There is nothing like a good local debate, and there is no debate in Wellington at the moment quite like that surrounding the Basin Reserve flyover. There are many reasons for opposing this project, which seems an expensive and backward-looking way of moving traffic congestion 200m to the east. However, ‘Saving the Basin’ is not one of them.
The group opposing the flyover have decided to attach the city’s love of the ground to their campaign, calling themselves ‘Save the Basin’. At best, this is disingenuous.
The Basin is a wonderfully Wellington type of place. Founded as a result of an earthquake, added to sporadically and remodelled 35 years ago, it is an eclectic mixture of the old, the newish and nature. It is also easily the country’s prime venue for test cricket, and even casual cricket fans in this city have an attachment to it.
The flyover will pass the northeast side of the ground. A new stand will be built, joining the R.A. Vance stand and the north end of the bank, with the bonus of replacing the Victorian public toilet-like gates. The stand will be four stories high, and is being paid for by the New Zealand Transport Agency. It will be used primarily as new changing rooms for the ever-increasing demands of international cricket squads. If you have ever been under the R.A. Vance stand recently, you will know just how important this is.
The official purpose of the new stand is to block noise and fumes coming from the flyover. The fact that it will also block a fair bit of wind should not be ignored.
There has also been a lot of stirring about the effect of this increased traffic noise at the ground. Devotees of cricket there will know that the traffic noise is all part of the charm of the Basin. It is, after all, the country’s biggest roundabout, and you rarely get an hour of play without some sirens circling the venue.
Save the Basin are high-profile, organised and committed to the cause. But when one of their leading campaigners tweets something like “Still time to save Basin Reserve from flyover & see Corey Anderson play cricket in Wellington for 2015 World Cup”, you realise that they are not as connected to the sport, or the ground, as they would have us believe. All Wellington matches at next year’s World Cup are being played at Westpac Stadium.
While all this noise has been going on there is another major issue affecting the ground: the zombie-like status of the historic Museum Stand. Its roof was red-stickered following the Christchurch quake, and the cost of strengthening it is estimated to be in the vicinity of $6 million. Clearly, that will not raise its book value by anything like this amount.
While the Cricket Museum remains intact (and this is an underrated asset on the Wellington museum scene), the stand itself cannot be used as it awaits its fate. The logic here appears to be that no problem is so big that it cannot be deferred.
Tellingly, the Save the Basin group have been deafeningly quiet on this issue. They have not contacted those involved with the Cricket Museum, which is a bit strange given that they are the only heritage organisation actively working at the Basin.
So, Save the Basin, keep up the work with regards to inner-city transport issues. But please leave us cricket fans, and lovers of the Basin, out of it. We can see right through your branding and we feel a little used.