8 Aug 2012

Plans unveiled for National War Memorial Park

12:07 pm on 8 August 2012

The Government has unveiled plans for a National War Memorial Park in Wellington incorporating the current National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

These are adjacent to State Highway 1 but the park will be built across the top of that stretch of the highway, which runs along Buckle St from the Basin Reserve.

The park is expected to cost $12 million - $2.1 million of which is coming from the Wellington City Council - while putting the road underground will cost about $70 million.

Prime Minister John Key says the park will be a significant legacy to commemorate the centenary of Anzac Day in 2015.

He says the Government rejected a "watered-down version" of the project costing around $15 million: "My own view," he says, "was that this is a very special place for New Zealanders and if you're going to do it, do it properly, do it once and for the long haul."

Labour will work with Government

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson says the park will provide an opportunity to recognise military conflicts not recognised in national memorials in this country, such as New Zealand's ongoing role in peacekeeping.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says that undergrounding the road will unite the precinct, increase the accessibility of the National War Memorial and limit the effects of traffic on visitors as they contemplate their history.

The Labour MP for Wellington Central, Grant Robertson, says it is great the project is finally coming to fruition, eight years after it was first touted.

Mr Robertson says that although progress in planning the park has been frustratingly slow, Labour will work with the Government to ensure it is completed on time.

The Green Party supports the park but MP Gareth Hughes says the process is questionable.

"Given this project's been on the cards since 2004, and the National Government scrapped it entirely in 2009, we think it's disturbing they've left it to the last minute and now they have to ram it through with legislation."

Trenching of road a 'victory' for nearby school

The announcement comes after five years' consultation with nearby Mount Cook School, residents' groups, the city council and the Returned Services Association.

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown says she's pleased the country will have an appropriate memorial to remember its fallen soldiers. She says she has attended Anzac Day celebrations at the site and the proposed park is a much-needed improvement.

Mount Cook School principal Sandra McCallum says the announcement is a victory for the school and local community, who have spent more than five years fighting to have the section of highway trenched.

Ms McCallum says the campaign, while exhausting, has been worth it.

Legislation will be introduced to Parliament shortly to ensure the park is ready for the 2015 Anzac commemorations and construction will start in October. Work on undergrounding the relevant section of Buckle Street will begin early next year.