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)
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.