Last night, the Wellington City Council backed away from the controversial Basin Reserve Flyover, instead commissioning a study of other options. NZTA's response? Threaten to cut off funding for other projects:
Moves to renege on support for the Basin Flyover could see cash pulled from other capital transport projects, the New Zealand Transport Agency has told the Wellington City Council.
In a letter to the council, NZTA chief executive Geoff Dangerfield warned that a last-ditch move to withdraw support for the flyover could mean other projects, including work on the Public Transport Spine Study, could be scrapped.
"Council needs to be aware that its withdrawal of its support for the bridge proposal at this late stage may have significant implications for investment in Wellington's wider transport network and ultimately on the growth and prosperity of the city," the letter obtained by The Dominion Post said.
The message is clear: its NZTA's way or the highway. And Wellington's transport infrastructure will be held hostage to enforce that.
This makes a mockery of any pretence that NZTA funds projects on merit. Instead, they're funding them for political reasons to enforce obedience. I doubt that that sits well with their governing Act - the legal criteria for approving projects do not include "political bullying", for example. Neither does it sit well with basic democratic principles.
NZTA has overstepped the mark and needs to learn its place. Decisions on what Wellington's transport infrastructure should look like are properly the domain of its people's elected representatives - not unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.