by Tim Jones
Another year has gone by, and we still don’t know what will be in the Let’s Get Wellington Moving Recommended Programme of Investment – in other words, the Ngauranga to Airport transport plan that we’ve been awaiting for the last three years.
It often seems as though the whole thing will end up as a messy political compromise. But what if the guiding principles were such things as:
- making Wellington liveable
- making Wellington fair, safe and healthy
- making Wellington beautiful, vibrant and culturally rich?
And what if, in place of Let’s Get Welly Moving’s continued refusal to treat the climate change impact of its plans as a key or even important factor, a central goal of their work was to ensure zero greenhouse gas emissions from Wellington transport by 2040?
Does that sound like a pipe dream? It isn’t. Because Councillor Roger Blakeley, with input from a number of people with community expertise in Wellington transport, has come up with a plan to do all that and more. And he presented it to the 2018 Save the Basin Campaign Annual General Meeting:
We encourage you to read it. We encourage you to think about it. And we encourage you to support it – or, if you wish, suggest further improvements.
It’s great to see one of our elected representatives engaging in detail with the work that needs to be done to make Wellington a city fit for its residents – and fit for the future. Thanks, Roger!
The Save the Basin Campaign Inc has written the following letter in response to the new Let’s Get Welly Moving “surprise survey” which LGWM chose not to notify stakeholder groups, such as Save the Basin, about:
The STBC, as a stakeholder group in the LGWM consultation process, takes strong issue with your organisation on a number of matters in relation to the existence of this survey:
- The survey has taken everyone at STBC by complete surprise. What is the purpose of the survey and who has it been distributed to? There was no prior notification to STBC (as a stakeholder) that LGWM would be commissioning the survey and it was only by chance that a member of the STBC committee was alerted to its existence. This is alarming and shows a complete lack of transparency and questions the validity of the survey.
- The process for public engagement on the LGWM scenarios closed in November last year – and in March this year LGWM released the summary of the feedback process on future transport scenarios for Wellington. Your website currently says “We’re using the feedback from the November 2017 public engagement to help guide our work as we develop a recommended programme of investment.” However, you continue to be asking for more views and ideas through this latest survey – with no information about this available to the public through your website.
- Of great concern is the fact the survey implies that a bridge/fly-over around the Basin Reserve is still an option – especially in the way the questions are constructed and presented. For example in relation to design, one survey respondent said that the preferences for infrastructure around the Basin gave options for a bridge or tunnel on one page – suggesting that there were only two options – then on the next page the last part of this question appeared offering an at grade option.
- Although we are not circulating the survey to our members to complete, we know that others who have been alerted to the survey may. If the survey was designed to be filled in by certain individuals or organisations, either targeted or randomly selected, the results will be invalidated if others complete it. No-one should trust the results of this survey.
We would appreciate a response to this email.
The Save the Basin Campaign today called on the Government, Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington to go forwards, not backwards, on Wellington transport.
Responding to the release of Let’s Get Wellington Moving’s summary feedback report and associated press release, Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson Tim Jones said “It’s very clear that there are two possible transport futures ahead of Wellington. One is a future that makes the city better to live in and better able to respond to climate change. The other is a big step backwards to the failed transport policies of the past, in which the city is once again held hostage to the private car.”
“Auckland is at last beginning to escape from the trap of putting cars before people in transport planning. It would be a huge waste if Wellington ended up falling into the very same trap,” Mr Jones said.
“The Save the Basin Campaign calls on the three agencies involved in this project to take a bold step forward on transport. Trying to escape congestion by building more motorway capacity has failed wherever it’s been tried. We need to invest in mass transit that will move people efficiently in large numbers, build better walking and cycling infrastructure, manage transport demand, and free up the roads for the people who genuinely need to use them.”
“Save the Basin’s objectives haven’t changed. We aim to protect the Basin Reserve from inappropriate development while supporting appropriate enhancements to Wellington’s transport system. We’ve helped to defeat flawed transport projects affecting the Basin before, and we stand prepared to defeat them again. But this time round, we hope that won’t be necessary,” Mr Jones concluded.
This is it. At long last, the NZTA transport planners who were defeated over the Basin Reserve flyover are going to put their new plans on the table. Be there to have your say – see below for when, where & how!
