Wellington might never solve its Basin Reserve traffic troubles, Finance Minister Bill English says – because it lacks a “progressive attitude”.
He said the Government was spending plenty of money on big road projects north of Wellington, and would fund them in the capital too, if the city could agree on a plan.
Wellington “found it hard to want growth”, he told business leaders in Porirua on Wednesday, as evidenced by the drawn-out debate over how to solve congestion in the central city.
It was possible the city would never solve the Basin’s congestion woes, which were holding up construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and hampering access to the airport and hospital, English said.
His comments came on the same day an independent report, commissioned by the New Zealand Transport Agency, pointed to a loss of “ministerial confidence” in Wellington City Council’s ability to deliver its cycleway programme.
When asked to elaborate on Thursday, English said his message to Wellington was that, if it could come up with an alternative solution at the Basin, the Government would probably fund it.
The lack of local leadership on funding a solution is apparent.
But it would not keep money sitting around forever while the city struggled to reach an agreement.
“Lack of money is not a problem for the bottlenecks in Wellington’s city infrastructure,” he said.
“There are large projects happening north of Wellington … and they’re all going ahead. The projects in Wellington city that could achieve those things aren’t going ahead, because the city comes to the conclusion that it doesn’t want them.”
In other words Wellington is missing out due to that lack of leadership.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said he was optimistic a traffic solution would be found at the Basin that central and local government could live with, as well as the community.
But the longer those groups “muck around” finding a solution, the longer it will take to build.
The Government remained “pretty sceptical” about contributing towards Wellington Airport’s proposed $300m runway extension in light of the wrangling over the Basin, he said.
“My point is this: there’s no point whatsoever building a runway extension if you can’t get people in a taxi or a bus into the city in an efficient, streamlined way.”
If flying Wellington to Auckland, you spend more time in taxis than you do in the plane!