover the New Zealand Transport Agency is proposing to build at the Basin Reserve cricket ground in central Wellington begins today, Monday 3 February, and is scheduled to last for two months.

Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson Tim Jones said “The Save the Basin Campaign will play a full part in the hearing. We have a very strong case that clearly shows why the proposed Basin Reserve flyover should not be approved by the Board. We’re looking forward to presenting that case to the Board and to the public.”

However, Tim Jones said that the Board of Inquiry process, run by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and set up by the current Government to push through resource consent applications for projects it favours within a nine-month time frame, has many flaws.

“That nine-month time frame has meant that submitters, expert witnesses, and the Board itself have been placed under extraordinary pressure by unrealistically short deadlines,” Tim Jones commented. “At times, submitters have been given as little as one working day to respond to demands from the EPA for information. That’s completely unacceptable.”

“Now that the Board hearing is underway,” Mr Jones said, “Save the Basin is looking forward to a hearing that will be fair, unbiased, thorough, and take all the time needed to hear and consider the many complex issues NZTA’s deeply flawed proposal raises.”

NZTA’s Basin Flyover Plans In Serious Trouble: Media Agrees

Opponents of NZTA’s proposed Basin Reserve flyover have said all along that NZTA behaved in an arrogant and high-handed manner during the supposed “consultation” process on its Basin Reserve flyover plan. Now that arrogance and high-handedness has come back to bite NZTA – and it’s not just us saying it.

The updated Basin Bridge Project Traffic and Transportation Peer Review (PDF, 4.1 MB), commissioned by the Board and prepared by Abley Transportation Consultants, raises such severe criticisms of the project that NZTA’s only honourable course of action would be to withdraw their current proposal and think again. (Of course, NZTA has dismissed the Transport Peer Review’s criticisms and announced its intention to press on regardless.)

There has been a striking shift in the tone of the Dominion Post’s coverage of the proposed flyover this month, and Michael Forbes of the DomPost has prepared this excellent summary of the key criticisms contained in the Abley Report:

Serious red flags raised over flyoverhttp://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington/9639260/Serious-red-flags-raised-over-flyover

Wellington Scoop, which has a distinguished track record of investigative journalism on the issue, expanded on the Dominion Post article, noting previous criticisms by Save the Basin:

More (and more) confirmation that there are better alternatives than the flyover: http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=63947

This article highlights the transport evidence to be presented  at the forthcoming Board of Inquiry hearing by one of Save the Basin’s expert transport witnesses, David Young:

David Young, who for eight years was Transit NZ’s national planning manager, confirms that there is a low-cost at-grade option for solving Basin traffic problems without a flyover. He asks why the Agency failed to allow Wellingtonians the choice of this non-flyover option. Had it been been identified and included in the consultation process, he says, it is likely that it would have been preferred by affected parties “and would, or at least should, have been selected by the Transport Agency.”

This expert witness also says the “grossly uneconomic” flyover will cause significant adverse environmental effects and he asks why the Agency is understating environmental issues related to the flyover.

Wellington Scoop’s report of the original version of the Transport Peer Review is here: 49 key concerns about the flyoverhttp://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=63947

Radio New Zealand also covered the issue on Checkpoint: Basin Reserve flyover plan criticisedhttp://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/234062/basin-reserve-flyover-plan-criticised

As a campaigner, it can be easy to feel like a lone voice in the wilderness. Not any more!

EPA Imposes Ludicrously Short Response Time On Basin Flyover Submitters

The whole Basin “Bridge” (flyover) Board of Inquiry process  has been rendered dangerously close to farce by the nine-month timetable imposed on the Board process by the Government. However, the latest move by the Kerry Prendergast-chaired Environmental Protection Authority, which administers the Board, has plumbed new depths in its apparent contempt for submitters on the project.

At 5.35pm on Friday 17 January, the EPA sent submitters the Draft Hearing Schedule, a complex document that requires careful consideration – even making it legible is a challenge. Each submitter needs to check the time(s) that they are meant to appear and respond to the EPA if any changes are needed.

And how long have submitters been given to respond? One working day. The EPA has imposed a deadline of 5pm on Tuesday 21 January, and Monday 20 January is a public holiday in Wellington – so it’s Tuesday or bust, especially if you’re away from Wellington for the weekend.

Is this fair or reasonable? Absolutely not. Whether this is a deliberate attempt by the EPA to make it impossible for submitters to appear before the Board, or whether it is merely the product of incompetence, we will leave for the reader to decide. But such absurd and unrealistic deadlines raise serious questions about any notion of this Board of Inquiry conducting a fair, unbiased and objective hearing process.

Please contact your local MP and let them know how unfairly this EPA process is treating submitters.

What’s The Basin Reserve Flyover Issue All About?

In case you’re new to the issue, here’s a quick introduction to what’s being proposed for the Basin Reserve, why the Save the Basin Campaign is opposed to it, and what you can do to help.

What’s the Basin Reserve?

The Basin Reserve is a recreation ground near the centre of Wellington. It is best known for being Wellington’s Test cricket ground, and has often been praised for its setting and its beauty.

What’s proposed for the Basin Reserve?

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), as part of the current New Zealand Government’s focus on building more motorways rather than funding public transport, walking and cycling, is planning to build a 10-metre-high one-way motorway flyover on the north-western boundary of the Basin Reserve at an estimated cost of at least $100 million. If built, it will be clearly visible from many parts of the ground.

Hang on a minute, did you say “one-way”?

