The Wellington Civic Trust is hosting a seminar on the Basin Reserve precinct on Saturday. There are a number of local residents who have expressed interest in what will be discussed, given the impact on our local community of projects such as a second Mt Victoria tunnel and a flyover at the Basin Reserve. MVRA President Jessica Closson is one of the people who will be speaking, providing a local view of these intrusive projects.
To help with the information flow to the community we’ll be live-blogging the event throughout the day. Check back frequently for updates – and if you can’t follow the action on-line, remember there’s a community meeting at 7:30pm on Tuesday 11 August at Crossways to let everyone know what was discussed.
[Notes in square brackets are my commentary.] Remember this is not a transcript – it’s simply my notes from the day, so any errors or omissions are entirely my own. Comments may not be verbatim!
5:05 – And that’s pretty much it; the Civic Trust has some areas it will be working on as a result. It has been a damn good day.
5:01 – The issue of cost/benefit analysis was raised again, and there is a wide consensus that the system is very broken. There was a proposal that there should be a working group between the decision makers and the community that could assess what the criteria for making cost/benefit suggestions are. Morgan thought that this might be able to be done through the Victoria University School of Public Policy, using some of the work that has been done internationally. Following on, there was a proposal that all projects that don’t have a positive climate change benefit should not be considered!
4:59 – There was concern that if we wait until the plans are defined, then they are effectively fait accompli; there needs to be a better approach to how plans are proposed and consulted on. There is also a view that the whole transport spine needs to be talked about holistically, rather than being driven to a meeting by a specific national highway project! We need to have a range of alternatives presented, not just a take-it-or-leave-it deal.
4:51 – Morgan Williams is summing up. He noted that there is no particular set of action points, although there seems to be a consensus that consultation and engagement needs to be improved. There needs to be trust on both sides that people will collectively tackle complex issues, and that both sides can be trusted with the full range of information. There seems to be a call for a collective working group. Fran was cautiously positive about this idea, but there is a question mark over what NZTA’s view would be. Again, Deb Hume is not around to hear this suggestion …
4:28 – More wide-ranging discussion about all sorts of issues.
4:20 – Diana asked if the changes at the Basin would preempt other longer-term decisions. Fran noted that the tunnel is the next cab off the rank; the feasibility can’t be proven until the Basin flyover is in place. There was some discussion about this, and some people thought that the Basin would be a band-aid solution without a better approach to the tunnel. The sentiment was also expressed that there has always been an agenda to get four lanes from the end of the Terrace tunnel to the airport, and this is just a piecemeal approach to the problem.
4:16 – Stephen asked Fran to say something about consultation. She noted that it doesn’t work very well from either side, and that we need to have specific consultation rather than general consultation. She thinks the flow of information is key to achieving this – there are few black and white issues and multiple shades of grey, and getting high quality information into the hands of the public is the only effective way of getting better consultation. Fran also noted that in her view, higher oil prices definitely result in changed behaviour patterns – and we are lucky in Wellington that public transport is not unfashionable in this town! She reiterated the need to sort out the CBD spine so that the rest of the transport network works correctly, but this may require bold changes and there may be considerable resistance to this.
4:07 – Stephen said that he has been looking for nuggets of wisdom, and enjoyed Terry McDavitt’s comments. He suspects he has been asked to be provocative! Wellington is a marvellous place, and he arrived just as the inner city motorway was put through – he thinks it has helped transform the Wellington CBD into the walkable place it is now. But he thinks that the bypass is the worst of all possible worlds, and that the time taken for consultation does not seem to have improved the outcome. [I don’t think anyone would disagree with this, btw.] He thinks Victoria Park in Auckland is a successful example of how a flyover can be integrated into a park, and he noted that as Chair of Wellington Rugby League that they have had games at the Basin where less than 20 people have attended. He noted that moving the traffic out of the human-scale area would dramatically improve the Basin Reserve precinct; he thinks the Mt Victoria residents are privileged in where they live, and we should therefore be cautious about trying to impose our views on the rest of the people who need to use the Basin precinct.
