MARTIN KAY - The Dominion Post | Wednesday, 25 April 2007
Four months after Wellington's inner-city bypass opened in the face of protests, the Government has announced plans to move part of it for an $18 million war memorial park.
Prime Minister Helen Clark and Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast are promising only minor traffic disruptions along Buckle St, in front of the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
The proposed memorial park would also provide a more dignified outlook from what is supposed to be the premier shrine to the thousands of Kiwis killed in war. The present view is of an industrial zone, which included a petrol station and a vehicle testing centre, before they were closed to make way for the park.
The project will see Buckle St loop north from the Basin Reserve, rejoining the bypass just after Taranaki St. The new road will run through the park, with landscaping to reduce its impact.
The street is part of the motorway on-ramp section of the $40 million bypass, though no construction was needed to incorporate it.
Miss Clark first revealed plans for the park in 2004 - when 100,000 people turned out to see the remains of an unidentified New Zealander killed in World War I laid to rest - but had not previously revealed it involved moving the road.
She said the fact the road was not moved during construction of the bypass made no difference to the cost or likely disruption.
The Government is contributing $10.9 million toward the park - including $8 million for the roadworks - and Ms Prendergast said she would ask Wellington City Council to provide $2 million.
The Government paid $5 million last year for the land, bringing the total cost to $17.9 million. Resource consents and final plans are yet to be completed.
Miss Clark said the project brought to fruition the 1932 design for the war memorial, though pictures released by her office suggest a plaza was envisioned as early as 1930.
"For a number of years now, we've been working on a vision to try and honour what our forefathers had in mind when the National War Memorial was constructed here by way of having it in an appropriate surrounding, a serene place where we could truly honour the sacrifices of previous generations who went to war.
"Our National War Memorial got stranded by a busy road - very hard to stop - and an industrial area adjacent."
Ms Prendergast said the park would cement Wellington as the "centre of nationhood" and would be complemented by a row of trees up the middle of Taranaki St.
Though Wellington suffered major roading disruptions during the bypass construction, including protests by environmentalists, and roadworks are a common obstacle across the city, Transit chief executive Rick van Barneveld said the new route would be "seamless".
Most of the work would be done off the existing road, with the only disruption in the last few days.
The park is the latest in a series of big ticket war memorials commissioned by Miss Clark, who sees them as a device to build nationhood.
She said she hoped Australia, Britain and South Korea, where New Zealand has placed war shrines, would dedicate memorials in the park for their soldiers.
Wellington regional road transport association area manager Mike Dennehy said he was aware of the plans to move the road, and did not expect any big problems.
The only concern was the closure of the truck-testing station in Tory St, meaning the nearest facilities were in Seaview or Porirua.
Those must be the apartments replacing the former Forest & Bird building that WellUrban briefly mentioned. Obviously slipped thru before the new urban design guidelines were set (if they are already set).
# Lambton Quay Upgrade Making Lambton Quay easier and more comfortable to walk, creating new spaces for rest and giving the street a more elegant look.
The design for this project involves several improvements to Lambton Quay, including:
* extending kerbs and footpath areas
* relocating and reorganising taxi stands and parking in adjacent side streets
* installing consistent street paving
* providing new trees and street furniture
* providing pedestrian crossings raised to footpath level
* upgrading Farmers Lane and Masons Lane
* lowering the speed limit to 30km/hr.
# West Courtenay Park A new park on the corner of Courtenay Place and Taranaki Street
The project will see the roadway removed and a unified high quality pedestrian space created.
The main elements of the design are:
* a strong defining edge along Courtenay Place using groves of trees, light boxes, and street furniture
* creating a large flexible communal space
* integrating the park with any future development of the heritage men's toilets.
It's not far down the road from where I work, too. If work can also be done on the triangle area between the Duxton and the Watermark, that would be good as well, if only to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. Hopefully the future occupants will raise the issue.
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