An extra 2000 people will be able to crowd around Wellington's Cenotaph on Anzac Day when a $2.5 million upgrade is complete.
The Wellington City Council was last week granted resource consent to push ahead with a revamp of the area surrounding the war memorial, built in 1929.
Work on the upgrade - which includes "decluttering" the area and linking it to Parliament with a grand staircase - is set to begin in August and finish in February next year, in time for the 2015 Anzac Day centenary commemorations.
The council has budgeted $1.5m for the project, which will go toward the upgrade of the Cenotaph and surrounding square. The remaining $1m will come from the Parliamentary Service, and will be spent building a staggered diagonal staircase linking the square to Parliament grounds.
Group manager precinct services Judith Taylor said that would cover finalising the design, construction and project costs.
Project manager Kevin Murphy said there would be few changes to the monument itself, which was built to honour soldiers killed during World War I.
Some broken tiles on the terrace in front of the plinth would be replaced, and some paving redone to reflect the era when it was built.
There would also be better lighting installed to showcase it at night, since the current lighting focused most on the underside of the horse on top of the monument.
"What we're going to try to do is put better light on all four sides . . . and on the horse itself so it's not just the belly."
"Clutter" would be removed to open up the area, in a manner similar to when it was first built. Benches would be removable to make extra room during ceremonies, Murphy said.
Plans estimate that, for three people per square metre, the capacity will grow from 11,859 people to 13,851.
The aim was to "create a lot more of an open space to give people a better perspective of the monument itself and also to improve the connection between the monument and Parliament", Murphy said.
The increased capacity was welcomed by Wellington RSA president Ron Turner. "The closer the people get to the Cenotaph, and the easier it is for them to see what is going on, the better it is."
Taylor said the design would help foster the connection between Parliament and the rest of the city by "reorienting" the existing stairs.
Heritage New Zealand central region general manager Ann Neill was "very supportive" of the project and said it would help maintain the heritage values of the monument, which is a category one historic place.
Removing clutter would help return "the sense of gravitas" to the monument.
"This will return the monument close to its original setting, and how it would have originally been experienced by the people of Wellington."
- The Dominion Post
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