4:00 – Clive is a Hataitai resident and a consultant; he noted that he used both the car and the bus, depending on the time imperatives of the day. It’s not always efficient and effective to use the bus. He noted that one of the effects of modern engineering is that it disconnects us from the natural world, and this is not always helpful. From an environmental management perspective, we need to build resilient systems that can accommodate change; he thinks this is a principle we should observe in transport systems as well. Equity needs to be fostered, and equity means access to services and healthy environments. Transport systems should be inclusive. He noted that the needs of the community need to be reflected in the changes that are proposed, and this should apply for future scenarios; if the cost of fuel or carbon increases dramatically, then we need to build a corridor that has the resilience and flexibility to allow for this.
3:50 – Diana noted that we need to define who our communities are and how they should be consulted. She also questioned why the corridor is designated as SH1; if it was a local road then the scale of the changes that have been proposed might be quite different if the changes were being paid for out of local rates. She noted that officials are very influential, and connecting with them is a key part of the process of engaging from a local perspective. Defining from a community perspective how we will engage with the consultation process is also needed. She thinks the push for revision of the cost/benefit models and the discount rate needs to come from the community. And she reinforced Jonathan Boston’s call for movement towards a low-carbon economy – we have already ratified Kyoto. How the economy is going to grow is clearly an important question, as growing a low-carbon green economy will require different transport investments to our current track. She noted that Charles Finny’s call for a “balanced approach” made no sense when the ship was listing – we need a restorative approach, not simply business as usual.
3:42 – Fran thinks that we definitely need some kind of grade separation, even if it does involve a tunnel. She thinks we should give any changes at the Basin a chance to work before looking to implement other parts of the plan, presumably such as the second Mt Victoria tunnel. She is a big advocate of the Airport Flyer bus, btw. And her view is that we need to get going on the project – although there needs to be high quality consultation that is both deep and wide. This should involve things like specific focus groups with Mt Vic and Mt Cook residents. Doing it properly involves very specific consultation, and she thinks the legal requirements for consultation are unhelpful. For instance, there is consultation on the strategy then the programme then the projects, so there is a lot of repetition. She thinks that there needs to be good integration of the Basin Reserve with the rest of the city, and this means needing a transport spine through the CBD and specifically the Golden Mile. We also need a dedicated spine to the southern suburbs and we can’t “slash and burn the residential areas of Mt Vic”.
3:39 – Panel discussion with Fran Wilde, Stephen Franks, Diana Shand and Clive Ansley. Fran began the discussion by saying that there are issues with the economic models used for assessing transport projects and she has asked her officials to look at this – although changes are already beginning to occur. The intent of the panel is to look at how we move forward.
Afternoon tea break – back soon
2:46 – The next stage is another round of discussion. Apparently Chris Watson from the Civic Trust is capturing main points, so I’ll see if I can get a copy of his notes.
2:18 – Terry thinks that fixing the current problems with the heavy rail network, integrated ticketing and the like should be the priority for the moment, and once these are sorted then light rail could be revisited. He thinks that the Basin Reserve would be more important in a regional sense than the current Dowse flyover work being done in Petone. He thinks there needs to be a complete network analysis, and that the investments should be aligned with the network value of each node.
2:14 – He pointed out that the slow traffic outside the window of St Josephs had been moving at that pace for about 4 hours on a Saturday. Some roads need to be prioritised; local streets need to be made local, but he thinks that arterial roots need to be made more arterial. He thinks there is a good case for light rail in Wellington; it is an exact fit for the Council’s growth strategy. The CBD, south and east routes are already at patronage levels that could justify light rail; but doing this will have some flow-on effects for the bus routes and bus operators.
2:09 – Terry McDavitt is now speaking about some of the potential approaches to transport funding. He noted that national funding for projects is different to regional and local funding. We are all transport network users and beneficiaries, directly and indirectly, and he noted that the Basin is a regionally significant transport node. He noted that the eastern suburbs are about the size of Timaru in population terms, yet there are only a few roads in and out of it.
2:04 – Brent Efford from Trans-Action presented a movie which was a great description of how light rail could transform Wellington’s transport infrastructure – we’ll see if we can get a Vimeo link for this.
2:02 – He claims that the Basin Reserve flyover has a positive net economic benefit according to NZTA figures, which is patently incorrect. He suggested that people e-mail his if they want to discuss matters.
