Submission on the Application for Resource Consents and Notice of Requirement for Alteration to Designation 134 by Wellington City Council, 27 May 2009
1 My name is Barry Blackett. I am the owner of 26/28 Glenside Road which is on the corner of Glenside Road and Stebbings Road where I have lived since 1991.
2 When I purchased my property, I was told a link road might be constructed in about four years’ time, ie around 1995. I was not aware of the extent of the nature of the project or the visual effects such a road might have on the outlook from my property. I do not recall being notified of Designation 134 in 1992 and can confirm that I was not consulted on the effects of the Designation and was given no opportunity to raise concerns at the time. (Wellington City Council did consult briefly with the Glenside Community in respect of earthworks and road construction associated with Westchester Drive East and access to the Landfill site.)
3 Consultation began in 2002 with the Northern Growth Management Framework. Communication and information provided by Wellington City Council from this time on has been quite extensive but consultation has been within the framework of the NGMF and has focused on alternative routes rather than the effects of the road, either during or after construction. I therefore feel that the effects of the change to the Designation should be taken at face value rather than compared with the effects of the original Designation 134.
4 Many attempts have been made to find a suitable route for this road. In summary, there was the original District Scheme Route which was an indication only. The route Council preferred was Option 4 but construction of this route was halted around 1989. Truebridge Callender and Beach, Opus and the Council then explored at least six alternative routes. The resolution which followed was Option 4A which crossed the stream four times and involved extensive culverting and a water tunnel. It was formally designated in 1992 and subsequently revised slightly as Option 4A/4B.
5 In 2002 MWH produced a draft report Northwest Connector Road which proposed five options including Option 4A/4B and in 2003 produced a supplement which added two more options. Further studies by MWH and Boffa Miskell then resulted in a significant variation to Option 4A/4B which has lead to the variation now being proposed.
6 It could be considered that planning for this road has been carefully investigated as evidenced by the many alternative options that have been not only scoped out but in fact studied in considerable detail. While this is undoubtedly true, it must be noted that the scoping and feasibility studies for this road have taken place over more than 30 years rather than three to six months as would be the case with most studies of this kind. This demonstrates an obvious point - There is no suitable route for this road. The engineering consultants have struggled to find a way to design a road that isn’t accompanied by considerable construction difficulties and adverse impacts. The reason for this is due to the nature of the terrain.
7 I would like to quote from Boffa Miskell’s report which is Appendix G to the Notice of Requirement.
Para 2.1 states:
Within the study area, Stebbings Stream forms a deeply incised channel with steep slopes to either side... The stream is deeply incised into these terraces.
In this context, the following points should be carefully considered:
- The selected route (and most of the alternative routes considered) passes through a gorge which is described as moderate to very steep
- Soils include silt loam and stony clay with high sediment forming potential
- Road construction would involve high costs, high negative impacts and high risks
- Remediating these impacts will be difficult and in some instances impossible.
8 It is pertinent to note the opinion of the consulting engineers as expressed some years ago. I again quote from MWH’s 2002 report:
Para 4.7.1 (3)
Further work is required on the justification of the connector road as it is not easy to justify on transport efficiency grounds alone.
... The risk is high because there is seemingly little justification for the proposal in traffic benefit terms, as the route does not follow a strong desire line.APPENDIX 7 Section 4 Westchester Drive to Middleton Road
High Risk in terms of public opposition and gaining WRC consents due to high environmental effects... Impact on visual amenity substantial and permanent.
DESIGNATION (revised and updated)
9 In my opinion, the history of the Designation has been disastrous.
The original District Scheme Designation was made in 1976 but took no account of the terrain that the road would need to traverse. Westchester Drive was constructed in the eighties and an attempt made to extend it to the north-east following a non-designated variation of this route later called Option 4 which was the route preferred by Council’s Works department. A legal dispute, a court injunction, community consultation and two inquiries followed and a variation of Option 4 eventually found called Option 4A. This was made possible by GWRC agreeing to move the planned flood retention dam upstream. The new designation covering this route, Designation 134, was deemed operative by Council in July 1992.
