‘Long tunnel’ in the mix for Let’s Get Wellington Moving rethink

As if a second Mt Victoria tunnel in Wellington wasn’t controversial enough, there’s now mention of a “long tunnel” in alternative versions of the city’s $6.4 billion transport plan.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) is behind schedule, over-budget, and currently being picked apart.

Interim work on the business cases for mass rapid transit and a second Mt Vic tunnel highlighted the cost blowout and found the project could be reshaped to deliver better outcomes.

So as of February this year officials were working on two different recommended programmes of investment and seven approaches for delivery.

Among these various options in documents released under the Official Information Act there is mention of a “long tunnel”, although the details of it are entirely redacted.

LGWM Governance Reference Group member Wellington mayor Andy Foster confirmed he was aware of the long tunnel and has seen it as a dotted line on a map.

It stretched across Te Aro heading in the direction of the east and south, he said.

Projects that didn’t make the cut for the final LGWM package included a second Terrace Tunnel and trenching Karo Drive.

A second Mt Victoria tunnel, on the other side of Te Aro, was included in the final package.

Governance Reference Group chairman Daran Ponter said the tunnel was a long-term proposition, 20 to 30 plus years away, that hasn’t had anywhere near as much work as the more immediate options.

He said he was surprised the option of a long tunnel was even being considered and that the group was not told earlier.

“It’s precisely this sort of issue that I would have expected to come up to the Governance Reference Group.”

Except the Governance Reference Group hasn’t been meeting.

Yesterday the Herald revealed the group did not meet for a whole nine months during a time when LGWM was at its most chaotic. It has since resumed meetings on a regular basis.

The group is described as providing a critical interface between the project’s partners being Waka Kotahi, the Wellington City Council and the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

“We’re aware of the long tunnel now and we’re working through with the board what it means and what its status will be in relation to the other options”, Ponter said.

Both Foster and Ponter said all options, both preferred and rejected, would eventually be made public.

A LGWM spokesperson said the indicative package announced in 2019 was endorsed by the Government subject to the completion of detailed business cases.

“The business case process requires us to consider a range of potential design options for each of the programme elements and assess these against the programme objectives.

“As such, we are considering different options for the elements in the LGWM programme”, the spokesperson said.

Tunnels have long been a point of contention for the LGWM project.

National has argued the second Mt Victoria tunnel should be built sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, the secret letter Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter wrote when she was Associate Transport Minister erupted in the House for days.

Following an Ombudsman investigation, which found she was entitled to withhold the letter from the public domain, it was revealed Genter wrote to ask that mass rapid transit be prioritised ahead of a second tunnel.

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