1:57 – Charles is lamenting that it takes him too long to drive from his house in Seatoun to his office in the city – the poor wee lamb – and this seems to be one of the reasons he is keen on more roads. He also said that there should be some public transport improvements between Mirimar, the airport and the city. He noted that he represents 1,000 Wellington businesses, and he thinks they are very focused on improving transport links. They take a balanced approach that advocates for public transport as well as private cars.
1:55 – Back in action. Charles Finney from the Chamber of Commerce is speaking, but he will be disappearing before anyone has a chance to ask him anything …
1:00 – The conversation is now ranging all over the shop, so will attempt to capture the main points later. There was some disquiet that Deb Hume from NZTA was not around to hear the feedback from the group.
12:58 – Local MP Grant Robertson is very concerned about the consultation with NZTA – he thinks that we will only be presented with limited and pre-determined options. The consensus of the meeting is that there is a low level of confidence in NZTA’s consultation processes.
12:54 – There was a question about the conflict between “state highway” traffic and local traffic, as this seems one of the areas of conflict over what the corridor should be attempting to do. One speaker noted that this is the consequence of the link to the airport being SH1. Morgan thought that this needs some discussion, as running SH1 looks pretty arbitrary. Patrick McCombs noted that central government pays for state highways.
12:53 – The floor is now open for questions and discussion.
12:47 – The options for decarbonizing transport include mode change, more efficient vehicles, behavioural changes, and moving to different fuels such as electricity. The key thing is how quickly we have to move to these things – but all of them have significant co-benefits, such as better health. We can incentivise changing behaviours, with things like market drivers such as an ETS, or we can make policy changes such as prioritizing public transport [Fat chance with this government!] Jonathan notes that political will (or the lack thereof) is a key problem. He also noted that future generations don’t have a vote, yet the decisions we are making today are going to hugely affect the quality of their lives.
12:45 – Jonathan went through a whole bunch of detailed slides about climate change science and the impacts. The takeaway message is that we need to reduce global emissions by up to 85% by 2050, and be effectively carbon-zero by 2100. And we have to do more than the average as our emissions are very high by global standards.
12:40 – He noted that we have a moral obligation to protect the interests of future generations, and that climate change will impose huge costs on these future generations. NZ needs to reduce our emissions significantly, and this will require an almost complete decarbonization of the transport sector by 2050. He noted there is a broad consensus amongst scientists that we have a significant problem, and that the costs of mitigation are less than the costs of doing nothing.
12:38 – Jonathan Boston from the Institute of Policy Studies at Victoria University is now speaking about how climate changes is relevant to how we design our cities and our transport infrastructure.
12:36 – Don is being very warmly applauded.
12:35 – The cricket museum was established in 1997, and it has been progressively enlarged as it’s been so successful. Don pointed out that it is a national museum, not just a Wellington one. He noted that the Basin Reserve is a fantastic advertisement for Wellington every time the TV cameras focus on the test match, and it’s by far the most beautiful cricket ground in the world.
12:31 – Don noted that the land area around the Basin had been gradually eroded by Council decisions to nibble away at the boundaries with roading projects. The ground was redeveloped in the 1970s with the new RA Vance stand, which re-orientated the wicket to the way it is now and turned the ground into an oval. Since then, the Basin has continued to be used for all kinds of events – such as the 1994 Opera In The Park, when the Carillion was used to punctuate the 1812 Overture!
12:25 – Don showed photos of the old St Pats and St Josephs buildings, which have now been demolished. Up to 25,000 people attended civic events at the Basin during the 1930s. Major happenings in Wellington have always been celebrated at the Basin, such as the huge crowd on VE day on 1945. The largest cricket crowd ever attended the Basin in 1955.
12:23 – In 1907 a Mr Humphries gave the Council a plan for lifting the ground 10 feet, and running the trams underneath the Basin. This included shops, dance halls, shooting galleries and the like … so there’s nothing new under the sun! It even included a pedestrian flyover!
12:17 – The Wakefield memorial was added to a small hillock at the Basin in 1882, and the Deed of Conveyance was signed in 1884 which entrenched the use of the Basin as a cricket ground. Citizens were promenading around the Basin after church by 1892 and it was very heavily used for both sports games and events, such as a Maori Carnival in 1900.