10 I understand that the Designation was for a fixed 15 year period. Measured from 1992, this would have ended in 2007. In the Property, Housing, Consents and Licensing Report to the Hearing Committee, 14 May 2009, a different interpretation is given under Section 3. In para 3.4 it states that:
...resulting from a legal opinion, the 15 year duration for the designation commenced at the date the Plan became operative, being 27 July 2000.
What is not stated in this report is the status of the Designation between July 1992 and July 2000.
11 Whatever the legal interpretation, the fact is a designation has applied to this road in various forms since 1976. This is a period of at least 33 years to date. Although the route designated has varied and the current application seeks a further variation, the fact is that all these variations have affected the same properties and in many cases the same owners.
12 There is an opinion among Council officials that the intent to construct the Westchester Link road has been known about for a long time so affected members of the community should have no grievance over the adverse effects of the road such as reduction in property values, loss of amenity or inconvenience during the construction phase. However, the reason for limiting the length of time that designations can apply is to avoid unfulfilled local government plans ‘hanging over’ affected property owners and affecting their lives for too long.
13 My understanding is that the normal provision for a designation is five years. A lapse period of 15 years is only applied in cases where a longer period is required for practical reasons such as infrastructure developments including new roads. I am not an expert of course but I don’t know of cases where a formal designation for a local government sponsored road has been in place for over 33 years.
14 The designation history also raises the question as to whether Designation 134 has been continuous over this period or whether in fact it has already expired. If we take 27 July 2000 (the date that the current District Scheme became operative) as the date where the current designation took effect, this must mean:
- Either that the original District Scheme designation continued to be the legal designation during the 1990s
- Or that there was a gap of about eight years when no legal designation was in place.
15 In the former case, the original designation would have lapsed by reaching the end of its 15 year period which I believe was also the maximum period allowed under the Town and Country Planning Act. (It is of note that the Notice of Requirement repeatedly describes the date of the original designation as being in the eighties. Clearly designations with lapse periods need to have precise dates for becoming operative. WCC should provide this date.)
In the latter case, Designation 134 would probably not be legal. I cite in evidence the short lapse period in 1998 which has concerned the Council. Clearly, the Council believed that Designation 134 was in place in 1998 and was uplifted for a short time due to an error which was rectifiable under the RMA.
16 If, contrary to the Council’s legal opinion, Designation 134 actually took effect in 1992, then it will have lapsed in 2007. On the 9th July 1992, the WCC Environment Committee recommended:
That Council confirm District Scheme Change 90/19 (the realigned designation of Westchester Drive between Churton Park and State Highway 1 as shown on Plan A3-046, amended by Design Branch Plan 40/2177/3A) and publicly notify its decision, advising that the change shall be deemed operative on 23 July 1992.
This recommendation was adopted by a meeting of full Council on 17 July 1992.
I therefore request that the Commissioners give some attention to this issue.
17 Possible adverse effects on the water quality and wildlife habitat in Stebbings and Porirua Streams and on Porirua Harbour have been addressed in detail in both the Streamcare Group’s and the Glenside Progressive Association’s submissions and there is little I can add. However, I wish to draw your attention to the detailed report by the ecological consultants, Boffa Miskel:
NGMF Stebbings Stream - Stream Investigation Report 2004,
Appendix G to the Notice of Requirement, Appendix 1,
The ecological condition of the Stebbings stream is currently moderate to good but is on a cusp and without appropriate intervention the stream condition will likely tip toward dramatic decline. However, being on that cusp also means there is potential for restoration of high values.
18 The following points should be considered:
- As already noted, the greywacke rock in this area includes strata of silt loam and stony clay with high sediment forming potential.
- The sides of the gorge have not yet been assessed. WCC’s proposal is to do this during construction itself which might be too late to take the necessary effective measures.
- Much of the terrain in the gorge is very steep, ie well above 28° from the horizontal, in particular the slopes at chainage 310 to 380 and 560 to 740 metres whose cross sections are shown in Appendix A to the Notice of Requirement. It is recognised that slopes above 28° are particularly prone to sediment runoff. These are the slopes that will be subject to the largest degree of cut.
