Park urgency gets creche moving
The governor-general has been forced to use his special powers to avoid the embarrassment of New Zealand's Anzac Day centenary centrepiece not being completed on time.
Construction of the National War Memorial Park in central Wellington had threatened to be derailed by controversy surrounding a 100-year-old creche that sits alongside the park.
The Government wants to shift the former Home of Compassion Creche in Buckle St 15 metres west so it can be part of the new park.
It began moving the heritage building in May but stopped a few days later after suggestions it may have broken the law in doing so.
The lack of action eventually threatened the park's completion to the point where the Queen's representative, Sir Jerry Mateparae, last week had to rubber-stamp a resource consent to get the ball rolling again and save the Government's blushes.
Prime Minister John Key announced funding for the park in 2012, saying it would be "an enduring reminder to our children and their children."
Before it could be built, the NZ Transport Agency had to convert State Highway 1 outside the National War Memorial into an underpass so the park could be built overhead.
The Government also needed to pass special legislation under urgency so both projects could be completed within the tight timeframe.
The creche became controversial because it sits in the path of the proposed Basin Reserve flyover.
By moving it, the Government is arguably improving the chances of getting resource consent for the $90 million elevated highway.
Flyover critics questioned the legality of the creche move, claiming the legislation only granted powers to move it if the underpass was going to harm it, and this was not the case.
The Transport Agency believed that it was always the intention of the legislation to move the creche.
But despite feeling firmly in the right, the agency decided to halt all relocation work until it had confirmed that what it was doing was lawful.
But with the work needing to restart by July 4 in order to get the park finished on time, the governor-general was asked to sort the issue out, at the Government's request.
A spokesman for Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson said the creche had always been included in plans drawn up in consultation with the local community, and it was necessary to proceed with those plans.
Christine McCarthy, president of flyover opposition group The Architectural Centre, said the group would be surprised if the governor-general's ruling was legal.
"Our view is that they [NZTA] look to be moving the creche more for the flyover than the park."
Cabinet papers released last week also revealed the cost of the park had blown out.
The cost had risen from its initial estimate of $12m to $28.5m because of an increased scale and scope, as well as the risk involved in building it within such a tight timeframe.
The total cost of the park and underpass is $120m.
The Dominion Post