Summer Posting Series: The NZ Transport Agency’s strange idea of safety

Recently the NZ Transport Agency was patting itself on the back for spending millions of dollars to upgrade the Terrace Tunnel:

Wellington’s Terrace Tunnel will be out of full working order for the next nine months, as an upgrade takes place to minimise the risk of death from a tunnel fire.

These upgrades are also planned for the Mt Victoria tunnel as part of the same project. Of course, no motorists have actually died from a vehicle fire in either tunnel, which does beg the question as to why the NZ Transport Agency thinks this is a priority investment for hard-stretched taxpayers during a recession.

However there is a clear and present danger to health and safety from the Mt Victoria tunnel, because the unfiltered poisonous fumes from the traffic below are ventilated into the grounds of the Wellington East Girl’s College – which is an issue the NZ Transport Agency has been refusing to address for decades.


The unfiltered vent shaft from the Mt Victoria tunnel, in the grounds of the College

The research is quite clear on the negative impacts of nitrous oxides and diesel particulates, which (according to research commissioned by the Ministry of Transport – PDF) cause around 400 unnecessary deaths per annum in New Zealand. Nitrous oxides (largely from burning petrol) aggravate lung diseases such as asthma and emphysema, and diesel particulates are a know cancer-causing agent. Yet the NZ Transport Agency continues to pump tonnes of these agents into the grounds of the College, year after year.

So rather than congratulating themselves on the safety improvements for motorists, perhaps the NZ Transport Agency should answer a few questions – such as why they are continuing to deliberately poison our children?