- Much of the earthworks will be very close to the stream.
- The area that contractors responsible for earth working and the construction of gabion walls, batters and sediment ponds will have to work within is very confined.
- Monitoring is recommended but monitoring is not prevention. The proposal that work be monitored during this phase of construction offers no guarantee that suspended clay and fine sediment will not escape into the stream.
- Effects may extend as far as Porirua Harbour which is already distressed.
- The primary purpose of the road is to allow future development in Stebbings Valley. Earthworks carried out in lower west Stebbings Valley a few years ago have already resulted in significant deterioration of the Stream despite the measures taken to prevent this. Future earthworks in Stebbings Valley will add to this burden.
19 The land for which a variation in the designation has been sought will be used mainly for the construction of batters, see Notice of Requirement, Appendix F (area shaded blue), or is already bushed (area shaded pink). I am concerned that insufficient land has been acquired to the East of the latter area for some of the proposed mitigation measures such as the construction of adequate swales, tree planting, fencing and other screening measures.
20 One of the swales needed for sediment control is outside the designated area and not owned by Council. Construction of this swale has not yet been agreed and will depend on the good will of the land owner.
21 The indicative Landscaping Plan, Appendix D is inadequate especially from an amenity point of view in that plants selected will mostly be small and the land available for planting limited in area and suitability. No planting is proposed for the south bank of the stream. Yet this could also be important for maintaining water quality and is especially important for screening off the road from houses in Glenside Road and hence improve amenity value. This is because Council were unable to purchase all the land they need to achieve a satisfactory landscaping outcome.
22 Noise is another effect that concerns residents both during and after construction.
The noise levels estimated by the expert witness, Mr Charles Wood, for the proposed variation in the Designation are measured against the noise levels expected if the road was to be constructed to Option 4A/4B and not relative to noise levels which apply now. Council Officers argue that Option 4A/4B is currently designated, hence this is the appropriate measure. Along with other long time Glenside residents, I do not recall that there was any consultation on the possible effects of the road such as traffic noise before Designation 134 was deemed operative.
23 I spoke to Mr Wood (the expert witness on noise effects) on Monday who explained the decibel scale by which noise is measured. It is a logarithmic scale. An increase in 10 decibels is a 10 fold increase in noise. A two-fold increase in noise is therefore roughly a 3 decibel increase and a five-fold increase is a 7 decibel increase. The proposed road is expected to be slightly less noisy than Option 4A/4B would have been because it is a little further away from houses south of the stream. However, it follows a higher elevation, so the visual effects will be greater.
TRAFFIC AND PUBLIC TRANSPORT
24 Traffic safety, accident rates and other effects of traffic have been addressed in detail by other submitters as has the issue of benefit to cost ratio for the proposed road. I would like to speak to some other issues.
25 Council officers claim that the link road will provide a direct link for Churton Park residents to the Motorway. In reality, the link road will only provide a preferred link for a relatively small number of Churton Park residents, namely those that live in the North and West such as the Amesbury Drive area. Residents in the more established parts of Churton Park will probably continue to use Bassett Road, Churton Drive and Halswater Drive as exit and entry points. A glance at a map of Churton Park will reveal why this is so.
26 A higher proportion of new households in Stebbings Valley will probably use the new road, especially if travelling to and from the North. But development in Stebbings Valley has not yet proceeded and may not do so for some time due to the economic downturn, so it may be many years before the demand for a new access road to Churton Park builds up to the point where an addition to the current three access points becomes necessary, (four if Ironside Road is also included).
Also, because there are already several access point to Churton Park, the new Link Road will have limited benefit for emergency access.
27 There has been discussion as to whether the Link Road would enhance public transport. To my knowledge, the bus companies have expressed no interest in it. Buses generally follow routes with a social interface (ie lined with houses) when picking up and dropping off passengers and will only choose to travel along motorways or roads without a social interface such as the proposed Link Road once full. The current Churton Park buses follow a very circuitous route within the suburb, emerging ultimately at the transport hub in Johnsonville.
