Suffragette memorial to be revamped

JESS LEE
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2012
Suffragette mural
JESS LEE/ Fairfax NZ

STEPS TO SUCCESS: Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers at the Suffragette Memorial Mural in Upper Khartoum Place where an upgrade is steps closer.

Upper Khartoum Pl
REDEVELOPMENT: The proposed new look for Khartoum Place after developments to be carried out in 2013.

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After years of heated debates, two false starts and countless proposals, the redevelopment of upper Khartoum Pl is one step closer to being realised.

A design team is on board and work to open up the space is expected to begin in June 2013.

But some from within the arts community are still unimpressed by the plans.

The upgrade has been hotly debated over the past few years as some called for the Women's Suffrage Memorial - constructed in 1993 to mark the centennial of the suffragette movement - to be removed.

Auckland Council ensured the mural was protected after voting unanimously in June to schedule the memorial through the unitary plan.

The move set the standards for any potential work and called time on suggestions to remove the tiled mural to make way for Spanish steps leading to the Auckland Art Gallery.

It was a relief for the National Council of Women, who first lobbied to save it in 2005.

The final design will see the memorial remain intact with the addition of a staircase in an unused section of the wall.

The council will consult with local businesses and residents on the designs and the proposed construction before work begins on the $1 million project.

Advocates of moving the memorial, including private art gallery owner Gary Langsford, have spoken out against the mural's location, saying it restricts access to the upgraded Auckland gallery.

Langsford said the council has consistently ignored the requests of the majority of stakeholders in the area as well as their own experts on urban design and aesthetics.  

The councillors involved in the decision appear to have no real interest in the contribution the visual arts can make to the city, Langsford said.

''If councillors don't have the guts to make the difficult but necessary decisions we will not only have an unliveable city but an extremely ugly one as well.

''It's a million dollars down the drain.''

Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers said opening up a small section of the staircase will still make the space an entranceway, which is more fitting to the art quarter and the newly renovated gallery.

The project will also improve lighting, replace the upper-level paving and provide more flexibility for people to use the space with increased public seating.

''It's one of the longest gestation projects for a while, so certainly from a council point of view it would be very good to see the project completed along with the discussions surrounding whether the memorial should stay or go,'' Chambers said.

It is hoped the project will be completed by November 2013.

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- Auckland Now

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