Well, the Council have voted on the city’s official position with respect to central government’s proposed traffic improvements near the Basin Reserve.

Rather than NZTA’s proposed flyover Options A and B, the Council are instead advocating for a tunnel from Taranaki Street to the Mt Vic Tunnel. A victory for the Arch centre’s efforts – yes and no. We managed to put a tunnel on the agenda when it might not otherwise have been(?), and we have certainly gone some way to achieving our objectives of raising the issue of urban design more generally.

This result is also, however, in stark contrast to the earlier breathless reporting of the DomPost, which  touted the Council’s draft submission as if it were the final voted-upon position – a “kiss of death” for the tunnel option according to that article. Nothing like sloppy/misreporting of facts to support an editorial agenda I guess. Yes, I am still really peeved that they reported our efforts as nothing but delaying tactics – we put a lot of work into OptionX as a genuine alternative – I doubt there has ever been any chance of it causing any sort of delay to the process, and I doubt we would have that kind of Machiavellian cunning to have thought up such a plan anyway.

Nevertheless, Burgess (the DomPost reporter), may well have provided serendipitous insight into what might end up being the final outcome after all. The Council, in voting in favour of  a project vastly more expensive than Options A or B, and OptionX, is likely to see that part of their submission overlooked in favour of their otherwise fall-back endorsement of NZTA’s Option A. By advocating an extensive tunnel, they may well have given that “kiss of death” to any tunnel at all. This is why the result may also be something of a loss for us. Only time will tell.

I am certainly glad that the Wade-Brown led Council has put forward a principled position for the betterment of the city – big ups to them for that.

For the record RadioNZ reports the following:

How councillors voted

For: Justin Lester, Bryan Pepperell, Helene Ritchie, Iona Pannett, Stephanie Cook, Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Andy Foster and Paul Eagle.

Against: Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Ngaire Best, Jo Coughlan, Leonie Gill, Ian McKinnon, Simon Marsh and John Morrison.

The narrow margin would appear to contradict the force of opinion of the people whom the Councillor’s are supposed to be representing however. While it’s too early to know what the results of the public submissions to NZTA might be, in the 2008 Ngauranga to Airport strategy consultation, Wellington’s public rejected a flyover by a ratio greater than 2:1. DomPost’s own readers poll also indicates that the general public endorse the Council’s decision – by a much more significant margin than the actual Council votes (which makes the DomPost’s editorial stance even harder to fathom – but good on them for speaking out for the 15% of their readers who actually agree with them).

Online polls are famously fickle though, so perhaps we’ll not cite that latter statistic as ‘fact’. Certainly our own online poll, which indicates our own reader’s preference for Option A is proof of that. Of the 350 votes cast, about 100 are from two IP addresses. I won’t mention which prominent architectural firm where one of these computers is located, but it seems rather a pathetic thing to do by any means. For the record, with those votes eliminated, our stats fall roughly in-line with those mentioned in the paragraph above. Yes, there is some double-voting in some of the other voting options, but nothing anywhere near as remarkable as the flyover proponents.

We’ll all have to wait until early next year for NZTA’s release of the consultation results for the real story though…


11 responses to “Basin voting”

  1. Londoner Avatar

    I’m intrigued and would love to know more. A “prominent architectural firm” is voting for the preference for Option A ? Really? I can think of only two such firms that may have a preference for a flyover, one up on a hillside, the other up in a tall tower…? But even so I would have thought that given the option of a completely neutral forum on which to vote, they may have selected an alternative? Unless they were actively encouraged / told to vote that way?

  2. Someone from a prominent architectural firm – not necessarily the firm itself I hasten to add. There really is no point in naming names, the firm or the person, and I’m willing to believe someone is individually really in favour of a flyover – why not, different strokes for different folks and all that…

  3. While I continue to be a strong opponent of Option X, I agree you did well by putting the tunnel under memorial park in the publics imagination.