28 Some mention has been made of using the proposed Link Road to link Churton Park with Granada Village and Newlands. This is unlikely to be attractive to bus companies or passengers in my view. Churton Park passengers travelling to and from the CBD would find being routed though Granada-Newlands very slow and inconvenient and vice versa.
29 Other submitters have talked about the proposed Middleton Road roundabout. I want to comment on the proposed intersection, whether it is controlled by a roundabout, traffic lights or other form of control. The traffic survey presented to you by Jan Voss found that, of the six traffic flow directions at the current T junction between Middleton Road and Westchester Drive East, only four are preferred, the remaining two being lightly used. This helps with traffic flow at this junction.
30 When replaced by an intersection, there will be twelve directions that traffic can take. Eight of these will be preferred and four lightly used. The effect in peak traffic could be queuing and delays. Much as I sympathise with lower Halswater Drive residents, the current route to the motorway via Halswater Drive and Westchester Drive East involves only two T junctions, one with a left turning filter, and is relatively efficient for residents from the East and Centre of Churton Park. I believe they will continue to use this route with or without the Link Road.
31 Building new roads is expected to ease traffic but linking them into the existing network creates more intersections and this can offset the anticipated benefits of the new links. This is a lesson that Auckland traffic planners have learned.
COST AND DEVELOPMENT CONTRIBUTIONS
32 It is clear to me that the primary benefit of the proposed Road is to service residential development in Stebbings Valley. The estimated cost is projected to be $8.5 million with a development contribution of $3.485 million [see WCC Long Term Council Community Plan 2009-2019, Report 6 Appendix I, Development Contributions Policy, p65]. This contribution is related to future growth from the sale of 1360 residential lots, each paying $2563 and presumably will not be recovered in full until all the lots are sold. This means ratepayers will pay all $8.5 million for the Road in the first instance and $5.015 million plus interest on borrowings in the long term. Any cost over runs will also be borne by ratepayers and will be unrecoverable.
33 Indirectly, this is an issue for Resource Consents under the RMA because it involves the efficient use of resources which could be put to other uses. More importantly, I question whether there is space for 1360 lots in Stebbings Valley. Furthermore, I don’t recall this number ever being discussed during consultation. In 2001, the consultants to the NGMF (SKM) spoke of 800 lots. Even this number is high bearing in mind the steep and ‘landlocked’ nature of the Valley.
- Reduce the scale of Stebbings Valley development.
The valley is landlocked, steep and remote from the state highway network
- 500 houses is the maximum that can be supported with limited environmental impact.
- Furthermore 1360 houses will not be needed in any medium term planning period due to the prolonged economic downturn.
- Improve motorway access at the Helston Interchange north of Johnsonville.
- An on ramp south and an off ramp north are needed. This would ease Churton Park traffic exiting Bassett Road
- A third motorway lane from Helston Road to the Newlands Interchange would be of benefit.
- This will be difficult and costly but the Westchester Link will require a third motorway lane from the Glenside Interchange through to the Newlands Interchange if serious tailbacks and delays are to be avoided during peak traffic.
- Build a link from Stebbings Valley to Tawa via Arohata Department of Corrections land (Not Greyfriars!)
- This would link with Takapu Station (11 minutes to City Centre)
- Would support Tawa Town Centre and Tawa businesses
- Would serve as collector road for 200 residential lots that could be built on Western Arohata land
- The cost of construction would be mostly to development
- This might offer a good future bus route - social interface and link to Takapu station
- It could also offer an alternative route for Stebbings Valley construction traffic
- It would offer a good emergency (different) access route to Stebbings Valley
- Focus on areas for development such as Lincolnshire Farm and Ben Lucas which have lower development costs.
35 The link road should not be built for a number of reasons including technical difficulty, disturbance during construction, high cost, negative environmental impacts, negative amenity values and a misguided development strategy. Future planning for our city needs different thinking.