Takapu Valley link road disputed
Mayors return fire over CEOs’ committee report
Wellington’s mayors delivered a resounding knockback to NZ Transport Agency and their own chief executives last month, despite a threat.
The Regional Transport Committee, comprising the region’s mayors, was due to discuss a new highway from Petone to Grenada, along with a link road down Takapu Valley to Transmission Gully.
A committee of the chief executives of the region’s councils had produced a report recommending the committee get behind the road and requested some aspects of its construction be accelerated.
But at the March 9 meeting, deputy chairman Paul Swain, supported by Wellington representative Andy Foster, threw a span- ner in the works with a motion calling for more information on the Takapu Valley route.
Takapu Valley resident Stephen Mulholland spoke to the committee, saying a geotechnical investigation of the route had failed to detect a fault line that was shown on GNS maps.
He said a ‘‘rookie mistake’’ had also been made in the analysis of statistics, which had been borne out by flatlining traffic growth.
Another resident, Rob Suisted, said Takapu Valley had once been chosen for Transmission Gully, but the environment commissioner and Wellington Regional Council had condemned the choice in 1992, citing environmental impacts.
The cost of the link road to the Transmission Gully highway would be 700 hectares of pristine rural valley, the last big headwater of the Porirua Harbour, access for bikers, horse riders and walkers, the area’s biggest sports facility and one of Wellington’s last historic rural communities.
‘‘If we are going to lose so much, I’d like to know it’s worth it,’’ Suisted said.
Swain was scathing of the chief executives’ report.
It was a $60 million decision, he said. Before making it there needed to be a clear understanding of what was to be done, what need was to be met, and the costs and benefits.
‘‘Basically this is a fireside chat. It’s not a robust analysis,’’ he said.
‘‘A court would say, ‘How could they make this decision today on the basis of a three-page report that had no detailed analysis?’’’ he said. ‘‘There is a huge risk.’’
There were two more urgent transport priorities in the region, he said – a cross-valley link road for the Hutt Valley and fixing ‘‘the fiasco at Melling’’.
NZ Transport Agency representative Raewyn Bleakley said she would not vote on the subject, but delaying support could mean a delay in the project’s start.
‘‘It will ultimately be the NZ Transport Agency board that makes the decision on Petone to Grenada,’’ she said.
The committee needed to approve the road for it to go before the agency’s board in June.
Objectors’ concerns could be appropriately addressed in the resource consent, which was likely to be rigorous, she said.
But Andy Foster, sitting on the committee for Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, said matters could not be left to the consents process.
‘‘We’ve done that before and it’s left us with a bloody nose,’’ he said, referring to the Basin Reserve flyover.
Committee chairwoman Fran Wilde said she had heard a threat from Bleakley.
‘‘I am sad to hear the highways team at NZ Transport Agency saying that without a decision on this add-on – and it is an add-on – we can’t proceed with the rest of the project,’’ Wilde said.
The Grenada- to- Petone highway had been in the planning for years, but the Takapu Valley extension was a late addition, she said.
‘‘It turns out it is not an optional extra. I think that’s what I heard Raewyn Bleakley say.’’
Outside the meeting an NZ Transport Agency spokesman clarified that the inclusion of the project in the draft Regional Land Transport Plan would not affect its funding status because enough funding was available to cover all options.
The committee voted unanimously to move an interchange at Haywards traffic lights up the priority list and also safety improvements to the State Highway 58–Haywards Hill Rd.