Well I’m in Wellington for most of this week, at the New Zealand Planning Institute conference for the next three days and then staying on at the weekend to check out the city a bit. It should give me the opportunity to ride a suburban Wellington train on the weekend, which I haven’t ever done before (I wonder if I can try to catch one of the new Matangi trains).
It’s interesting to discuss with a few other planners some of the transport situation in Wellington, and in particular matters related to the Wellington Northern Corridor Road of National Significance. While I’ve certainly not been keen on a few of the Auckland based “RoNS” – in particular the Puhoi-Wellsford “holiday highway”, but the more I learn about the Wellington Northern Corridor RoNS the more I think that this is the worst of the lot. Let’s have a look at the map of the route: The route has many of the typical problems associated with many of Auckland’s RoNS: like the poor economics of parts of the route (such as Transmission Gully, which has a cost-benefit ratio of 0.6) and the huge amount of money that could be better spent on other projects. However, in addition to those problems there’s also the massive issue of the environmental effects of many of the parts of the RoNS – such as the “improvements” around the Basin Reserve and the effect of the motorway on local communities as it passes through the Kapiti Coast.
Obviously many similar issues have been raised with the Waterview Connection project, and it would seem as though the Board of Inquiry for that project seeming to still have a number of big problems – and it will be interesting to see whether they’re willing to grant it consent. However, the Waterview project is still largely in a tunnel, which means that its effects are vastly less than they would otherwise have been. The same for the Victoria Park Tunnel – another Auckland based RoNS.
It seems, from what is admittedly a rather brief look, that Wellington is getting a a pretty raw deal with the urban effects of this particular road. The mitigation details might be further expanded upon compared to what I currently know, but at the moment it sounds pretty horrible. This reinforces my general feeling that there’s simply no room to build more motorways through our urban areas anymore, that we need to use our existing transport infrastructure more effectively and efficiently – rather than spending vast sums of money on more urban motorways, and in the process destroying the value of our urban areas. It will be interesting to see whether Wellington accepts the impact of this road on the city’s urban structure.