Lobbyists wary of green belt, park link

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014

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A park linking the town belt to Kilbirnie is one of several new ideas being thrown around during planning for a second Mt Victoria Tunnel.

But the idea has not gone down well with environmental lobbyists, who are wary of plans to gobble up part of Hataitai Park in the process of creating new bus lanes.

The plans are contained in information published by the NZ Transport Agency regarding its proposal to build a second tunnel and widen Ruahine St and Wellington Rd, south of the tunnel, to four lanes by 2022.

About 19 properties along Wellington Rd are expected to go as part of the project, which has been on the cards since 2011.

Wellington state highways manager Rod James said one new idea was to convert some of the land in that area not needed for widening into green space, between Hataitai and Kilbirnie parks.

"We don't want to just improve the road, we want to improve how people connect with the city around them," he said yesterday.

"By creating open green space we can effectively close this missing link between Kilbirnie Park and the town belt, which will enhance the recreational potential of the area and give people extra space to exercise, walk the dog, or just relax."

Mr James also said it was likely the agency would need to encroach into Hataitai Park further than previously thought in order to accommodate new bus lanes along Ruahine St.

The bus lanes would be needed only if the region's decision-makers decided to build a dedicated busway, rather than a light rail network, to improve transport between the CBD and southern suburbs.

A final decision on that separate investigation is expected in the next few months.

The agency's plans for Wellington Rd also involve a small portion of Kilbirnie Park being encroached upon and a "minor" reconfiguration of the playing fields. But Mr James said all existing sports groups and users would be accommodated as they are now.

John Bishop, chairman of lobby group Friends of the Wellington Town Belt, said linking Hataitai and Kilbirnie parks was a good idea but it would not offset the other land losses.

"This new green space can't be considered an addition to the town belt because there will be a six-lane highway in the middle," he said. "We'll be opposing the plans wherever possible."

NZTA also revealed it wants to connect a proposed 2.5-kilometre pedestrian and cycle path through the new tunnel to a similar path alongside the Basin Reserve flyover.

Joining the two paths would make cycling safer and easier, although it was not yet known how pedestrians and cyclists would connect with Brougham St, Mr James said.

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The tunnel and the widening project is expected to begin in 2018 and cost about $375 million.

The Transport Agency will be holding open days in March to update the public on its plans before it seeks resource consent in July.

- The Dominion Post

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