Illustration showing roading around the Basin Reserve, no longer to be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest roundabout. (Photo: Supplied / LGWM)
Illustration showing roading around the Basin Reserve, no longer to be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest roundabout. (Photo: Supplied / LGWM)

The BulletinJune 30, 2022

Getting Wellington moving

Illustration showing roading around the Basin Reserve, no longer to be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest roundabout. (Photo: Supplied / LGWM)
Illustration showing roading around the Basin Reserve, no longer to be the Southern Hemisphere’s largest roundabout. (Photo: Supplied / LGWM)

Announced as a once-in-generation opportunity, the long-awaited Let’s get Wellington moving plan prompts a range of reactions, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in The Bulletin.

 

“Once-in-a-generation opportunity”

I am in the capital this fine morning so thought I would take a look at the plan to get Wellington moving. I absolutely will not gripe about the airport bus situation which I believe is due to be rectified from tomorrow. Yesterday the government announced its preferred plan for the overhaul of how Wellingtonians get around. It was billed as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape Wellington’s future by finance and infrastructure minister, Grant Robertson. The government has backed light rail from the city to Island Bay and a new tunnel through Mt Victoria. Overall, the plan is estimated to cost $7.6b and slated for completion in the 2030s. Wellington city council and Greater Wellington regional council now have to choose their preferred option before more detailed planning can begin.

Mode shift

Wellingtonians have waited a long time for this. Let’s get Wellington moving is a joint initiative created in 2015 involving Wellington city council, Greater Wellington regional council and Waka Kotahi NZ transport agency. It hit problems along the way, with the project deemed at risk of failure in March last year. Stuff’s Kate Green has written this very good overview of the initiative. The project’s main aim is mode shift – getting people cycling, walking and taking public transport. The Dominion Post has been championing and explaining the concept with a regular series. You can read editor Anna Fifield’s introduction here.

So what’s been the reaction?

So far, from local and central government figures, I’d go with unsurprisingly “mixed”. Stuff’s Luke Malpass describes the arguments for and against as a retreat into various ideological silos. Mayor Andy Foster applauded the announcement as a “massive” day for the capital. The Dominion Post is running that line on the front page of the paper this morning. The Green party welcomed portions of it but transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said the government’s preferred option is “not the best for the climate overall” citing the tunnels as “high-carbon and high-cost”. As RNZ’s Kirsty Frame reports, the government is yet to complete an assessment of the climate implications of the policy. National MP Nicola Willis criticised the announcement for being just that, an announcement, saying it was hard to get excited because as yet there was no business case, no funding agreement and no plan to start construction until 2028.

New contender for largest roundabout in Southern hemisphere?

Naturally the first question we had in the Spinoff office was “will people still toot in the new tunnel?” The old Mt Victoria tunnel would be converted into a walking and cycling-only route according to the plan. I recently drove to Wellington airport in torrential rain and observed the bottleneck the current Mt Victoria tunnel creates, barely squeaking onto the plane in time. The proposed second tunnel will have four lanes – one lane each way for public transport and one for private vehicles. There are also proposed changes to roading around the Basin Reserve, meaning there will be a new contender for the title of largest roundabout in the Southern hemisphere. Bit of a throwback but in 2013, the roundabout caught the eye of the United Kingdom roundabout appreciation society and it featured the Basin Reserve in a roundabouts of the world calendar. The National library has a copy.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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