Failed scheme sets transport plans back years

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 22/08/2014

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All of Wellington's major transport projects have been delayed for at least two years by the fallout from failed plans to build a Basin Reserve flyover.

The $90 million project's demise may also hit Wellington's growth harder than first thought, with local politicians now concerned about the stability of a recently signed accord to build 7000 new homes in the city.

The region's mayors and representatives of the New Zealand Transport Agency will meet next week to discuss their next steps after a board of inquiry declined resource consent for a two-lane highway flyover 20 metres north of the Basin Reserve last month.

There is no word yet on whether the agency will appeal to the High Court. But even if it does, and is successful, it will be at least two years before it is in a position to build anything.

If any appeals fails, the agency will be back to square one, meaning even more years of planning.

Luke Troy, the regional council's corporate planning manager, said that delay would create a domino effect, pushing back every major transport project not currently consented.

The main projects affected would be a second Mt Victoria tunnel, the widening of Ruahine St and Wellington Rd, a second Terrace tunnel, traffic improvements for Adelaide Rd, the Island Bay to City cycleway, improvements to Kent and Cambridge terraces, and the capital's new $268m rapid transit bus network.

"And two years is optimistic," Troy said. "Everything else is contingent on the Basin . . . so there will be a significant delay."

A report that will be considered at next week's meeting says the longer these projects are delayed, the greater the region's economy will suffer from increased congestion and reduced access to key employment areas.

The report also points out a housing accord signed between Wellington City Council and the Government in June is predicated on an improved bus network along the city's "growth spine" between Johnsonville and the southern suburbs.

If the bus project is delayed or rerouted, then building more homes in these areas would become less attractive to developers, it says.

Regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde said that, despite the setback, planning for the region's major projects would not be put on hold.

Pushing the Basin to the back of the planning queue and getting on with other things was not an option, given everything else needed to be designed with the Basin in mind. "Other projects will grind to a halt unless we can resolve the Basin."

The board of inquiry hearing may also have set a precedent that major transport projects linked to other big schemes will need to be presented as a package in order to get consent.

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Whatever solution was found for the Basin, it was likely to be presented alongside a second Mt Victoria tunnel and the new bus network when the time came, Wilde said.

For that reason, a proposal will be tabled next week to form a governance group with members of Wellington's city and regional councils as well as NZTA, to take over planning of all major projects.

"Frankly, now, I think we've got to have a lot more holding of hands when it comes to the big parts of projects," Wilde said.

- The Dominion Post

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