$80m 'trench' for central Wellington

22:14, Aug 06 2012
anzac
A soldier at the National War Memorial in Wellington.

An $80 million "trench" will be built in central Wellington to allow the creation of a war memorial park.

The National War Memorial Park will combine the national memorial precinct, including the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the National War Memorial, the Hall of Memories and the National Carillion.

They are divided by State Highway 1 but would be brought together by a "trench" beneath Buckle Street between Tory and Taranaki Streets.

The land above will be turned into a landscaped public space ahead of the 2015 Gallipoli centenary commemorations.

National War Memorial Park
An artist's impression of what the National War Memorial Park will look like.

The park will extend from Taranaki St to Tory St with views over Wellington Harbour.

It is estimated development of the park will cost $12 million with Wellington City Council contributing $2.11m.

The trench project for Buckle Street will cost $70m-$75m and will be overseen by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

The option of "trenching" the stretch of State Highway 1 was ruled out previously as too expensive.

A more extensive proposal known as Option X, which included a tunnel between Taranaki St and the Basin Reserve, was estimated last year at $165 million.

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The tunnelling option will be welcomed by residents and Wellington City Council, which has previously called for SH1 to be trenched beneath Buckle St so the major arterial route did not cut a swath through a nationally significant memorial to servicemen and women.

Last September, the council backed an ambitious tunnelling proposal beneath the Basin Reserve, linking Taranaki St with Mt Victoria Tunnel.

It wanted to stop the proposed Basin Reserve flyover and state highway blighting the country's war memorial precinct, which includes the National War Memorial, Carillon and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Plans for a memorial park were first unveiled by former prime minister Helen Clark in 2004.

About $11m was allocated to the project in 2007 and $5m was spent buying the land, previously home to a petrol station and vehicle testing centre. But funding for the project was axed in the 2009 Budget during a line-by-line review of government spending.

Decisions on the park's future have since been delayed while roading solutions for the heavily congested Ngauranga to Wellington Airport corridor were worked out.

A proposal to move the highway 40 metres north and landscape the memorial park was shelved in 2009 when the funding dried up - to the relief of nearby Mt Cook School.

A spokesman for Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson said yesterday that $10m was budgeted for the park in 2010.

But that money was "reprioritised" last year for legacy projects to mark the centenary of World War I.

The council is expected to contribute financially and the Australian Government is also expected to provide money for an Australian War Memorial at the Buckle St site.

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said he supported moves to create a "contiguous war memorial park".

"What we're looking for is an appropriate memorial to honour those who have served New Zealand overseas and that can't happen with SH1 going through the middle of it."

A proper memorial park built above a trenched road would create an exciting new public space and become a drawcard for visitors to the city and Wellingtonians, Mr Robertson said.

Contact Lane Nichols
Metro chief reporter
Email: lane.nichols@dompost.co.nz

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