Basin Reserve flyover inquiry winds up

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 14:09 04/06/2014

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The curtain has finally fallen on the Basin Reserve flyover board of inquiry hearing, a little over four months from when it began.

The resource consent hearing - understood to be the longest this country has ever seen - wrapped up this morning after the New Zealand Transport Agency finished summing up why it should be allowed to build $90 million structure.

The agency wants to build a two-lane elevated highway 20 metres north of the Basin Reserve cricket ground in central Wellington.

Agency lawyer Andrew Cameron asked the four-member board this morning not to get too hung up on benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of the flyover when making its decision.

The ratio is a measure of how much economic benefit a project will generate compared to its price tag.

The flyover has a Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR) of 1.5, meaning that for every taxpayer dollar spent on the project, it is expected to return $1.50 in benefits.

But Cameron told the board that calculation assumed the highly-unlikely scenario that duplicate Mt Victoria and Terrace tunnels would never be built and that Wellington's road network would never change.

When the proposed new tunnels were added into the mix, the BCR jumped to 2.3, he said.

When traffic benefits from the soon-to-be-constructed Buckle St underpass were factored in, the BCR rose again to 3.1.

Flyover opposition group Save the Basin submitted earlier in the hearing that future projects should not factor in the board's decision, making the 1.5 BCR the most relevant.

The group also felt the agency had inflated its calculations and a BCR of 0.8 was more realistic.

That would make the flyover unappealing from a taxpayer point of view.

But Cameron said the 0.8 number was misleading because Save the Basin's traffic models were not as sophisticated as the agency's, and because the group had assumed there would be no future development of Wellington's roads.

The board could take comfort in the fact that, whichever way they looked at it, the flyover had a BCR of greater than 1.0, meaning it would benefit taxpayers as well as Wellingtonians, he said.

Before drawing the hearing to a close, inquiry head Judge Gordon Whiting said the lengthy process reflected the desire of Wellingtonians to get the right decision when it came to the flyover.

"We make no apology for the length of the hearing. We were made aware of the passion of the people of Wellington to get things right very early on," he said.

The flyover would be an "enduring structure" that formed part of the Wellington landscape for decades to come, so it was important everyone got a chance to have their say, he said.

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"We allowed them that time so no stone would remain unturned."

The board received 218 public submissions on the flyover. It heard from 68 technical experts and 76 people who presented their submission in person during the four-month hearing.

The board will now consider all the evidence and release its draft decision in mid-July.

- The Dominion Post

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