12:15 – Residents then applied to the Provincial Government to drain the Basin for playing cricket, and prisoners commenced work on the ground. The first game was played in 1866, Wellington vs HMS Falcon. The Caledonian Grandstand was built in the late 1870s, and the ground was being used for all sorts of games including practically every code of football. Sheep also grazed on the Basin!
12:10 – Don Neely (President of NZ Cricket and a member of the Basin Reserve Trust) noted that the Basin Reserve is the most famous sports ground in NZ, and has national heritage status. It has been around for 169 years, and the first painting is by Charles Heaphy from 1841 showing the Basin Reserve as a lagoon. The first map of Wellington from 1840 shows the Basin, which was intended as a basin for unloading ships. Rugby Street was originally known as Wharf Street – and the land then rose in the 1855 earthquake, which turned it into a swamp.
12:06 – Jessica noted that the Paterson tunnel will result in the demolition of Ettrick Cottage, as well as the Wellington East College gates – and she pointed out that NZTA have a very bad reputation with maintenance of heritage, as shown by their problems with the buildings in Te Aro. The solution is better pedestrian access, better cycling, light rail and better urban planning. She noted that there are big improvements that can be made in efficiency of the current network, rather than spending money on more roads. She is also skeptical that the traffic growth predicted by NZTA will actually eventuate.
12:01 – Jessica is speaking on our behalf. She noted that there are concerns about the flyover and the second tunnel. Most Mt Vic residents walk, and we are hemmed in by major arterial routes. There is concern about the prioritisation of more roads, and concern that Mt Vic residents were not consulted as key stakeholders despite the fact that our neighbourhood would be greatly impacted by the noise, demolitions and resulting traffic. She noted that the flyover will create a negative impact on pedestrians and local residents – it will be very unattractive and will spread noise and fumes across the houses in the southern part of the community. There will also be negative effects on important events such as carols by candlelight, and significant degradation of heritage areas such as Ettrick Cottage.
12:00 – Carol said that they support the desire to have a park in Buckle Street to honour the Unknown Warrior, but that the project should be deferred until the road can be trenched. This was greeted with applause by the audience.
11:58 – Carol noted that the traffic problems are only going to get worse, and they would like a greater emphasis on public transport. She noted that Foodstuffs have made changes to their supermarket plans – such as the removal of the petrol station – but they still have concerns about some traffic issues, such as the truck exit directly opposite the childcare centre.
11:53 – Carol Comber from Mt Cook Mobilised spoke and noted that their organisation was formed because of concerns over demolition over the YMCA gym and the Buckle Street changes. Their residents will be highly affected by the changes to the Basin. They have a great built heritage, lots of students, and they have a lot of walkers in their neighbourhood. They would like to see much more use of the Basin Reserve for recreational purposes – but every day walking through the Basin Reserve on the way to work is special. MCM made strong submissions on the Adelaide Road plans, and they all look like good, solid suggestions – good community facilities, walkable, and that the level of the buildings should be kept under 6 stories to avoid Adelaide Road becoming a canyon.
11:46 – Elsie Joliffe from Wellington East Girls is speaking on behalf of the proposed changes around the Basin. There are about 970 students at her school, 1500 at Wellington College and 360 at St Marks. Pupils come from all over the city, and there is a very large dependence on buses – at least 75% of Wellington East pupils travel at least one way by bus. They are concerned about the impact of changes around the Basin. Elsie’s grandfather designed the main stadium at the Basin Reserve! She noted that traffic congestion is a daily problem for all students, and she is also concerned about pedestrian safety. It’s not clear why there isn’t a footbridge across the road to improve safety and access. Students are confused about the second tunnel – and they think there are safety issues for pedestrians in the Pirie Street bus tunnel. She thinks there will be lots of disruption and hazard to students from constructing another tunnel. “Don’t do anything to the Basin – it’s perfect the way it is!”
11:44 – Taylor Watson from Wellington College is speaking about the experience of pupils from the school of the Basin Reserve. He is concerned about the additional danger to pupils from additional traffic induced by the flyover, and noted that the traffic from the airport is clogging the roads. He thinks that the indoor stadium will aggravate the problem, and the solution is either light rail or a tunnel under the area. He doesn’t think a flyover should go ahead as it won’t wolve the problems and will have an adverse effect on the schools.