RSVP by Tuesday. If the invite links below don’t work for you, urgently email firstname.lastname@example.org for an invitation, or just tell them you plan to attend the event. Be polite, but be resolute.
Don’t let the short notice or the bad timing of this ‘consultation exercise’ stop you. NZTA have refused to rule out proposing another flyover at the Basin Reserve. Are you going to let them get away with that?
Be there if you possibly can: Prefab, this coming Wednesday, 15/11, 6.30pm.
Save the Basin Campaign Inc.
|Direct RSVP link: https://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/lets-get-wellington-moving-engagement-campaign-launch-tickets-39466058042|
The Save the Basin Campaign has welcomed the public release of Let’s Get Welly Moving’s long list of scenarios for the future of Wellington transport.
But spokesperson Tim Jones is concerned that some vital questions appear to have been ignored during the assessment process.
“First of all,” Tim Jones said, “Let’s Get Welly Moving didn’t release these scenarios until they were forced to by an Official Information Act request. If NZTA, Greater Wellington and Wellington City Council genuinely want informed public debate, they should have released these scenarios and workshop notes as soon as possible after the workshops in November 2016, not waited until June 2017 to do so.”
“Second, from the material released, it looks like some vital questions have not been asked during the assessment process. No consideration appears to have been given to either climate change or other public health issues, such as the excess deaths caused by pollution, especially from diesel engines.
“Both the Government and the local authorities have commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – why hasn’t the need to meet these commitments been put front and centre when developing and assessing these scenarios?” Tim Jones asked.
In terms of the Basin Reserve, Tim Jones said “We’re pleased that none of the scenarios appear to show a Basin Reserve flyover. But there is far too little detail shown in the material that’s publicly released to be sure what’s planned for the Basin. We need to see detailed proposals.”
In conclusion, Tim Jones said “The Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry made it very clear that assessment of alternative transport options needs to be thorough, transparent and replicable. We’re not sure that Let’s Get Welly Moving’s scenario development and assessment process has met those criteria, and we’ll be watching their next steps very closely.”
Save the Basin Campaign Inc
The lead story in last Saturday’s Dominion Post was unequivocal: “Capital Workers Ditching Cars”, it said.
Stuff, the online equivalent, had a considerably less dramatic headline for the same story:
Wellingtonians among Australasia’s keenest public transport users but still keen to improve: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/national/88145611/Wellingtonians-among-Australasias-keenest-public-transport-users-but-still-keen-to-improve
But the message is much the same.
That’s good news at the start of a year in which important decisions are likely to be made about the future of transport in Wellington. The NZTA/WCC/Greater Wellington Let’s Get Welly Moving project is running half-day workshops in February which will represent the first opportunity for the public to get to grips with LGWM’s transport thinking for Wellington in the wake of the defeat of the proposed Basin Reserve flyover.
Will LGWM’s transport thinking reflect recent developments in transport, mobility and access? Will it allow for a rapidly changing transport environment in which the need to:
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport
- increase resilience to climate change and natural disasters, and
- account for improvements in light rail, growing demand for walking and cycling infrastructure, the rise of electric vehicles and vehicle sharing, and the prospect of autonomous vehicles
makes traditional “predict and provide” road planning increasingly outdated?
February should start to tell that story. Let’s hope it’s a good one, and if it isn’t, let’s be prepared to work to make it better.
The Save the Basin AGM was held last night, and my Co-Convenor’s report was adopted. I’m publishing it here as my summary of where things currently stand on the Basin and related issues – Tim Jones
UPDATE: NOTE FROM FRIENDS OF THE BASIN: Members of Save the Basin, Mt Cook Mobilised, Mt Victoria’s Residents Association, Newtown Residents Association, and other interested people have met to coordinate activities and share information about the development of the Basin Reserve Cricket Ground, and to work toward influencing decisions to create greater community use of the grounds and to protect its heritage. If you are interested in further information, or want to participate in this group, please contact email@example.com.
The Past Year
My Co-Convenor’s Reports to the 2014 and 2015 AGMs were both dominated by news of court cases – good news! In 2014, I was able to report that NZTA’s plan to build a Basin Reserve flyover had been defeated at the Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry. In 2015, I reported that NZTA’s appeal of that decision had been defeated at the High Court. In both cases, Save the Basin Inc. was one of the groups that played a big part in getting the right decision.
