20 Jul 2015

Basin flyover heads to High Court

8:28 pm on 20 July 2015

An appeal over a controversial plan to build a $90 million flyover near Wellington's Basin Reserve is being heard in court this week.

An artist's impression of the external view of the Basin Reserve's Northern Gateway building looking up Ellice Street.

An artist's impression of the external view of the Basin Reserve's Northern Gateway building looking up Ellice Street. Photo: NZTA

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) proposal was meant to be part of an overhaul of Wellington's transport system which included widening roads and building a new tunnel.

It was opposed by local residents' groups, and by people worried it would diminish heritage features in the capital.

Last year, a board of inquiry denied the project resource consent, saying the NZTA had not given enough consideration to other options and its mitigation measures against adverse cultural and heritage effects were not good enough.

Matthew Casey QC

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

But the agency did not give up on the flyover and lodged an appeal with the High Court, saying the board of inquiry made substantial errors in the way it interpreted the Resource Management Act, and had not considered wider benefits of the flyover closely enough.

Today, NZTA lawyer Matthew Casey QC told the judge the flyover had been on the cards since 2001, when it was progressed to design stage.

He said, even back then, solutions to traffic problems not requiring an overbridge were discounted.

Mr Casey said the rejection of the project was based on misinterpreted information, and that the board applied a wider definition of heritage than was set out in relevant documents.

He said there were no heritage buildings or areas identified in the district plan sitting in the direct path of the proposed flyover.

NZTA regional director Raewyn Bleakley said the outcome of the appeal would firm up the future of Wellington's transport infrastructure.

An artist's impression of the proposed Basin Reserve flyover.

An artist's impression of the proposed Basin Reserve flyover. Photo: NZTA

"We need the questions raised in our appeal to be answered before we can move forward with confidence to improve Wellington's entire transport network. The effectiveness of those improvements will ultimately depend on the resolution of congestion at the Basin."

Opponents of the flyover were not ready to throw in the towel either.

Matthew Palmer QC will represent the Save the Basin Campaign and Mount Victoria Residents' Association in the hearing, while the Architectural Centre, which also opposes the flyover, will be represented by Philip Milne.

Save the Basin Campaign spokesperson Tim Jones said the board of inquiry did a thorough job in considering the flyover and NZTA should accept the decision.

"Instead, they've decided to go on and spend a whole heap more taxpayer money opposing the board's decision.

"We think their case is weak. We have a strong case, and we're looking forward to that being presented in court."

Dr Matthew Palmer QC

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Jones said the flyover was unnecessary and would destroy a beautiful cricket ground.

Campaigners against the flyover will have their say later this week.

The case is set down for two weeks but there is no date set for the court's decision.

A good crowd at the Basin Reserve

Wellington's Basin Reserve. Photo: Photosport