Wellington warned against flyover

An Australian architect has warned Wellington not to build the Basin Reserve flyover, saying it would be like putting a motorway beside the Sydney Opera House.

Multi award-winning urban designer Jan McCredie, from Sydney, made the impassioned plea at flyover's board of inquiry hearing this morning.

The 17-week hearing will determine whether the New Zealand Transport Agency gets resource consent to build a two-lane, $90 million flyover 20 metres north of the historic cricket ground.

McCredie told the four-member board the Basin Reserve was currently one of the most stunning entrances to a city you will find anywhere in the world.

Putting a flyover beside it would devastate Wellington's reputation as a walkable city because it would instantly put tourists off moving through the Basin heritage area, she said.

It would also destroy one of Wellington's major architectural points of difference on the world stage.

"In Sydney, you would do everything you can to retain and enhance the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. They are major points of difference."

McCredie said it would not be a simple case of briefly walking under the flyover for pedestrians.

She pointed out the footpath underneath actually changes direction and follows the 265m-long structure for most of the walk between Kent Tce and Dufferin St.

Pedestrians - tourists in particular - tended to look at flyovers as a visual cue that they were approaching an area that was not interesting, and would generally go elsewhere, she said.

"The moment you make [the Basin] an appendage of a flyover, you've lost that memorable quality."

Wellingtonians may not realise it, but the city was so walkable because its sight lines were well constructed, meaning you could generally tell where you were at all times, McCredie said.

The flyover would destroy the "continuity" of the walk through the CBD, confusing visitors to the city.

It would also ruin Wellington's picturesque city entrance, which "exploded like a bomb" when you came out of the Mt Victoria Tunnel, she said.

"Wellington is a small city so every one of its features needs to be maintained."

McCredie threw her weight in behind an alternative to the flyover known as the Basin Reserve Roundabout Enhancement Option (Brreo).

The plan, proposed by the Mt Victoria Residents Association and supported by flyover opposition group Save the Basin, involves widening the existing Basin roundabout to three lanes.

"The proposal is a very elegant solution. It looks deceptively simple ... but then so does the Apple computer," McCredie said.

The transport agency was kidding itself if it thought the flyover as an "elegant" bridge, she added.

"It's not a light, fine structure. It's carrying cars and it's quite meaty ... no one is going to come to Wellington and rave about seeing the flyover."

The Dominion Post