National War Memorial takes shape

PROGRESS: Chris Finlayson and Gerry Brownlee visit the site of the under-construction National War Memorial in Wellington.
PROGRESS: Chris Finlayson and Gerry Brownlee visit the site of the under-construction National War Memorial in Wellington.

Wellington’s National War Memorial Park is on track to become the showpiece of this country’s Gallipoli centenary celebrations on Anzac Day 2015.

Today marks a year since construction began on the $120 million project that will see Buckle St sent underground via cut-and-cover tunnel, allowing the park to be constructed on top.

The park will connect to the National War Memorial and Carillon in the centre of the capital.

A memorial to Australian troops is already planned, while the United States, French and United Kingdom governments have also expressed interest in having a presence there.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson visited the 300-metre trench on Buckle St today and gave it their tick of approval.

‘‘We’re very confident that everything is going to be completed in the timeframe required and the result will be quite splendid,’’ Mr Brownlee said.

The new Buckle St underpass will open next year. The park is expected to be finished in early 2015.

The project team was only three days behind schedule, which was ‘‘exceptional’’ given the difficulties they encountered with old utilities and wiring, he said.

‘‘With a project of this size, you’ll always find one or two things that are unexpected. There’s been some hard rock... and one or two services where the historic surveys of their location weren’t as accurate as they perhaps could have been.’’

Higher than expected construction costs had bumped the price tag up from about $100m last year, but Mr Brownlee said the increase was not astronomical.

Mr Finlayson said the US Government had sent its Monuments Commission to Wellington for a look at the park, while the French had some ideas for a memorial that he would be pursuing with them over the next week.

‘‘What we don’t want is some kind of marble orchard," he said.

"But we do want monuments that are appropriate to the contribution made by those countries to war alongside us.’’

The Buckle St underpass and National War Memorial Park is the Government’s cornerstone project to acknowledge the centenary of the Gallipoli landings in World War I.

Many of the commemorations will take place in the park on Anzac Day 2015.

More than 300,000 Kiwis have served their country in times of war and conflict. About 30,000 have died.

THE BUCKLE ST UNDERPASS

* The project began in August 2012 with construction of a road to the side of Buckle St for all of its State Highway 1 traffic. The road will be removed when construction of the park begins.

* Work began on the trench a year ago. It is currently 300 metres long, 18m wide, and 12m at its deepest point.

* 32,281 cubic metres of soil has been removed, which equates to 3586 truck and trailer loads.

* All of the old water, sewage, gas, electricity and telecommunications pipes were dug up and moved. About 6.5km of new pipe had to be laid.

* The tunnel will be anchored in place with 95 concrete piles designed to withstand a 1-in-2500 year earthquake.

* 60 people work on the site permanently with specialist contractors who come and go.

The Dominion Post