Wartime observation post faces demolition

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 10/10/2012

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A rare World War II bunker is at serious risk of falling on to Nelson's Rocks Rd, and the Nelson City Council says it must be removed urgently.

Tomorrow, the infrastructure committee will discuss options for handling the removal of the battery observation post, which has a heritage A listing.

The 60-tonne structure on The Cliffs was used to house gunnery observers. It was built in 1943 as part of the World War II Cliffs Coastal Battery used to defend Nelson. It sits on council reserve land beside a house that was red-stickered following last December's rainstorm and slips.

Acting chief executive Richard Johnson said in a report that the storm made existing stability problems in the immediate area worse.

The site has been continually monitored since December.

Survey results have shown that the structure has moved significantly, and the NZ Transport Agency, which is responsible for the state highway below, has highlighted to the council the "serious risk of the observation post slumping on to Rocks Rd".

Councillors will consider giving approval for staff to start resource consent proceedings to remove the observation post as a matter of urgency. If the NZTA thinks removing it is the only option, council staff will go ahead and do so.

All the costs, expected to be around $100,000, will come from money set aside for the recovery budget for the current financial year.

The solid concrete structure is about four metres square, and is partially buried. It is the only significant structure remaining in Nelson from the war period, and is therefore listed in the Nelson Resource Management Plan as a heritage A item.

There are provisions in the Resource Management Act for emergency work to be done, but council staff have recommended preparing a resource consent application to remove the structure, to coincide with a pending engineer's report, so the work can be done without delay.

Mr Johnson said in the report that if further monitoring showed unacceptable levels of movement, the council and the NZTA would need to "move with extreme urgency" to remove the bunker without a resource consent under emergency provisions.

He said that at this stage, it seemed unlikely that the structure could be stabilised. Removal seemed the most likely solution, but it could not be removed in one piece, due to its weight and the danger of a crane working so close to an unstable cliff edge.

Mr Johnson said staff would wait for comment from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust over what it might like to do with the structure.

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