As I said in 2015, this was a major victory for the four groups that appeared to oppose NZTA’s appeal: The Architectural Centre, Mt Victoria Historical Society, and Mount Victoria Residents Association and Save the Basin Campaign Inc. – and a most welcome vindication for the Board of Inquiry’s patient, thorough and decisive analysis and decision.
Another year on, there is no big legal battle to report on, since NZTA chose not to pursue their vision of a flyover all the way to the Supreme Court – but while the issue has had a lower profile over the past year, plenty’s being going on behind the scenes.
In the wake of the High Court decision, two new official processes were set up: Let’s Get Welly Moving and the Basin Reserve Redevelopment Project. Let’s Get Welly Moving is a joint project between NZTA, Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington to reconsider transport options and projects around Wellington – not just at the Basin, and not even just along State Highway 1. And the Basin Reserve Redevelopment Project is Wellington City Council’s project to revamp the Basin itself, both as a cricket and as a recreation ground. The decision on the future of the Museum Stand is separate from but related to this project.
Save the Basin has met with senior staff from both projects, multiple times in the case of Let’s Get Welly Moving. Unfortunately, both projects have been bedevilled by staff turnover in key positions, including the original Project Directors of each project taking up other positions and having to be replaced. This has slowed the momentum of each project, and we are concerned that, so far, there appears to have been little communication between the two projects or their personnel.
Let’s Get Welly Moving has been carrying out extensive public engagement, and conducting research to inform its decision-making. It’s also been developing a suite of transport modelling tools designed to better capture the reality of a modern multi-modal transport system. Its original schedule has been pushed out a little, and it is now meant to come up with a range of scenarios for Wellington transport – not limited to the Basin, and not limited only to building infrastructure – by around March 2017. At this stage, with alternative options going on the table, I expect the Basin debate will sharpen once again, and Save the Basin’s voice may need to be strongly heard.
The Basin Reserve Redevelopment Project has also held public consultations, which Save the Basin contributed to, and the Council’s decision on the fate of the Museum Stand is expected in 2017.
The 2016 local body elections
Had the outcome been different, the 2016 local body elections could have partially or completely derailed the processes discussed above. Of the three leading Mayoral candidates, both Nick Leggett and Jo Coughlan wanted “four lanes to the planes”. Nick Leggett was an unrepentant supporter of building a Basin Reserve flyover, while Jo Coughlan proposed to short-circuit the LGWM process entirely by grabbing hold of a supposed billion dollars’ worth of Government funding and making a decision about the future of the Basin by Christmas 2016.
Neither prevailed. Justin Lester, who won convincingly, was a consistent opponent of a Basin Reserve flyover while he served as Celia Wade-Brown’s Deputy Mayor, and he now leads a Council which, in my opinion, has moved slightly further away from the views of the cars-above-all-else lobby. Similarly, while we were disappointed to lose such strong advocates of sustainable transport from the Regional Council as Paul Bruce and Nigel Wilson, and it was a disappointment that supportive candidates such as Russell Tregonning did not make it onto that Council, the signs are cautiously positive for more modern, sustainable, and forward-thinking transport policy in the Wellington region – though much still depends on the Government’s attitude.
The transport portfolios as the City Council have gone to Chris Calvi-Freeman and Sarah Free, while Paul Swain will no longer be leading the transport portfolio for the Regional Council. I’m hopeful that these changes will mean a greater openness to the notion that transport in a modern capital city is about more than moving more cars more quickly.
One other issue on which Save the Basin has submitted is the proposed extension of Wellington Airport’s runway, which is currently the subject of a resource consent application. As a group, our primary concern here is construction traffic. The airport company has asked for consent to run 23-metre long heavy trucks day and night, from 9.30am-2.30pm and 10pm-6am, along State Highway 1 for 3-4 years (and possibly up to 10 years) to transport up to 1.5 million cubic metres of fill between Horokiwi and Kiwi Point quarries and the airport. The planned route goes around the Basin Reserve and through the Mt Victoria tunnel – and the airport company is projecting up to 620 of those heavy truck movements a day, at a frequency of up to one heavy truck movement per minute. We consider this would have a serious impact on residents along the route, on the safety and comfort of other road users and pedestrians, on the transport network, and on the environs of the Basin Reserve.
