End of the line for bus depot

BLAKE CRAYTON-BROWNCHARLIE MITCHELL
Last updated 10:49 20/03/2014
Kilbirnie bus depot

END OF THE LINE: It the end of the road for the bus barns at Kilbirnie bus depot.

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The Wellingtonian

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Kilbirnie residents are demanding to be consulted as the wrecking ball lines up Kilbirnie's ageing bus barns.

After nearly 100 years of housing Wellington's fleet of trams and buses, the historical buildings are to be demolished and replaced by a modern purpose-built facility.

Kilbirnie Lyall Bay Rongotai Progressive Association president Stephen Moore said there had been rumours floating around about the bus barns.

He called for public input into any redevelopment of the site, saying he imagined knocking the barns down would be supported by the city council.

NZ Bus operations manager Rachel Drew told The Wellingtonian the barns would be levelled in 12 months as part of a redevelopment plan, then subsequently revised that to 12 to 24 months.

"It's not the most fit-for-purpose building," she said.

When approached for further details, NZ Bus communications co-ordinator Lucy Hempseed said staff were too busy to respond to further questions.

The city council has proposed turning the site into a residential, office, retail and aged care development as part of its Kilbirnie Revitalisation Plan.

The Infratil-owned bus depot, which struggles to accommodate 220 of GO Wellington's 240-strong fleet, has long been slated for demolition.

But despite planning the move for five years, NZ Bus is yet to find a location to house its fleet while a new depot is being built.

Indecision had led to the loss of $500,000 previously earmarked for the Kilbirnie town upgrade, said Eastern ward councillor Simon Marsh.

"The reason it was taken out, according to the council officers, was because no work was being carried out on the bus barns," Marsh said.

"Really the sensible thing would be to knock it down and produce a purpose-built structure so that you don't have the buses all lined up along the road waiting to get in at night.

"If they could build something purpose-built for contemporary public transport, I think it would be the best idea."

Infratil last year filed a resource consent to knock down the depot.

Repairs on the roof and one exterior wall are being done after they were damaged by the earthquakes last year.

Drew said three engineering reports had found the building to be safe, and there would not be staff working there if it was dangerous.

Tramways Union Wellington secretary Kevin O'Sullivan welcomed the potential redevelopment, saying the 100-year-old facility was long past its use-by date.

"Anything they build to replace it will be most welcome," he said.

"The roof leaks in about a thousand places and there's rats and mice running all over the place, and there's holes in it everywhere."

O'Sullivan said he understood a new facility would have a smaller workshop, with buses parked in an open yard. 1916: Kilbirnie terminal built as an overnight depot for up to 100 trams.

TIMELINE

1930: Building and maintenance workshop added, and Newtown tram depot closed.

1935: Buses and trams assembled side by side in the depot, as the popularity of buses rises.

1945: Trolley bus system introduced, with the intention of replacing trams.

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1964: Last tram route is closed.

1992: Wakefield St bus depot moves to Kilbirnie, where the vast majority of buses are kept.

1999: Stagecoach (now NZ Bus) and Ryman make $7 million deal with the city council for ownership of the depot. Rita Angus Retirement Village is built on part of the original depot site.

2009: Discussions about demolition of the building begin, with support of council.

- The Wellingtonian

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