    However while I understand the motivation behind the bias expressed in your above article, the arch centre should at least acknowledge there are many many others from the eastern suburbs who believe the above ground design of Option X plan is unworkable,e.g.
    – trying to fit four lanes into Salec st and
    – not letting eastern suburbs traffic turn into Cambridge tce, etc…

    Its a pity there hasnt been any general public meetings to thrash this out in public with our councillors. While I do not condone the false voting on your site – it was expected.
    There are all kinds of bias in these polls from only a limited audience of people to vote and no restrictions on eligability, e.g location of ages etc..

    Lastly the only alternative I can see to the flyover was that put forward in todays letters to the editor for a north south tunnel under the basin reserve to link Adelaide Rd to Kent / Cambridge.
    The writer states this would also faciliate the memorial park tunnel in the future.

  4. We’ve all eyed up the north-south tunnel as the best solution, but struck it off due to the extra millions needed to overcome the geotechnics of doing so. I guess with the Council now backing a tunnel under part of the basin anyway, this can reasonably be reconsidered??

    Public meetings would be great, but are subject to all sorts of biases as well – the loudest wheel being prime amongst them, also self-selected samples etc etc. Noone suggests polls are 100% accurate, but to have a similar result from polls of different audience is indicative of something.

    And finally, the above is a webblog post, not an ‘article’ This may seem semantic, but such a post need make no concession to jornalistic objectivity. I readily admit it is simply the opinion of the author and don’t pretend otherwise. It is a luxury that the DomPost writers do not share…

  5. From a engineering point, wasnt it agreed on this site that a north/south tunnel was feasible compared to the east/west tunnel proposed by Council.?

    The north south tunnel would be a trench allowing the river flowing from Newtown to the sea to flow around it.

    The east west tunnel on the otherhand is going to act like a dam across the valley. Apart from ground water – I suspect that sewerage and storm water flows will be a major issue with this design.

    Hence i personally think this plan by Council is a spoiler to kill the whole project.

    Re public consultation – what about a referendum?

    Problem is even these can be distorted by the question,i.e. on transit’s feedback form – all the question were about the basin with little space for ruahine st / wellington rd.
    There were also no generic questions – like do you favour public transport solutions over road solutions?

  6. I’m all in favour of referenda – I just wish they could be a little less expensive to run on a more regular basis. Perhaps these could be online, with libraries having terminals set up to aid those without computer skills…?

    I doubt whether the Council’s submission will act as a spoiler, central govt is just likely to steamroll ahead with their desired intentions regardless. I consider it, the WCC position, as a nicely principled naivity instead. Kind of sweet really, even if it does turn out to be completely ineffective.

  7. There have been comments about some aspects of OptionX – such as the lack of access into Kent Tce from the Mt Vic tunnel and the lack of a right turning option from Adelaide Road towards the Mt Victoria Tunnel. I’ll take the last one first.
    the advice we have got, and the research we have done, showed two things with regards to that particular turn.
    Firstly, that there is, honestly, hardly ANY people who do make that right hand turn (ie people coming from Adelaide Rd, going around the back of the Vance stand, and then cutting across the traffic to get to the other side) to access the Mt Vic tunnel. Statistically it is almost zero. You can sit at the list and watch, like I did. Not many, if any.
    Secondly, the place where (at present) you can make that crossing is incredibly dangerous – there are about 4 lanes of traffic to cross, and if they are not at a red light already, then the traffic is going fast. We discussed this corner with NZTA and they confirmed that it was dangerous, and really not needed. If people do want to turn right, then what sensible people already do is go up to the next intersection / turning bay, and turn Ruhr there. People already do this – and they would be able to continue to do so under Option X.

