This prolonged and expensive tale of divisive woe is a good case study for how not to go about engaging with a community that will be significantly impacted by a major capital works project.
The first step in any good practice community engagement process should be to identify and prioritise problems that need to be fixed. By drawing on the knowledge, experience and skill of the public to identify and quantify the problem to be solved, and then overlaying technical elements, the NZTA could have produced a sustainable and workable solution acceptable to the majority of the affected communities. This solution could be significantly different from the flyover proposal currently on the table but would have required a completely different approach to that being followed by the NZTA.
The NZTA appears to have identified some technical solutions to a traffic congestion issue around the Basin Reserve and then dumped these on the affected communities with little context provided. Clearly the NZTA is seeing a problem that community groups cannot. This makes it quite difficult for them to sell their “solution”.
The single-mindedness of the NZTA in pursuing its preferred solution through legal channels shows just how little it values the input of communities in good decision-making. These communities not only have very real concerns about the impact of this purely technical solution on the long-term future of the iconic Basin Reserve and the surrounding area but will also be meeting a large part of the project’s costs through their taxes.
Rather than relying on a judicial decision to get its own way, the NZTA would be better served by restarting an engagement process, beginning with listening and responding to community views about the problem to be solved as well as the social and cultural, and economic values those communities attach to the Basin Reserve and its surrounding areas. Restarting this process could save some costs and time and also do much to rebuild the NZTA’s now badly tarnished reputation.