Conclusion and thanks
While 2016 has been a relatively quiet year in comparison to the previous two, that may well not be the case in 2017. Therefore, it’s important for Save the Basin to remain active, both to advocate for the future of the Basin Reserve as a cricket and recreation ground and public facility, and to maintain our standing in terms of future decision-making processes, and any legal processes that may arise from those. I’d like to thank Treasurer Ross Teppett and committee members Kate Zwartz, Judith Graykowski, Alana Bowman and Pauline Swann for their hard work and support, and to all our supporters who have stuck with us and continue to work for a better future both for the Basin Reserve, and for Wellington’s transport system.
Save the Basin Campaign Incorporated
At last night’s Wellington Scoop Mayoral Candidates forum, I asked each candidate, given that we didn’t yet know what options would emerge from the Let’s Get Welly Moving process, whether they would pledge not to support or vote for a flyover at or near the Basin Reserve.
Of the candidates:
- Justin Lester, Helene Ritchie, and Johnny Overton all gave a firm “no” to a flyover at the Basin.
- Nick Leggett still supports a Basin Reserve flyover, and stated that he was proud to have supported the previous, failed flyover proposal “because it was funded”. His position appeared to be that Wellington should agree with whatever the Government was prepared to fund.
- Jo Coughlan, Nicola Young, Keith Johnson and Andy Foster all said, with varying emphases, that a flyover was unlikely, or that there were better options, but didn’t give an absolute “no” to a flyover.
Save the Basin has also surveyed Mayoral and other candidates on their views of the future of the Basin Reserve and related issues. The deadline for responses to that survey is Friday, and we’ll be letting you know the results early next week. But for now, the answers given last night may assist you in deciding which Mayoral candidates to support.
Wellington Scoop, who did an excellent job of organising and hosting the forum, has put up a full report – it’s well worth reading!
The first phase of the Ngauranga to Airport Governance Group’s Let’s Get Welly Moving process, which is designed to find out what principles people in the Wellington region think should underlie Wellington transport planning, draws to a close at the end of May.
You can fill in the survey on the site, or if you want to engage in a deeper way, you can send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s what Save the Basin decided to do – our submission to this first phase of the process is below, and you are welcome to adapt it for your own use. A number of these points build on our September 2015 Op Ed for the Dominion Post.
The next phase will be a call for proposals to rethink Wellington transport. We encourage you to put forward proposals that enhance Wellington role as a city for people, not a city for cars – and that ensure the Basin is not again put at risk.
Save the Basin Campaign Inc: Submission in response to the “Let’s Get Welly Moving” Engagement Phase
As set out in its Constitution, the Save the Basin Campaign Inc has the following purposes:
(a) Promote, preserve and protect the historic character of the Basin Reserve area
(b) Promote high quality urban design and environmental management of the Basin Reserve area
(c) Promote an appropriate role for the Basin Reserve area in the development of a high quality, sustainable transport network, recognising the importance of the Basin to the public transport spine, and the importance of walkability and public transport for the users of the area
(d) Do anything necessary or helpful to the above purposes.
These purposes both explain why our Campaign was completely opposed to the proposed Basin Reserve flyover and took part in two successful rounds of legal action to prevent it gaining resource consent, and why we will oppose any future attempts to build a flyover or other transport infrastructure at the Basin Reserve that threatens the character, landscape, urban design or heritage of the Basin precinct – whether or not such infrastructure is presented as part of a larger package of resource consent applications.
Equally, however, these purposes allow us to participate in discussions about appropriate, sustainable transport developments that involve the Basin Reserve precinct, and thus we are pleased to see the breadth of the engagement process that the Ngauranga to Airport Governance Group has chosen to engage in as the first phase of its Let’s Get Welly Moving process.
Our submission covers three broad areas: the wider transport context, our comments and concerns about the rest of the planned consultation process, and our views on what should be done at the Basin Reserve.
Save the Basin took part in the development of the engagement and transport planning principles for the post-Basin environment submitted under the aegis of Grant Robertson MP, and those principles should also be regarded as part of our input to the engagement process.
The broader transport context
The present engagement process is being carried out at a time of rapid and disruptive change in transport thinking, transport behaviour and urban design – change which means that business-as-usual thinking is no longer appropriate.
