Whether designers of the Basin Reserve flyover have been able to "make a silk purse out of a pig's ear" will be a hot topic of discussion during the project's board of inquiry hearing.
The NZ Transport Agency has applied for resource consent to build a two-lane highway flyover 20 metres north of the historic cricket ground.
Agency lawyer Andrew Cameron began day two of the hearing in Wellington today by addressing the fears held by some submitters that the flyover would be an "eyesore" and ruin views of the Basin.
"The transport agency accepts that the construction of a bridge in this location will have adverse visual and amenity affects," he said.
But the agency felt the flyover's negative impact on the landscape was only "moderately negative" and localised to the extent that it was mainly to the northeast of the Basin.
The proposed new Basin pavilion, extensive planting in and around the area, and a showroom-style building underneath the flyover would all help soften its visual impact, Mr Cameron.
He added that area had been suffering from blight for years as a result of uncertainty over various roading projects.
"Significantly, the project is stake in the ground in response to the blight that has affected land to the north and north-east of the Basin Reserve."
Mr Cameron acknowledged that flyover could not fully be hidden from view, but it had been designed to complement, rather than compete with, the built structures around it.
"This is an import zone for the city and the country, no question, and it's one that needs to be handled with care."
The agency considered putting a new building on Ellice St to shield it from views of the flyover, but doing so would have eaten up too much of the St Joseph's Church site, he said.
Board of inquiry head, Judge Gordon Whiting, said there did not appear to be any disagreement that the NZTA had done all it could to make the flyover more attractive.
"The disagreement is that it doesn't work - the idea that you can't make a silk purse out of a pig's ear."
Mr Cameron also addressed the concerns that traffic on the flyover would create a visual and noise distraction for cricketers and spectators insde the Basin.
It was for that reason the agency and Cricket Wellington both favored making the proposed new Northern Gateway pavilion to the north of the ground 65 metres long - the maximum length possible.
Doing so would go well beyond the screening necessary to stop batsmen at the southern end from being distracted by moving cars.
Mr Cameron acknowledged the science and the experience of cricketers did not always coincide, but it was up to the board to decide how much weight it attributed to each view.
"The proposed Northern Gateway building and landscaping will screen views of the bridge [flyover], thereby ensuring that cricket can continue to be played at this historic ground," he said.
"It is therefore submitted that the net adverse effect on the Basin Reserve's heritage values is only minor."
Some submitters were also upset that the CS Dempster gate would be relocated to the southern entrance alongside the the JR Reid gate, but that was necessary, Mr Cameron said.
"While relocation of heritage structure is an action of last resort, this is an instance where such an action has clear heritage and practical benefits."
Some submitters were also worried that the flyover would become a magnet for crime, vagrants, graffiti and vandalism.
The agency believed there would not be any additional crime as a result of the flyover, and in fact, the level of crime in the area may well decrease, Mr Cameron said.
The flyover would be well-lit, its support piers would be surrounded by extensive planting, and the proposed showroom building underneath would reduce the amount of "dead space," he said.
The agency and Wellington City Council had also reached an agreement to keep a close eye on graffiti and remove any within 48 hours.
Mr Cameron said the flyover had also been designed with an eye to minimising cultural effects.
The Akatarewa Pa site would not be compromised and the creation of a wetland under the flyover would remind those using the space of its early history and significance to Maori, he said.
"The board can safely conclude that cultural issues have been appropriately addressed."
The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust had requested that it be allowed to name the flyover.
But this request had been opposed by the local Runanga on the basis that a more inclusive approach should be taken to naming, including the involvement of Ngati Toa.
In any event, it was an issue that would be decided outside the board of inquiry process, Mr Cameron said.
Mr Cameron said the agency felt the flyover would have little effect on noise and vibration levels in the surrounding area, given there was already traffic there.
"The project has slightly negative effects in the area close to the bridge, but these are less than minor as the change in noise would, in most cases, be barely discernable."
Traffic vibration was unlikely to be any different from what it was currently, given the flyover would have a speed limit of 50kmh, Mr Cameron said.
HOW TO MAKE A SILK PURSE OUT OF A PIG'S EAR
- The bridge design has been kept simple so that it will complement, rather than compete with, the structures surrounding it.
- A three-storey Northern Gateway pavilion will be built at the north of the Basin Reserve to block the flyover from view inside the ground.
- The area around the Northern Gateway building will be landscaped into an entry plaza with extensive wetland and pohutakawa planting.
- A showroom-style building will be built on the corner of Kent Tce and Ellice St to improve the area directly under the flyover.
- A "green screen" covered in plants will be built between the flyover and Grandstand Apartments on the corner of Kent Tce and Ellice St. There will be about an 8m gap between the two.
- Extensive planting is planned for the area between the flyover and the soon-to-be constructed War Memorial Park on Buckle St.
- The Dominion Post