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Earmuffs, mask ‘must wear’ in Mt Vic Tunnel

Apr 26th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

TUNNELLING: Regular Mt Victoria Tunnel user Tom Grinstead ready for smells and sounds. Photo Oliver Ellmers

PEDESTRIANS in the Mt Victoria tunnel have been ordered to wear face masks and earmuffs – but not by the council.

Vigilante artist Rafi Stone’s installation “Must Wear” was designed as an artistic experiment and was in place for 48 hours.

A student at Massey University’s School of Fine Arts, Mr Stone (21) made alternative signage for the tunnel with the same reflective blue vinyl used by councils.

He also supplied face masks and earmuffs for pedestrian use, attaching hooks near each entrance to the tunnel.

The experiment was in place earlier this month, and Mr Stone observed pedestrian interaction with the artwork.

“The experiment was initially simply to gauge reactions from Mt Vic Tunnel pedestrians. However what resulted was quite humorous. Many pedestrians voluntarily and enthusiastically engaged with the artwork.”

PUBLIC ARTWORK: This sign met pedestrians at the city entrance of Mt Victoria tunnel.

Mike Wootton (26) walks through the Mt Victoria tunnel twice every day, and worries about the conditions with each trip.

“I generally just put my face down and walk through as quickly as possible.”

Sarah Rocklehiest (23) of Kilbirnie likens regular use of the tunnel to a smoking habit.

She saw Mr Stone’s installation but chose not to use the mask or earmuffs.

 “I’m a filthy smoker- I figure, tobacco and gas, [it’s] kinda the same thing. Sometimes when it’s really hot [outside], it does get really gassy and then you’ve got to wonder.”

Mr Stone says a key concept behind his work has been figuring out ways to improve the experience for pedestrians.

“I wanted to create a completely isolated and luxurious environment for pedestrians, so that the journey through the tunnel became perhaps a novelty. Where else in Wellington are pedestrians treated with free gear?”

The New Zealand Transport Authority is about to begin work on the tunnel which will improve ventilation.

In a report issued this time last year, Niwa says carbon monoxide levels in the Mt Victoria tunnel are catching up with the authority’s recommended limits.

Paul Corbett and Steven Knowles of the NZTA met with the Hataitai Residents’ Association on April 5 to discuss the scheduled renovations to the Mt Victoria tunnel.

The association asked about how they would affect pedestrians, and was told that while foot traffic was not really the focus of the refurbishments, there would be some improvement.

“What we do with this little project is a safety upgrade, really. That’s the scope of that – safety upgrade,” Mr Corbett said.

“There’ll just be more ventilation coming through the tunnel, so with less fumes, it’s going to be a bit better, and I guess we’ll have lit the tunnel a bit better,” said Mr Knowles.

Mr Knowles and Mr Corbett were hesitant about any further benefits to pedestrians from the upgrades.

They outlined but ultimately dismissed an option which would involve enclosing the walkway from the road completely.

A NOVELTY: Masks and earmuffs hang waiting to be worn.

Mr Knowles said blocking views from the road would put pedestrians at risk from crime.

He also raised concerns about increased graffiti.

They agreed that noise pollution levels should change, but did not present a plan for this.

“I guess we should think about trying to encourage more drivers not to toot,” said Mr Knowles. “I had to talk to my kids about that.”

“Yeah, it’s different when you’re walking through it. It’s fun when you’re driving,” said Mr Corbett.

Mr Knowles made it clear that conditions inside the Mt Victoria tunnel are not likely to change dramatically for pedestrians.

“The final answer to that is we are very likely to leave it at the status quo.”

However, authority communications advisor Anthony Frith said last week that upcoming refurbishments to the Mt Victoria tunnel will address both ventilation and noise issues, making everything “much better.”

“It’ll be a massive job.”

Last year’s Niwa report stated: “We find that current levels of CO [sic] inside the Mt Victoria tunnel are unlikely to exceed the recommended Interim NZTA Guidelines, although the margin of compliance may be small.”

While carbon monoxide levels are acceptable for foot traffic, the report says that pedestrians still experience a far higher degree of exposure during the ten-minute walk than those driving.

There is a significant risk that the tunnel is not safe for workers, breaching eight-hour occupational exposure limits.

Drawing attention to the lack of data, the report also points out a risk of “significant localised impacts” caused by vents from the tunnel near Wellington East Girls’ College.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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  1. Shouldnt just be art, it should be mandatory!
    I feel sorry for the people who have to walk through there, I wouldnt do it for a million dollars!

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