The Government has confirmed a National War Memorial Park will be built in front of central Wellington's National War Memorial and Carillion, and include a tunnel under Buckle Street despite previous concerns it was too expensive.
Prime Minister John Key this morning announced the park would be the Government's key project to commemorate the Centenary of the World War One and the centrepiece of Anzac Day commemorations in 2015.
"The National War Memorial Park will be a significant legacy to commemorate the centenary of Anzac Day. This will be an enduring reminder to our children and their children, so they can better understand our past."
The park would combine the national memorial precinct, including the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the National War Memorial, the Hall of Memories and the National Carillion.
They are currently divided by State Highway 1 but would be brought together by undergrounding Buckle St, between Tory and Taranaki Streets.
The undergrounding of Buckle St will cost $70 - 75m and will be overseen by the transport agency.
The development of the park is estimated to cost $12m.
"It will give this country the setting it deserves to commemorate more than 300,000 New Zealanders who have served their country," Key said.
The Australian Government was also planning a memorial to Australian servicemen on the site and further memorials may be developed over time within the park space, he said.
The park will have views over Wellington Harbour.
The option of "trenching" part of State Highway 1 was previously ruled out as too expensive. A more extensive proposal known as Option X, which included a tunnel between Taranaki St and the Basin Reserve, was estimated last year at $165 million.
Wellington City Council had called for a tunnelling option and Wellington Mayor Ceila Wade-Brown was at this morning's announcement, along with Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Christopher Finlayson.
Plans for a memorial park were first unveiled by former Labour prime minister Helen Clark in 2004.
About $11 million had been allocated to the project in 2007 and $5m was spent buying the land which previously housed a petrol station and vehicle testing centre.
However, funding for the project was axed in the 2009 Budget during a line-by-line review of Government spending.
Labour this morning expressed support for the project.
Its MP for Wellington Central, Grant Robertson, said it would be a fitting tribute to returned servicemen and women and a wonderful public space.
"This precinct will become a place for people to remember and reflect on the service given by New Zealanders."
Taking the traffic out of the area was the appropriate thing to do, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News