Golden ducks give Option X boost

CHRIS FINLAYSON: A love of cricket has Chris Finlayson inteterested in an underground option for the Basin Reserve bypass.
CHRIS FINLAYSON: A love of cricket has Chris Finlayson inteterested in an underground option for the Basin Reserve bypass.

An underground option for the Basin Reserve flyover has gained some heavy-hitting support, with Cabinet minister and Wellington list MP Chris Finlayson saying he is "very interested" in the idea.

Mr Finlayson revealed at a Rongotai candidates' election forum last night that he had met with the architects of option X - an alternative to the proposed flyover that would instead see a road built beneath Buckle St.

Last month, Wellington City Council made a submission to the New Zealand Transport Agency in support of $75 million option A, which would see a flyover constructed about 20 metres north of the Basin Reserve and separate north-south traffic from east-west traffic around the cricket ground.

However, the submission also backed a call from Mayor Celia Wade-Brown for the agency to consider some kind of tunnel, similar to option X, which was put forward by the Architecture Centre.

The agency has already poured cold water on option X, saying the costs could balloon out to more than $200m.

Mr Finlayson told Rongotai voters he had "had the architects of option X in my office".

"I'm very interested in the idea."

There were practical issues with the option, but he had been studying it very carefully, he said.

He was loathe to see anything happen to the cricket ground, he told The Dominion Post after the debate.

"Some of my proudest golden ducks have occurred on the Basin Reserve."

Mr Finlayson was Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister in the previous Government and oversaw the beginning of work to develop land next to Buckle St into a memorial park.

The alternative suggestion from Ms Wade-Brown was probably not workable, he said.

"I'd like it to work, though. I'm prepared to have a good hard look and if someone can prove me wrong, then fine."

Mr Finlayson also drew the most ire from audience members at at last night's forum, using his opening sally to get stuck into Labour and ask how the party intended to pay for its policies.

His approach drew an instant angry reaction from one heckler, who not even debate chair Phil Coates could calm down.

''Tell us about your policies! Your government created no jobs!''

He also attracted scoffs and shouts of ''rubbish!'' from the audience when he claimed The Hobbit would not have been made in Miramar if National had not closed an employment law loophole at the behest of film studio Warner Brothers.

Labour's Annette King -  the incumbent Rongotai MP - said New Zealand needed a fairer tax system, ''because the one we've got has driven a big wedge between New Zealanders''.

Labour would also implement policies to identify vulnerable children in their first five years and give their families extra help and support.

Green candidate and party co-leader Russel Norman was absent from the forum, with Wairarapa candidate Sea Rotmann speaking in his stead.

She said the country had to ''get rid of these crazy ideas of building more roads'', including the airport-to-Levin upgrade.

The audience was rather taken aback by youthful ACT candidate Joel Latimer, who told them ACT would ensure under-performing teachers were reviewed ''and possibly fired''.

Audience member and retired school teacher Margaret Woods said she  thought the candidates had spoken well, but she would have liked to hear more about each party's social policies and how the parties intended to create employment.

''We need jobs in New Zealand  lots and lots of jobs.

''Labour's got a good party policy if they can follow it through. I'm not sure about National - their taxes have not helped the low-income people.''

The Dominion Post