Wellingtonian editorial: Playing the public for suckers

Last updated 05:00 25/08/2011

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The eight-week period for public submissions for the proposed roading between Cobham Dr and Buckle St ends on Friday.

OPINION: Will all the public feedback – there have been more than 1000 submissions – have made a jot of difference? It seems extremely doubtful.

Months ago, New Zealand Transport Agency outlined various proposals for roads from Buckle St to Hataitai, but then said it had narrowed its choices down to Option A and Option B.

One involves a flyover just 20 metres from the Basin Reserve. The other involves a flyover further down Cambridge/Kent Tce.

It is difficult not to feel the agency has its mind made up. It has said Option A is its preferred choice. It seems no coincidence that Option A is the cheapest option.

So why even bother with public submissions, unless the process is little more than a ploy to lure people into thinking they have had some say in roading policy?

"It's really important that the community shares their views with us, and feedback will help guide our decisions during the next stage of the project," said the agency's regional director, Jenny Chetwynd.

She said after the period for submissions ended, public feedback, the community workshop sessions, and stakeholder group meetings would be collated and would "assist" the agency to make a decision.

Assist? If the agency was genuinely open to ideas, why did it announce before the submission period even began that it had pared back the various options to just two, and even nominated its favoured choice?

Shouldn't the public have been consulted before this was done?

The agency seems to feel that trenching is too expensive – a pity because trenching is by common consent the most visually appealing option.

Late in the piece Option X surfaced, the work of the Architecture Centre.

When The Wellingtonian publicised Option X on our front page last month, reader feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

The proposal seems to be an excellent compromise that avoids ugly flyovers and provides for plenty of green space.

When The Wellingtonian sought assurances from the agency that Option X would be considered, we were told it would be.

This seems doubtful. The agency seems a long way advanced in its planning, to the point even of having a written agreement with the Basin Reserve Trust that it will build an $11 million grandstand to help block out the worst effects of the flyover right next to the ground.

Why would the agency make such a commitment if it was waiting for submissions to close so it could evaluate them and truly be guided by public sentiment?

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It is difficult not to feel that the whole submission process, which has involved a succession of open days and community workshops, plus the setting up of an information centre at the Basin Reserve, has been just a cynical public relations exercise.

When it announced its two final options, and indicated which it preferred, the agency did not really give any particular reason, though it did state the cost of each.

To those on the outside, it seems the public submission process has really been nothing but a charade.

- The Wellingtonian

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