Politics

The Transport Minister, a ‘massive’ test cricket fan, puts the Basin Reserve flyover to bed

ANALYSIS:

The Transport Minister, a “massive test cricket fan”, has put to bed any suggestion of a flyover at the Basin Reserve.

Yesterday Let’s Get Wellington Moving revealed four options to overhaul the city’s transport network with mass rapid transit, a second Mt Victoria tunnel, and improvements to the Basin.

It was difficult to believe those in charge of the project would dream of proposing anything even vaguely similar to a flyover after it was such a disaster.

But changes at the Basin Reserve leading up to the announcement had been described as “grade separation”.

That had left those who fought against the original flyover proposal wondering whether they needed to gear up for another round.

It turns out three of the four options have this grade separation by extending the Arras Tunnel. It means the Basin no longer acts as one big roundabout.

State highway traffic heading north from Mt Victoria tunnel towards the motorway would pass around the northern side of the Basin Reserve and into the extended tunnel.

Local north-south traffic, including public transport, vehicles and people, would pass over northbound state highway traffic and be physically separated from it.

Green spaces would connect Pukeahu National War Memorial Park with the Basin Reserve and Kent and Cambridge Terraces.

It’s a far cry from the flyover bridge that was finally quashed by the High Court in 2015.

Transport Minister Michael Wood said many Wellingtonians thought of the Basin as the jewel in the city’s crown.

“They didn’t want to see it wrecked by insensitive car-heavy development and that’s where this whole programme started off from.

“So there was no way that as a result of this process that we were going to have a transport outcome that compromised the amenity of the Basin Reserve.”

On a personal note, Wood also pointed out that he and Finance Minister Grant Robertson were the sponsoring ministers.

“We’re massive test cricket fans.”

The Basin Reserve was a beautiful test cricket ground and the proposed grade separation would actually improve its amenity, rather than making it worse, Wood said.

“There will be more green space, better public access, and better public transport to get people to and from the Basin.

“I think for everyone in Wellington who campaigned for a good outcome for the Basin all those years ago, this should be a good day for them.”

Wellington City councillor Iona Pannett is one of those people who campaigned to “save the Basin” more than a decade ago.

She said while the proposals on the table now might not be perfect, they were “so much better”.

“It has been a really really long haul. I’m incredibly proud of the community which took on NZTA Waka Kotahi and the council to win twice.”

Former Save the Basin spokesman Tim Jones said it appeared the Government has learnt the lesson of the flyover defeat.

“There’s nothing like it in the proposals, but as always, I will be checking the details.”

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster said it was a significant urban design improvement from the cut and cover tunnel that was proposed by the Architectural Centre as an alternative to the flyover- known as “Option X”.

“We haven’t got a great big long bridge going along the northern end of the Basin Reserve at all.”

He said what was being proposed was “completely different” to the flyover.

Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Daran Ponter said the new solution for the Basin was “much more elegant” than what has previously been proposed.

It has now been more than a decade since the flyover debacle first started.

Consultation on the four options unveiled by Let’s Get Wellington Moving yesterday will run for six weeks.

From next year the project team will give an update on the feedback and come back with a more detailed proposal.

Final designs and construction planning will happen from 2024 to 2027.

Construction begins in 2028 and depending on the final package of options, will take between 8 and 15 years to complete.

So while there may be some more palatable options on the table, a solution to the Basin Reserve is still very much a long time coming.

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