Loony tunes at council over basin reserve flyover

What a travesty is the decision by the Wellington City Council about the Basin Reserve flyover.

Asked about two options, (with a third in the wings) the council manages to conjure up a fourth option, and to support it even though it is by far the most expensive, the least certain and has the backing of nobody other than the few councillors who voted for it.

Neither of the flyover options put forward by the NZTA are particularly attractive, but both would do the job of easing congestion round the Basin and forming part of the Ngarunga to airport through road. A flyover of any nature was always going to attractive criticism that it would be unsightly, but it would have worked and preserved the Basin Reserve at a cost of less than $100 million.

But no, that's not the council's way. Why spare the taxpayer? If it's free let's have the best of the best - even if it is not on the menu. So the council wants a tunnel under the Basin begging at Buckle Street and coming up somewhere on the road up to the Mt Vic tunnel.

It would be a considerable feat of engineering, but it is possible. It is also not cheap. In fact it's so expensive that no one knows how much it might cost, because was not even on the table as an option.

The last time it was looked at - and firmly rejected - it was estimated at between $200m and $280million.

So the council is opting for something that no one knows the cost of; that no one can say with certainty can be done technically at any price; that wasn't offered by the NZTA, that few if any in the community put forward; and that the council expects the government to pay a lot more for.  Hello? Is this loony tunes or what?

And this is written up as a triumph for the Mayor Celia Wade Brown. Her first significant victory trumpeted the DomPost on Friday morning.

What victory is that?  She got seven other councillors to go along with a dumb idea.

Of course the real agenda here may be to to delay the whole project and to confuse the public so much that they just turn off on the whole matter. If this tunnel option turns out not to be feasible, then no doubt another option will be found and that will be debated earnestly for a few more months.

It's so easy to be generous with other people's money. Remember that there is not a single sign that the government - who will be doing the paying here, not the ratepayer - is willing to find extra money, just because a few councillors think a tunnel would look nicer than a flyover.

Decades, not years, but decades, have already passed since this matter (and the size of the Mt Victoria tunnel) were first raised. Let it not be decades more before we make progress.