Memorial trench to be fast-tracked by new law
TRANSPORT AND METRO REPORTER
Special legislation will be passed fast-tracking an $80m "cut and cover" trench beneath Buckle St to develop Wellington's National War Memorial Park.
Prime Minister John Key said work would begin in October, provided Parliament supported the Memorial Park Enabling Act.
The move would bypass resource consent hurdles required for other big roading projects.
"We've consulted widely with all of the community so it's not contentious," he said, announcing the plan yesterday. "Obviously it's supported by the [Mt Cook] School, and the ratepayers, and others."
Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said Labour would support the new legislation after years of frustrating delays.
But Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the high cost and use of emergency powers showed the Government had left the important work to the last minute, "after previously cancelling the project in 2009".
The project involves lowering Buckle St between Tory and Taranaki streets using a covered trench design. The area overhead will link the memorial park with the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and the National War Memorial. It is to be completed before the Gallipoli landings centenary on Anzac Day 2015.
Mr Key said the memorial would serve as an enduring reminder, honouring those Kiwis who had served their country. The Australian Government will also spend A$5m (NZ$6.4m) on a memorial to its servicemen at the site.
The Transport Agency will fund the $70m undergrounding project. Development of the park will cost about $12m, with Wellington City Council chipping in $2.1m and the rest coming from the Culture and Heritage Ministry.
NZTA Wellington state highways manager Rod James said the project would complement other planned improvements between the Terrace and Mt Victoria tunnels, including the future shape of the Basin Reserve flyover, which will be announced next week.
Some Mt Cook residents fought an alternative plan to realign Buckle St 40 metres north, fearing it would endanger pupils and increase pollution. Spokesman Peter Cooke said yesterday that dropping the road underground would make the park safer and encourage more people to visit.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the city council had unanimously supported the trenched design. “[The] decision respects the area, and ensures the establishment of a lasting and appropriate memorial to all who have served our country."
But city councillor Iona Pannett said council officers believed the trench would cost closer to $100m. She called for the costings to be made public.
She was also uneasy with the Government bypassing wider public consultation and resource consent hurdles. "Sure, the local community wants it. But it's not just about the local community in this case. When you're talking about that many millions of dollars, you have to be really cautious."
Greater Wellington regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde was delighted with the decision to fast-track memorial park. She also hoped for movement on the Basin Reserve flyover, though she did not advocate fast-tracking legislation for it.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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