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.