11:41 – We’re back after a bit of a break. The next session is “Our Backyard”, which is a panel session that includes our own Jessica Closson.
11:23 – He spoke about the Rugby St supermarket and noted that it will be mixed use, which is the type of development they are trying to encourage. There are concerns about noise, traffic and urban design, and a decision has yet to be made on whether the consent will need to be publicly notified – this may not happen. There is a briefing for local residents on this next week.
11:22 – He noted that the Ministry of Culture & Heritage has asked for a review of the Memorial Park work, and the WCC is keen to get something completed by the Rugby World Cup. However it’s all up in the air.
11:20 - Andy said that there is an emphasis on creating high-quality environments and affordable housing, so a lot of work is going into reserves and the environmental quality issues. He highlighted the desire to turn roads into boulevards where there is much greater amenity.
11:18 – Andy noted that the Council will be investing about $20 million in the Adelaide Road area, and this will include buying some land along the road frontage. There will also need to be changes to the John Street intersection, and a supermarket is planned for this corner as well so discussions are underway with landowners and developers.
11:14 – Andy said that the Adelaide Road proposals have had good support, with some caveats about building size and the like. About 73% of Adelaide Road residents walk to work – this contrasts with 4% in Kapiti. Wellington City is now growing very quickly – of the 25,000 new people in the region, some 16,000 were in Wellington City. We are growing faster than Kapiti! However Andy said that the city is not used to fast growth, and we need to make sure we can accommodate the people in a sustainable way. There will need to be changes in the District Plan to accommodate this.
11:11 – Adelaide Road: The framework was adopted in November 2008, and this was an out-growth of the urban development plans in the old LTCCP. The intention is to facilitate people living closer to the town centre facilities and jobs. The result was a growth spine, which includes Adelaide Road. The vision is for mixed use – living, shopping, work, services, institutions.
11:10 – Cr Andy Foster is speaking, and will discuss the Adelaide Road precinct, the new supermarket in Rugby Street and Memorial Park in Buckle Street.
11:07 – She claims that all options are still on the table and that a flyover is not a given – some options include ground-level roading changes. She also noted that the options around a second Mt Victoria tunnel are still being investigated, but that the Paterson Street option was the preferred one.
11:05 – Deb stated that the option development was running from August 2009 to February 2010, and there would be full public consultation in early 2010. The preferred option will be decided by the NZTA board in mid-2010.
11:02 – She noted that WCC, GWRC and NZTA are in a partnership for the Basin Reserve changes. She also claims that increasing the efficiency of public transport is a key driver. [This contradicts the advice of their own consultants.] She outlined the various other changes in the area, such as the Buckle Street re-alignment. [I’ll see if I can post her presentation – it makes hilarious reading.]
11:01 – Deb noted that the Wellington Northern Corridor is a “road of national significance” – and this includes the Basin Reserve precinct. She said the plans are not as well developed for this corridor as others in the country.
10:58 – Deb noted that she thinks the statement by Kerry Prendergast is a guiding principle for the changes around the Basin Reserve. She also said that public transport is the main people mover, that there needs to be a ring route around the main shopping areas, and that there need to be walking and cycling improvements. [All good intentions – a pity the statements aren’t backed by reality!]
10:52 – Dr Deb Hume from NZTA is speaking. She noted that most of her talk is already public. The proposed changes in the area have been a long time coming – she mentioned the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan, the Government Policy Statement, and the Regional Land Transport Programme. She noted that there has been consultation at each step [although she doesn’t mention that the consultation has been a failure!]. She noted the funding plan will be made public on 27 August.
10:50 – Cr Andy Foster and Deb Hume from NZTA are going to talk about the proposals for the area.
10:50 – Duncan noted that there is a generation of Wellingtonians who have no idea that St Pats has been moved, and our urban form has suffered as a result.
