Bid to reopen Albert Park tunnels

AMY MAAS
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2012
Bill Reid
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PRESERVING HERITAGE: Bill Reid at the entrance of tunnel number six.

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Two Aucklanders have their hearts set on re-opening air raid tunnels beneath Albert Park in a bid to preserve some of the city's history.

But Auckland Council says the idea is unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon.

Bill Reid has been working on plans to re-open the tunnels for nearly 30 years and last year his quest was caught on film by Mark Howarth in a 10-minute documentary.

Reid and Howarth want tunnel five, which is at the end of Victoria St East, opened and for the first 25m to be excavated to create a museum depicting its history.

A prominent Auckland businessman - who Reid declined to name - was also interested in opening a glow-worm attraction in the underground network.

The tunnels were built in 1942  to act as an air raid shelter for up to 22,000 Aucklanders during World War II.  The 3.5km network was built in eight months by 114 men, using no machinery.

But by the end of the war the timber supports in the tunnels began to show signs of deterioration so they were filled in with 8.8 million unfired clay bricks. The entrances were sealed in 1946.

Reid and Howarth met with Auckland Council's heritage department last month to put forward their proposal for a museum.

"The council is quite interested, but at the same time the politicians have to give it the ok, so we're hoping through public pressure they'll be able to see the benefits the tunnels will have for tourism and preserving the history,"  Howarth said.

However, an Auckland council spokeswoman said there were no plans to reopen the tunnels.

 "As no investigations have been carried out with regards to this work, we would be unable to give an indication of cost."

Reid believes reopening the tunnels will preserve Auckland's "lost heritage" and the museum would "honour those men who built the tunnels".

"They are all somebody and they need to be honoured."

 

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- Auckland Now

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