Fantastic news out of Wellington yesterday with the High Court rejecting completely the NZTA’s appeal of the decision by the Board of Inquiry to decline consent for the Basin Reserve Flyover

Basin Bridge Image 2

The High Court today dismissed the NZ Transport Agency’s attempt to overturn the rejection of its controversial plan to build a 300-metre concrete flyover alongside the Basin Reserve.

In a decision released this afternoon, the Court stated:

The Transport Agency has not established that in its decision the Board of Inquiry made any error of law … Consequently the Agency’s appeal is dismissed.

And earlier:

The Board’s decision does not contain any of the errors of law alleged.

The Transport Agency had appealed against the Board of Inquiry’s decision to decline consent for the $90m flyover alongside the Basin Reserve.

The Government set up the Board of Inquiry process as a way of fast tracking consents for large projects to stop them being held up in years and years of appeals. The only appeals were allowed on points of law.

Some of the key reasons consent was declined in the first place was

  • That while the project would improve the cities transport system that it would do so at the expense of heritage, landscape, visual amenity, open space and overall amenity.
  • They are uncertain how the plan would have actually accommodated for Bus Rapid Transit as proposed in the Spine Study.
  • That the quantum of transport benefits were substantially less than what the NZTA originally said in lodging the NoR as they included transport benefits from other projects.
  • That while North/South buses would be sped up, that the modelling doesn’t show any impact effect of this on modal change.
  • That while there are some improvements for cyclists it’s mostly in the form of shared paths which will introduce potential conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.
  • That the dominance of the bridge would cause severe adverse affects on the local area and the mitigation measures proposed would do little to reduce that. They also found the new building proposed for the Basin Reserve would exacerbate this.

Some of these are likely to have massive implications for other projects such as the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing and the Reeves Rd Flyover. For example it likely means that the NZTA are going to have include not just the tunnel and direct connections in their consent for AWHC but also all the associated road widening of the Northern Motorway and Central Motorway Junction – which we understand is substantial. It could also stop the idea of building a combined road and rail tunnel across the harbour as the NZTA would have to consent the connections on either side. This will likely be why they’ve told us that they will not be including rail in current consent process.

AWHC - Indstry Briefing

Coming back to Wellington it will be interesting to see how the NZTA respond. It’s time they gave up idea and started thinking about other solutions.

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    1. Indeed.. a good lunchtime read!

      I like the demolition of NZTA’s failure to adequately assess other “non-suppositious” options. Including those presented at the Board of Inquiry by others. For the AWHC surely these have to include rail only tunnel or bridge.

      “The Board concluded that NZTA’s consideration of alternatives had been inadequate for reasons which included a failure to adequately assess non-suppositious options, particularly those with potentially reduced environment effects… Mr Palmer neatly captured the point here when he submitted: NZTA appears to wish to elide the point that witnesses identified non-suppositious options with reduced environmental effects with the point that NZTA’s consideration of alternatives was not adequate, to create a straw man that the Board required NZTA to examine every possible alternative. It certainly did not.”

      All up, the Architects have just set the bar.

  1. NZTA need to stop wasting our (taxpayer’s) money. It’s unconscionable the amount of money they’ve already spent pushing this wrong-headed solution. Why have they not put their heads above the parapet to look at global trends in transport infrastructure provision? The era of place ruining flyovers it not just over, it was over decades ago and many cities (San Fran, Seoul, New York) have successfully removed these and recreated their urban fabric. Heads should roll over the decision-making that lead to this farce.

  2. Can we please have more creativity and openmindedness from NZTA, particularly HNO, the part charged with designing solutions. They seem approach every issue with a one-size-fits-all attitude; not where is the opportunity in this place and problem, but rather where can we next build a massive State Highway.

    Perhaps a reform of the whole Agency is required; it seems we still have 20th Century values charged with building and planning for the 21st.

    1. Perhaps it’s time to re-constitute NZTA altogether. Separate out their two (often conflicting) agency roles of planning and delivering. And broaden their scope to include rail and road: level the playing field. Which could and should of course be leveled further by aligning the funding rules for both modes.

      As it is, NZTA are hopelessly one-dimensional.

      1. I think the key is to re-frame their responsibilities. This can’t include just adding another mode. Their responsibility needs to be optimising the movement of people and goods; within an envelop of responsibilities to people, existing places and the environment. This should naturally lead them to consider a variety of modes and the mix of them: walking, cycling, public transport options, freight modes, personal motor vehicles, would it logically extend to shipping?

  3. There’s a delicious irony in the fact that this government has created two governance /decision making models that to date have resulted in the opposite of their underlying agenda.

    Supercity ended up with the mayor they didn’t want and CRL front and centre of transport plans.

    BOI / EPA processes ended up with Basin flyover bounced for lack of urban integration, and Waterview project being forced to add back in the urban-friendly elements such as cycleways that NZTA reneged on just before lodgement. These fast-track consent models are great in my view! Loving what it might mean for AWHC.

    If the government knew how to handle urban development it might actually be dangerous. As it is they are just bumbling around in the way they let NZTA operate.

    1. I get the impression the Board of Inquiry process, against which appeals are permitted only on points of law, was set up both to expedite projects like this and subsequently to create barriers to those who would oppose them. Like the holiday highway.

      So it’s deliciously ironic to see it working in exactly the opposite direction here..