These changes include:
- the Government’s signing of the Paris climate change agreements and its commitment to an associated greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, meaning that serious steps will need to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport
- increased readiness by both central and local government to fund and provide infrastructure for active modes and public transport
- the increasing acceptance that building new roads induces further traffic congestion, as amply demonstrated by many local as well as overseas examples
- the post-2007 breakdown of the previously accepted correlation between population growth and growth in VKT, as notably seen in changes in young people’s transport thinking and behaviour
- the advent of disruptive technologies such as the wider uptake of car-sharing arrangements; electric vehicles; and driverless cars, with their associated requirement for far less road space
- a refocusing of urban design, in cities as diverse as Seoul and New York, to put people first rather than cars first.
In our view, a prudent response to these developments by the Governance Group should be to focus on transport behaviour change while also looking to make incremental improvements in transport infrastructure that do not commit the city to major infrastructure developments which may well be rendered redundant by transport behaviour changes, and which would foreclose other, more appropriate responses.
The engagement process: comments and concerns
While we welcome the change in approach represented by the “Let’s Get Welly Moving” (LGWM) process, we still have some concerns about how this is being carried out, and suggestions for improvement:
Methodology and weighting of responses received
The first phase of the LGWM process has been carried out region-wide. However, given the potentially competing interests involved, we submit that there should be a methodology which gives most weight to those most directly affected by potential infrastructure changes along the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor: that is, those who live closest to them.
Calling for proposals
The next stage of the process includes calling for proposals. As such proposals can be both time-consuming and expensive to develop, especially for community groups with limited access to professional resources, we submit that the Governance Group should make available independent advice to assist those who wish to make proposals to do so – similar to the role the “Friend of the Submitter” plays in complex resource consent hearings.
Modelling: assumptions and processes
The modelling tool(s) chosen, and their underlying assumptions, will be of crucial importance in assessing the proposals received and developing scenarios based on them. Therefore, we submit that an “open Government data” approach should be taken to the development and use of these modelling tools. This approach should both
- allow and encourage the involvement of those in the wider community with expertise in the analysis and use of Government and modelling data to engage with the modelling process and challenge modelling assumptions and processes, with the aim of producing a modelling process that truly reflects the realities of the rapidly changing transport environment, and
- take account of the range of ways in which the Wellington transport system may develop.
Consultation on scenarios
This is currently scheduled for January to March 2017. However, our experience is that it is extremely difficult to get people engaged in consultation processes during January and early February due to family commitments over the summer holiday period. Therefore, we submit that this consultation period should not begin until February 2017.
The future of the Basin Reserve: Save the Basin’s position
We believe that the starting point for consideration of the Basin Reserve’s future needs to be the final report of the Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry. We are disappointed that, so far, this does not appear to have been the case. While the immediate response of the applicant was to comb the report for possible grounds for appeal – an approach which proved unavailing in the High Court – the Governance Group should instead pay careful attention to the Board’s findings, which make clear the significance of the Basin Reserve and its environs for Wellington and its residents.
As those findings make clear, a narrow, transport-only focus on the Basin won’t work. What is needed is a long term vision and plan to protect and enhance an iconic cricket ground, create more open and green space, end urban blight and develop a transport space that accommodates pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users and cars.
The Board identified that the following options were worthy of further consideration:
- the Basin Reserve Roundabout Enhancement Option (BRREO) – an at-grade option that doesn’t involve bridging or tunnelling;
- Option X proposed by The Architectural Centre; and
- a tunnel option suggested but then discarded by NZTA.
Given the rapid and disruptive changes to transport outlined above, we believe that the best option for the Basin is the one which involves the least infrastructure development and provides the most flexibility for future developments. This is the BRREO, or a similar at-grade option. However, the other options foregrounded by the Board should also receive careful consideration.
What should happen next? Here is our 7-point action plan, some of which is now underway:
- Reframe the Basin as a sporting, urban development and heritage area as well as a transport corridor.
- 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 transport options. 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. Ensure that, following the Wellington City Council’s “transport pyramid” approach, the needs of walkers, cyclist, and public transport users are given precedence.
- 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
The Basin Reserve is a place of local, national and (especially in its role as an international cricket ground) international significance. We support options that preserve and enhance its status. We do not support options that put that status at risk.
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.