An unprecedented 16 weeks of government red tape will have to be cut through before Wellingtonians know whether the Basin Reserve flyover will get built.
Environment Minister Amy Adams this week extended the deadline for a final decision on the $90 million project, meaning its fate will not be known until the end of August rather than May.
The extension was requested by an independent board of inquiry that is deciding whether the NZ Transport Agency's plans for a two-lane highway flyover, 20 metres north of the Basin, should get resource consent.
Listening to all the arguments for and against was supposed to take six weeks, but by the time the hearing began in February that had been pushed out to eight weeks.
Since then the process has run at a snail's pace, partly because the board wants opposition groups with "funding and resource constraints" to have a fair go at presenting their case.
The board now expects it will take 16 weeks to hear what everyone has to say, making it the longest hearing of this type.
In a letter to Adams, it said the flyover debate had proven to be complex, requiring significant consideration and deliberation.
"The volume of material to be considered by the board is substantial, and growing on an almost daily basis."
Whether or not the NZTA did a good enough job of considering alternatives to a flyover has been a key focus of the hearing, and much of that assessment had not been provided, the board said.
Opposition groups had been allowed more time to cross-examine the NZTA's experts because funding and resource constraints meant they could not afford as many experts.
In granting an extension, Adams told the board she was disappointed it would not be able to meet its original timeframe.
Save the Basin campaign spokesman Tim Jones said he was pleased the board had seen fit to take its time and ensure the flyover proposal was thoroughly examined.
The group had raised between $10,000 and $20,000 in addition to contributing "hundreds of thousands of dollars" of voluntary hours to its legal effort, he said.
Wellington-based Labour MPs Grant Robertson and Annette King said there was now no possibility that construction of the flyover could begin before the September 20 election.
If there were a change of government, then Labour would give other options a fair hearing, King said.
BY THE NUMBERS
2300 pages of transcript from the hearing to date
631 pages outlining the flyover's environmental effects
235 supporting documents
218 public submissions
138 briefs of evidence from those giving evidence
20 technical reports
5 management plans
- The Dominion Post