Mitigation is a funny word.
“mit·i·ga·tion [mit-i-gey-shuhn] noun
1. the act of mitigating, or lessening the force or intensity of something unpleasant, as wrath, pain, grief, or extreme circumstances: Social support is the most important factor in the mitigation of stress among adolescents.
2. the act of making a condition or consequence less severe: the mitigation of a punishment.
3. the process of becoming milder, gentler, or less severe.
4. a mitigating circumstance, event, or consequence.”
In the case of the Basin Reserve flyover, the Wellington City Council has asked for further “mitigation” of the proposed Flyover (concrete bridge / Option A). For its part, NZTA has also promised some “mitigation” of the effects of the flyover, and says that they will focus on “mitigation” to ensure that the flyover is “integrated”. Trouble is, I’m not really sure that they are talking about the same thing.
From what the public has heard about so far, Councilor Morrison (both a WCC Councilor and a Basin Reserve Trustee) has managed to wangle NZTA into “guaranteeing” something like “a new stand” as some part of the “mitigation”. No image of the actual stand has yet been shown to the public, although the Dom Post had a go with a 2 minute sketch of what it could look like (some time ago). Apparently, according to several people, including Clr Morrison, we can pretty much guarantee that it won’t look like that. And is the rumoured figure of $11million set in stone as well? Somehow, I think probably not. NZTA is not normally in the line for giving out free grandstands with every project it does, although apparently Clr Morrison has got a sure-fire deal signed up here. Well done that man!
On the other hand, WCC has intimated that considerable “mitigation” will be needed to get over the effects of a concrete bridge, that is widely seen by the general population as being pretty hideous. As much as traffic engineers get excited at the sight of a big concrete roadway through the sky, and the associated architects and urban designers keenly try to “mitigate” the appearance, it still seems that the general public don’t want a bar of it.
So, what will NZTA / WCC be trying to mitigate against? And what form might some of the mitigation take? That, of course, depends on what the mitigation is trying to do. If it is mitigation against the sight of the thing, then mitigation may mean making it look less severe, making it look less like a punishment, making it look less unpleasant and grief-causing. Short of a magic wand, I’m not sure how they can do that, any more than they could make it do what people would really like it to do: ie completely disappear. So at the very least, we can expect to see some barriers to try and hide the road way, as well as lots of careful planting of flax down below to try and disguise the columns holding it up. How big a barrier does it need? That’s the $64 million question.
But there is also mitigation needed against what the flyover sounds like. The continual drumming of tyres on concrete will be louder, as the noise source will be raised high into the air, in direct visual and acoustic line with the people of Mt Vic, as well as those occasions when the Basin is being used. Noise does have a habit of going some way from a source, especially when it has been bought out from behind earth berms, and raised into the air, 8 or 9m above the ground. So, expect to see some proposals for considerable noise mitigation up there as well.
If a Stand was produced as part of the mitigation, it could conceivably be something like the new media stand at North Harbour Stadium in the latest Architecture New Zealand magazine (a very nice square box) – or like the Media stand at Lords (very much not a box), which undoubtedly is a true wonder of the modern world. It is unlikely to be a true grandstand, with lots of seating, even though the existing old grandstand is very much falling apart at the seams, it seems. Of course, it could just be a giant billboard, advertising CocaCola or some such refreshing product (except at Test time, of course, when it would have to be blank). But that might be too distracting, so perhaps it may just have to be blank. Or gently patterned with symbols of flowering kowhai, or something slightly symbolicly naff, as NZTA have so endearingly rolled out over the entire province of Auckland.
Mitigation also has the following synonyms: “appeasement, satisfaction, pacification, abatement, acceding, accommodation, adjustment, alleviation, amends, assuagement, blunting, compromise, concession, conciliation, easing, grant, lessening, lulling, mitigation, moderation, mollification, peace offering, placation, propitiation, quelling, quenching, quieting, reconciliation, reparation, restoration, settlement, softening, solace, soothing, tranquilization.” So while it sounds as though it is Neville Chamberlain’s peace plan with the Axis of Evil, it also means that the mitigation could be sponsored by Valium or another soporific. Perhaps even some oily lotion, seeing as how that someone is going to have to grease a lot of palms to get this flyover agreed to.
But I like to try and be helpful. Clearly NZTA will have a lot of mitigation to do. They will need to cover the bridge to hide it from view from the Basin, and yet it is already quite large in the view from nearby schools and churches – especially the Catholic church of St Joseph, where the flyover traffic will sail right past their front window, that used to have a beautiful view of the Basin Reserve. NZTA will also need to address how the noise from the flyover can be mitigated, or shut out all together. Perhaps encasing the structure in an acoustic cocoon would do the trick, as happens in some sensitive areas overseas. There is, of course, the interaction of the flyover with the ground as well, where a building has been cunningly designed to fit in underneath the flyover, so that the neighbours won’t even notice it. At least, as long as they don’t look out the window they won’t.