      “In my view NZTA falls well short of the high hurdle of establishing that the Board’s view was insupportable. Indeed, with reference to NZTA’s submission… I consider that there were ample grounds for the Board’s view…”

      1. I think the story is- “if you want to be expedited you need to be properly prepared and reasoned.” Quick and dirty will not do, but unfortunately that’s the old school, NOR based approach that NZTA is used to. The notion of actually recognising environmental effects and responding to them is alien for them. They’re used to side-stepping the real issues through their special status.

        1. Agree. And also, if you want to successfully oppose a project going through this same process, getting it to a BOI in the first place is important (I think the Minister of the Environment made that call) and then being sufficiently well resourced, organised and professional in presenting to the BOI is really crucial. This is where the Architectural Centre and others have done such a fabulous job.. a case study of how to rise to the challenge and deliver.

        2. or, actually, hire the right lawyer with the right specialist knowledge. Phillip Milne, lawyer for the Arch Centre, was brilliant.

  4. If AWHC joins at Onewa, they will need a few flyovers to make the connection, several of which will need to be above other flyovers, kind of like the SH16-SH20 intersection at Waterview.

    Bridge to Esmond North/South at Ground level.

    Bridge to Onewa Northbound, existing ramp.
    Onewa to Bridge Southbound, existing flyover.

    Tunnel to Onewa Northbound Flyover.
    Onewa to Tunnel Southbound Flyover

    Tunnel to Esmond Northbound Flyover.
    Esmond to Tunnel ramp.

    Esmond to Onewa Southbound, existing flyover.
    Onewa to Esmond Northbound, existing ramp.

    1. No worries mate, apparently the good people of Northcote and all the Shore MPs love a bunch of flyovers and a smokestack in their view, are desperate for ever widened and traffic clogged local roads, and ever more driving though and around their neighbourhood.

      No. What terrifies them is the prospect of a local on a bike.


  5. Wonder how long it will be before the RMA Amendment (Basin Bridge) Bill will be introduced in order to overcome this most unfortunate result?

    1. I was wondering about that when it was struck down the first time. A few points to note:
      a) Does National have the numbers in Parliament for it? Assuming Labour, greens NZ First and the Maori party all oppose the Bill it will rely on the vote of Peter Dunne, a Wellington MP. And national will also have to think of the public backlash
      b) NZTAs options aren’t exhausted. It appears the Board of Inquiry approval process is stopped, but can still try and get it done via the old RMA process (which is longer and probably faces higher hurdles, but NZTA may still give this a shot). Alternatively they could try and bunch it in with the second Mt Vic Tunnel and group both the new Tunnel and Basin bridge as one project before a new Board of Inquiry. And lastly they could revise the bridge plans, either building a new bridge on a different alignment or a tunnel instead (costing a bit more money) and starting again

      I would be surprised if this is the last we hear of this project/the Basin reserve

      1. National and their voting cronies have only 1 seat on this, i.e. the baby-faced assassin David Seymour from ACT. On the “United Future” popular front for Ohariu Valley, Mr Peter Dunne, has already said that he is not prepared to bugger up the RMA, and the Maori Party have discovered they have some principles left as well, so all the Nats can do is a very minor tweak.
        But as Nick O’K says, they’ll lick their woulds for a bit, and come back with a “new” scheme, which will probably be pretty much like the old one, albeit tarted up with new twin tunnel turbos. Dollars on that they are working on it already.

        1. 3 points:

          1) NZTA can still seek leave to appeal upwards, ultimately to SCoNZ
          2) Boards of Inquiry are designed to be used for big, controversial projects. The fact that one (finally) failed is a sign that the process might actually have been constructed fairly. If there was ever one to fail, this was it.
          3) the 2nd bridge in Auckland will probably be done under its own Act of Parliament (similar to

  6. Surely the success achieved in overturning this senseless project is a blueprint for overturning a road tunnel to the Shore.

    You are absolutely right Patrick in that many inhabitants of the Shore haven’t thought through what they are wishing for with a road tunnel. The area around Waterview must be shaping as on of the ugliest skylines anywhere in NZ.

    I am all for progress and intensification, but lets have a good public transport system so that the areas around our houses and apartments are enjoyable.

    1. Taka-ite………….I agree the highways in the sky at Waterview are going to be………o so very ugly,ugly! And I suspect cars wheeling around up there are going to be very noisy for the locals. I really want to live in a beautiful city and crazy motorways are not part of my vision for a beautiful city.
      Just had to get that off my chest………………

  7. NZTA like building quantity over quality.
    Which is the problem.
    They seam to be in this race to build as many multi lane highways as quickly as possible.
    Maybe this fly over in Wellington should be cut n cover. If it is needed so much they will have to spend the money.
    Which is also the problem with the busway extension to Albany, it needs to be cut n covered or tunneled through the hill under sunset and constilation Dr to keep the busway level.

  8. Great news. Please make sure you follow the last minute addition to the Petone to Grenada Motorway, to bulldoze Takapu Valley and rural community. It makes no sense.

    The Wellington City Council, the Greater Wellington Regional Council AND the Regional Transport Committee (all the regions Mayors) have all voted against the Takapu option, (along with 98% of 1400 submitters) BUT, as we’ve seen in the Flyover saga, this means nothing to NZTA. They’re a law unto themselves & have openly told councils their view doesn’t matter as they’re only answerable to their board!

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