Tunnelling through Karori's history

Last updated 10:16 26/05/2011

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Karori tunnel is Wellington's oldest road tunnel.

Its construction was fraught with problems and the tunnel took three years to complete.

Settlement of Karori began in the 1800s, but it was not until 1843 that the first road to the suburb was completed. It was little more than a bullock track and it took 20 minutes on horseback to get from town via Hawkestone St, over Bakers Hill (Raroa Rd).

During the early 1850s Karori Borough Corporation collected money to improve the road, but little was done.

By 1878, a horse and coach service had been established. The route went over the hill, but was so steep on the Glenmore St side that passengers had get out of the coach and walk.

After much public discussion it was decided a tunnel should be built through Bakers Hill.

Thomas Ward, who established the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors, designed the tunnel and in 1897 John McWilliams was contracted to construct it. It was to expected to cost 3779.

McWilliams abandoned the work a year later and the contract was handed to a Mr Slowey.

He encountered problems, including partial collapse of the structure and a slip on the hillside above. He blamed the problems on poor workmanship by McWilliams and defaulted on the contract.

Karori Borough Council took over the job. It tried to charge Slowey for the costs of completion and refused to pay for the work he had done.

Legal action led to Slowey being awarded 1628 for his work.

Karori council engaged Julius E Fulton to act as the consulting engineer. The tunnel was completed in 1900.

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- The Wellingtonian

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