    Regarding people driving from the Eastern suburbs, and turning right down Cambridge Tce, let me ask you this – where are these people going to? It’s hard to do this research, and yes, some of them will be going to visit friends in Mt Victoria, or some to the Embassy theatre, but the traffic data shows that most folk from the Eastern suburbs are off towards the city, or the motorway. It is possible to design in a road there that can turn right, but that adds significantly to the complexity and to the cost – neither of which we want to do. Instead, they can travel to Taranaki St, which is two blocks further on fro Cambridge Tce. Stephen – you say that makes the whole of option X “unworkable”. I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you on that.

  8. Guy – I guess we just have to agree to disagree.

    Yes – there is not a large traffic volume from eastern suburbs to Mt Vic but we exist.

    It is interesting you dont mention Wellington East Girls College as a destination. FYI, I am not alone in giving my my daughter and wife ride to/from school. And thats only one reason why I turn right to access Cambridge Tce from Mt Vic.

    Out of interest, could you please comment on

    A my critiscism on fitting four lanes into Sussex St where narrow lanes and tight corners create their own issues / choak points.

    B. Why a north south tunnel isnt more desirable than Option X given it means you
    – can run light rail / buses in a straight line to Newtown
    – dont need to fit four lanes into Sussex St as narrow lanes
    – reduce traffic on Sussex St
    – can leave the current basin roads unaltered, and
    – you are at right level to enter a memorial park tunnel.

  9. Stephen – You seem so stuck on making the roads work and bugger the consequences on the city. I’m sure if Arch Centre had traffic engineers amongst its members it could perhaps have focused on solving the minutiae of the traffic for as many people as it is possible.

    Like you, I drive in from Miramar every day but unlike you, I fail to see the problems you do. In fact, over the last six months, traffic has markedly dropped off at peak times – I suspect due to petrol prices, and driving through the tunnel is once again quicker than driving ‘around the bays’.

    There are already three lanes of fast moving traffic and carparking along Sussex St. Making 4 lanes isn’t hard to see how it could work if it is a real issue.

    The fact it feels so narrow, is because the speed at which people seem to like to drive around it. Making it deal more with local Newtown and city traffic should allow it to be calmed rather than trying to make it more of a poor quality speedway than it is at the moment.

    If you want to see traffic jams you really need to move to another city.

  10. Stephen, thanks for your comments – yes, I am not an authority on schools such as Wellington East Girls – being male, I’ve never had any reason to go there. However, part of the whole rationale for our scheme is because we believe that the traffic congestion at the school / Basin interchange is bad, needs to be corrected, and that children should be able to walk or cycle to school without having to cross a motorway. We believe that X helps with that.
    In reference to your comments :
    A – Sussex St is tight in width only in the centre on the straight part of the road, and there is lots of room to expand on the corners. That’s a fact. We have also designed the scheme to cater for a public transport spine, such as Light Rail, and the traffic corridors they need are far narrower than 3.5m – nearer 2.5m for a tram corridor path. If trams were incorporated right from the start, the road width would be fine, but it needs to be designed for buses at present, which restricts the width available. Hence a small amount of possible street widening.
    I’m in America at the moment, and traffic widths here on some roads are routinely thinner than 3.5m, despite the vehicles being wider and the speeds faster. Of course, most widths here are very much wider. Most NZ cars are about 1.6m wide, so there is no issue with cars using a 3.2m lane width – which is, after all, the council standard. Sussex St could be used simply as is, or widened by a small amount via the large pavements around here. NZTA are saying that Sussex St would need to have a median lane, or centre strip – things that no other road in Wellington has, except for the new roading outside the Hospital, which I am sure that most people would agree is far too wide.
    B : a north-south tunnel is entirely feasible, for the reasons you state. Its just that doing that would be a tricky engineering project – digging in the mud under the actual basin. Not impossible, but awkward. But where we are proposing a cut and cover tunnel on option X is a lot simpler to excavate – no watercourses, and better soil. I think that a north-south tunnel as you describe is something that NZTA should look at seriously, now that they have been asked to relook at the whole area by the council.

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