05 September 2013

My submission on the Basin Reserve flyover

Tomorrow at 5pm is the deadline for submissions to the Environmental Protection Authority on the NZ Transport Authority's proposed Basin Reserve flyover in Wellington, which will see an elevated motorway wrapped around the northern and northeastern edge of New Zealand's premier test cricket venue. It's a stupid idea, and the half-hearted attempts in the plan to mitigate the effect on the cricket ground will not address the many problems it will create. Aside from that, it's just daft to be building an ugly, graffiti-attracting, city-splitting flyover in the 21st century. Inner cities and motorways do not mix, and there are cleverer ways to move people around cities than just whacking a motorway through the middle of them. 

Anyway, for what it's worth, below is my inexpert and last-minute submission to the EPA. If you want to make your own submission, the form is here. You can read the NZTA's sales pitch here.

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Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission. I oppose the planned Basin Reserve flyover for several reasons. 

NZTA should reorient its focus away from destructive road-building that encourages wasteful and unsustainable private car journeys, and instead adopt more cost-effective and environmentally sensitive public transport infrastructure that better serves the city's long-term future. Urban traffic volumes have been trending downwards for more than five years despite ongoing population growth and the recovery after the Global Financial Crisis. Baby boomers will be retiring soon, yet it is their interests that are dominating decision-making on motorway building. Younger generations are driving less and seek stronger public transport to encourage more liveable urban lifestyles. The likelihood of increasing fossil fuel shortages in coming years also indicates that expensive motorway infrastructure is a poor investment in the medium-to-long term. 

The planned flyover damages the architectural heritage of inner Wellington and creates a prominent elevated traffic flow in an area that should be focused on recreational activities. The Wellington Urban Motorway already divides Thorndon and has in recent years following its extension reduced the pedestrian amenity of the upper Cuba quarter. It now splits the inner city with high traffic volumes and speeds, and isolates parts of the vibrant Cuba shopping scene on either side of a noisy and dangerous inner-city motorway. The same mistake should not be made at the Basin. 

The planned flyover is also poorly integrated with the Buckle Street underpass. If a motorway is to intrude into the inner city, an underpass is the least disruptive way to build it. It is foolish to adopt a relatively
environmentally-sensitive approach to the Buckle Street area and then construct a mid-20th century brutalist-style flyover at the underpass' eastern end. No amount of wishful thinking or idealised artists' renditions would prevent the Basin Reserve flyover from becoming a graffiti magnet. If it is built it will make the area even less desirable to pedestrians, particularly at night. The flyover will also block out sunlight to the cricket ground and its northern approaches. 

Finally, the Basin Reserve is a crucial part of Wellington's sporting character, and attempts to blight it with a motorway flyover are both foolish and insensitive. The proposal to create an elevated traffic flyover wrapping closely around the Basin Reserve's northern and northeast boundaries will have a seriously detrimental effect on the amenity and character of New Zealand's best test cricket venue. The supposedly mitigating structure next to the existing stand will not even cover half the length of the flyover, so the vehicle noise from its eastern two-thirds will be clearly audible throughout the ground. Ruining a test cricket ground by making it too noisy to enjoy might be one excuse for closing the Basin Reserve, but it is not a wise or far-sighted decision. Councillors who support the flyover because it nets the Basin a new structure after years of neglect of the facilities are entering into a fool's bargain.
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