* This post was originally published on the Wellingtonista blog on September 16 2011, as promotion for a rally to protect the Basin Reserve from an aggressive roading project.
The Basin Reserve is for many Wellingtonians a special place, and for many different reasons. The Basin is a place where memories are created, and I know from experience what an amazing spot it is for kids to play. It’s part of our heritage, and part of the life of the inner city. There is a very real risk that the Basin won’t survive the assault being planned by NZTA. A coalition of Wellingtonians, including residents associations, local Greens, and cricket lovers are trying to stop this.
The flyover. An innocuous sounding name for a road that will completely dominate the surroundings, an ugly mess of concrete, steel and noise. NZTA wants to build an elevated highway to create a two-lane road between the inner city bypass and Mt Victoria, at horrendous cost to the taxpayer. While there might be sentimental reasons for saving the Basin, there are also sound economic reasons why the flyover is a terrible idea. I’m going to look at both.
Firstly, we have to ask the question, what exactly is the problem that needs solving? Supposedly, traffic between town and the MT Vic tunnel is unbearable at rush hour, with cars cramming the road and being bottlenecked into the tunnel. Congestion is frustrating, sure, but it’s also relative. Those who think it’s bad here should try Auckland’s roads at rush hour, or Los Angeles.
However, the solution to congestion is not to build more road capacity. We should instead try to get cars off the road. A perfectly serviceable bus tunnel already exists to get people under Mt Vic. A light railway line, like the Greens and Mayor Celia Wade Brown are arguing for, would massively ease any transport problems, and for much less cost. Even simple measures like encouraging carpooling would take cars off the road. The cities that struggle the most with congestion are also those that build only with cars in mind.
But no, that’s not good enough for NZTA. They want a bloody big eyesore to smash through the area, because eyesores are what they do best. The obsession with building more roads is completely misguided, because it assumes in 30 years time we will have more cars on them. With petrol prices rising and electric cars still a pipe dream, what evidence do they have that car numbers will increase? Would an increase in car numbers even be economically possible? I highly doubt it.
I have a personal interest in this too, like many fellow residents. Some of my earliest and happiest memories come from the Basin, when my Grandpa would take me and my brothers to watch the cricket. On a fine day, the Bain Reserve is a truly glorious green space within the urban environment. The proposed flyover will dwarf the grassy banks and permanently ruin the atmosphere of the Basin.
So what can we do? To register your opposition to the flyover, make sure you go down on the 25th of September to hear Green MP Sue Kedgley and others speak about plans to save the iconic Basin Reserve. The plan is to get enough people to join hands around the ground, so that we can literally hug the Basin. At 12 o’clock on the 25th, we plan to show NZTA that people and places are more important than roads. I hope to see you there.
Protest Details: Hands Around the Basin
- Sunday 25th September, 12-1 pm.
- The Basin Reserve, Sussex St
- Speakers, music, info and a big hug for the Basin.