New Wellington mayor wants action on second Mt Victoria tunnel

10:08 am on 15 October 2019

Wellington's transport's $6.4 billion dollar overhaul is back up for discussion with the Transport Minister saying he's open to talks with the city's new mayor about the plan.

Mt Victoria Tunnel

Mt Victoria Tunnel Photo: CC BY 2.0

The Let's Get Wellington Moving transport plan includes rapid transit from the city to airport, an improved bus network, and a second Mt Victoria tunnel.

But the government pushed out the start of construction on the tunnel from 2024 until at least the end of that decade.

Rush-hour traffic-jams plague the tunnel which is an arterial route linking the eastern suburbs - including the airport - with the city's CBD.

Lyall Bay resident Tori Levy said she does everything she can to avoid taking the tunnel.

"I actively don't drive through the tunnel because it annoys me so much.

"I drive over the back of the hill to the back of Newtown and I park my car there and then I walk through instead ... because the traffic's really bad out this side of town."

Ms Levy said a second tunnel's needed as soon as possible.

"I think it needs to be looked at. I think ... it's been been ignored and kind of pushed off the table.

"Wellington's growing and we need to sort that out pretty quick or we're going to find ourselves in an Auckland [traffic] situation in the next 10 years which is not ideal."

The Let's Get Wellington Moving group recommended to the government late last year that construction for a second Mt Victoria tunnel should begin as early as 2024.

But in May the government pushed that out until at least the end of that decade.

Wellington's new mayor Andy Foster told RNZ not long after he was elected on Saturday he wanted a second Mt Victoria tunnel to be a priority.

He told Morning Report he was going to go to Phil Twyford and ask him to bring it and other projects forward.

"I do intend to go and speak with the minister. And obviously it's a great news that he's receptive to an approach about that."

"It has been a clear message from a large part of our community that they don't like being stuck in traffic and they don't want to be stuck in traffic for another decade - plus.

"They do want a solution - that's particularly strong in eastern suburbs."

He said ideally he wanted to get the planning, consenting and funding sorted for a second Mount Victoria tunnel by the end of his first three-year term.

Wellington's Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said he was delighted Mr Twyford was open to new discussions.

"I believe that both central government and local governments want to find a solution.

"So what needs to happen is people need to get around the table without having closed minds, without having fixed views on what needs to be the outcome.

"And saying 'what is the best outcome for the city. Let's get towards that point and get on with it'."

Nick Leggett from trucking lobby the Road Transport Forum said he was looking forward to any progress Mr Foster could make.

"He's got more clarity than I've heard from mayor of Wellington on this issue for a very long time, I think he seems pretty clear-sighted.

"And what we want now is for Minister Twyford to respond positively and to recognise that actually Wellingtonians want to see action."

Funding for Let's Get Wellington Moving is split roughly 60-40 between central government and the Wellington city and regional councils.

Mr Twyford said he looked forward to working with Mr Foster and he was happy to meet and talk about the details of the plan.

However, he said he would not budge on the the cost-sharing agreement between central and local government.

National Party transport spokesperson and Hutt South MP Chris Bishop told Morning Report Wellington voters disagreed with the plan's public transport focus, and the Transport Minister should renegotiate with Mr Foster and prioritise the construction of a second Mt Victoria tunnel.

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