10:45 – Duncan pointed out that there are a lot of buildings and structures around the Basin that are not connected by coherent public spaces. This is the main challenge for the area. He also noted that many of the “ornaments” such as the Queen Victoria strategy have been moved at random, which makes it hard to get any context or coherence in the urban form. Some of these things are in their places for a reason. He thinks there are some great opportunities to create some beautiful spaces between the buildings – but our behaviour in NZ does not encourage these outcomes.
10:45 – Duncan says that society makes different decisions over time – for instance, the original Mt Victoria tunnel was built as a depression project aimed at alleviating joblessness. He noted that the public opposition against the urban motorway only gathered pace once the Bolton Street cemetery was threatened – this statement was challenged by the audience! He then used the bypass as an example of poor decision-making behaviour.
10:40 – A key factor is the decision-making behaviour that affects the urban form. There are some concepts about how our cities are made up – he used the example of a 1900-era villa, which is “a collection of boxes with services”. The space in between isn’t really considered – the spaces are simply a way of getting services such as people and cars and electricity and water into the buildings. This service-based approach influences how we think about our public spaces.
10:37 – Duncan is going to talk about how the Basin area works, and he will largely address the issue of urban form. He noted that Wellington has a very distinctive profile based on its geography. The Basin nestles against the taniwha of Mt Victoria and this makes it a unique setting, with the area around Government House intruding into the Southern side of the area. The human features are overlaid on this geographic setting.
10:35 – There are a few problems getting his PowerPoint presentation to start … gotta love the technology.
10:32 – Duncan Joiner from the Dept of Building & Housing has taken the microphone to talk about how this area of Wellington functions.
10:30 – Morgan noted that Kerry Prendergast has stated that that “a bottom line … is that the ambience and relative tranquility of the Basin Reserve will not be compromised by any changes to the road.” Morgan thinks we all have a part to play in leadership – it should not be left solely to local and national government. Quoted Kerri Hulme: “Together, all together, they were instruments of change”
10:25 – Morgan noted that in Santiago they have built an inner-city motorway as a cut and cover system, with parks and open public spaces above and cars below. He noted that we’ve had some of this debate in NZ, such as the Waterview connection discussions.
10:20 – Morgan says that Wellington has some great civic spaces, but mobility is the biggest challenge for the city. This is true of all great cities – the tension is between the modes of transport, i.e. cars, buses, cyclists …
His view is that we need to focus on the public spaces between the buildings as much as the buildings themselves. The international trend is towards separating the flows of traffic and modes – keeping cars out of the way of each other, and keeping the modes out of the way of each other. He pointed out that Brisbane has used elevated motorways to achieve this, adn has effectively cut the CBD off from its river frontage as a result. The biggest trend emerging is to pull down these flyovers rather than building new ones – he used Boston and Seoul as examples. He thinks we need to learn why other cities came to these conclusions.
10:15 – Morgan is providing a potted history of the Basin Reserve precinct. There are some great old photos! He has put up a great slide that shows what NZers actually value as a society – the intention is to dispel the myth that all we want to do is grow the economy. The most important thing to us all is the quality of life, and employment and job prospects are simply a means to that end. Makes good sense.
Seminar Chair and former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Morgan Willliams
10:10 – Morgan Williams is now speaking and is setting the stage for the day. The intention is to “expand the dialogue”, and sharing information as well as learning about the challenges. He noted that all the community need to be part of the planning team – it shouldn’t be left solely to professionals. There is the strong desire to have a conversation throughout the day – he will be a bit directive with both speakers and participants!
10:09 – The new President of the Trust is summing up the changes planned for the Basin Reserve, and noted that everyone is looking to develop constructive solutions to the issues. She’s now welcoming Dr Morgan Williams, former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who will be chairing the meeting.
10:06 – The Civic Trust is welcoming us to the event and paying tribute to Seddon Bennington, the former Trust Chair and CEO of Te Papa who tragically died in the Tararuas recently.
10:00 – The seminar is just kicking off – the place is full, and there are lots of community and political leaders here. So far I’ve said hi to local MP Grant Robertson and Crs Ian McKinnon, Celia Wade-Brown and Ioana Pannett, and there are some key officials as well, such as WCC Head of Infrastructure Stavros Michael. According to the Civic Trust there’s a full house, with no spare spaces for people walking in at the last moment. Given the amount of interest in the topic it looks like they could have filled a venue of twice the size.