It’s bizarre, but true. All this effort, expense and disruption is for the sake of a one-way road, running east to west. In fact, one of the many concerns about this proposed flyover is that it, if built, it may need to be followed by a second unsightly flyover running in the opposite direction.

What effect would a flyover have on cricket at the Basin?

Nobody is quite sure, but a number of senior international cricketers and cricket officials have expressed serious concerns at the potential effects on players, and also on the Basin’s future as an international cricket ground. We’re told that ‘mitigation measures’, mainly in the form of a new structure designed to block the view of the flyover from the pitch, have been agreed, though details have yet to be released of this agreement, but these measures don’t appear to shield the flyover from many fielders or spectators.

Why does NZTA want to build a flyover?

The NZTA is trying to convert the present route through Wellington to Wellington Airport into a motorway designed to carry increasing numbers of cars, even though traffic volumes are dropping. It wants to build a flyover as part of this route, and has been determined to do so for many years, despite a great deal of evidence (that will be presented at the forthcoming Basin flyover hearings) showing that a flyover is not necessary. NZTA has deliberately skewed figures to make other transport solutions appear not to be viable.

Was there any consultation before NZTA went ahead with its plans?

If you can call it consultation: NZTA gave Wellingtonians the option of agreeing to a flyover, or a slightly different flyover. NZTA ignored the many submissions calling for there not to be a flyover and then announced one of the flyovers as the preferred option. This is, sadly, typical of NZTA’s approach to engaging with the public.

What happens next?

The Government has set up a Board of Inquiry to hear the resource consent application to build what NZTA persists in calling a Basin “Bridge” – presumably because it realises the public doesn’t like flyovers. The Board of Inquiry hearing is scheduled to begin on Monday 3 February and is expected to report by the end of May. Save the Basin Campaign and an number of other organisations are presenting detailed cases covering why a flyover is unnecessary and shouldn’t be approved.

We hope that this Board of Inquiry will fully and carefully consider the question of whether the flyover should go ahead. However, the Government set up the Board of Inquiry process to fast-track projects it wants to see go ahead, and so far, that’s what Boards of Inquiry have done.

If the Board rules that the project should not go ahead, it will have made the right decision. And if it rules otherwise, we still have other legal avenues open to us.

You keep saying the Government is behind this project. Do all political parties support it?

Absolutely not! In fact, five parties have stated their opposition to a Basin Reserve flyover: Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, the Mana Movement and United Future. It’s entirely possible that the Government that emerges following the 2014 General Election may be opposed to a Basin Reserve flyover going ahead.

How can I help?

We’ve listed a number of ways, but the two most important things you can do are:

Basin Reserve Trust Cricket Witnesses Seriously Concerned By NZTA’s Plans

I spent a very interesting couple of hours at the weekend reading the evidence of the cricket witnesses called by the Basin Reserve Trust for the forthcoming Board of Inquiry on the proposed Basin Reserve flyover.* You can find these statements online at http://www.epa.govt.nz/search-databases/Pages/nsp-proposals-details.aspx?ProposalNumber=NSP000026#

I expected this evidence to be full of reassurances about how the NZTA had cricket’s best interests at heart, but that is strikingly not the case. Here are some of the statements made by these cricket experts in their evidence:

Sir John Anderson, former Chair of NZ Cricket: “I consider that a failure to adequately mitigate the effects of the Proposal on the Basin Reserve could potentially affect the test match status of the ground.”

Peter Clinton, CEO of Cricket Wellington: “The proposed Basin Bridge will have a significant impact on the Basin Reserve. The Basin Bridge will impact the Basin Reserve in the following ways:
(a) Visual distraction for sportspersons;
(b) Loss of spectator enjoyment;
(c) Potential loss of ICC accreditation as an international cricket ground; and
(d) Impact on the Basin Reserve’s unique character and ambience.”

Martin Snedden, former New Zealand cricketer, sports administrator: “The Application [by NZTA] and the Evidence in Chief used inappropriately narrow criteria to determine how the view of traffic on the Basin Bridge might adversely impact the Basin Reserve.”

With the future of the Basin at stake, such statements should concern all cricket players, administrators and fans.

It’s also clear that the proposed Northern Gateway Building is far from a panacea for these problems, and that there are issues with its design and use – something that also became very clear when, at a meeting between submitters and the NZTA, Greg Lee of the NZTA was asked to explain and justify the design and cost of the Northern Gateway Building, and was unable to do either convincingly.

* Some witness statements may not be provided until later this week.

What Submitters Do And Don’t Have To Do This Week

Some submitters have contacted the Campaign, concerned that they have to finish the oral submission they plan to make to the Board (also known as their representation) by this Friday, 13 December. This is not the case.Friday 13 December is the deadline for expert evidence, and so it is only relevant to those submitters who are putting forward expert witnesses.

The important date for all submitters who pan to appear before the Board is Monday 16 December. There are two things you must do no later than Monday 16 December:

1) Notify the Board if you plan to cross-examine any witnesses. You also need to send this notification to the party (e.g. NZTA) who is calling each witness. You must make these notifications by noon on Monday 16 December.

2) Notify the Board if you plan to make an oral submission (representation). You must do this even if you have previously told them (e.g. at the time of making your original submission) that you want to make a representation/oral submission.

As usual, you should contact the Board at BasinBridge@epa.govt.nz

These are the main points about Monday the 16th, but for the full details, see the latest version of the Indicative Timetable at

http://www.epa.govt.nz/Publications/BB66_Memorandum_No.27_Changes_to_timetable.pdf

Note that the hearing start date has now been postponed until Monday 3 February.