Shared path added to 'win over councillors'

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014

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A shared cycling and walking path that will run alongside the Basin Reserve flyover was designed to win over local politicians rather than genuinely improve facilities, critics of the project say.

A resource consent hearing for the controversial $90 million flyover resumed yesterday with a second appearance by the project's manager, Selwyn Blackmorents, of the New Zealand Transport Agency.

A four-member board of inquiry is considering whether the agency's plans for the two-lane highway flyover, 20 metres north of the Basin Reserve, should get resource consent.

Mr Blackmore fielded questions from Architecture Centre lawyer Philip Milne, who suggested that the shared path was simply the agency's attempt to ''buy'' support for the flyover from the Wellington city and regional councils.

One of the ways the agency has justified the flyover is by saying it will improve the Basin area for pedestrians and cyclists, through provision of the shared path and by reducing traffic.

But the three-metre-wide path has been panned by cycling and walking advocates as too narrow.

They have also criticised  the agency's  plans to ''improve'' facilities by converting nearby footpaths at ground level into shared paths.

Mr Milne questioned whether the $6m elevated path even made financial sense, given about $1m would be spent on screening it from view and rearranging the St Joseph's Church car park, which it crosses over.

Mr Blackmore said he did not know how much would be spent on tidying up the surrounding area, but he agreed that  the elevated path was a ''significant'' cost.

''But we believe it's worthwhile to provide an uptake in walking and cycling.''

Mr Milne pointed to a range of planning documents that showed the insistence of both councils that a shared path be built alongside the flyover.

But Mr Blackmore denied any suggestion it was included in the flyover project to secure their support, saying the agency's experts had recommended a path early on during planning.

''It just so happens that it was strongly supported by Wellington City Council.''

He added that the path would also help soften views of the flyover looking south from Kent and Cambridge terraces.

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- The Dominion Post

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