No light at end of tun­nel – for now

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JU­LIAN RAETHEL

THERE’S a spe­cial piece of his­tory buried right un­der­neath our city.

And it could also be an an­swer to some of our in­ner-city traf­fic woes.

Ad­vo­cate Bill Reid is keen to open the for­mer air raid shel­ter tun­nels be­low Al­bert Park, which he’s con­vinced would make the per­fect link be­tween Par­nell and the CBD.

But Auck­land Coun­cil is not con­vinced there is a vi­able busi­ness case for the ven­ture which it says could dam­age any his­toric ref­er­ences.

Reid be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing how to get the tun­nels re­opened in 1976. Al­most 40 years have passed and he’s still push­ing Auck­land Coun­cil to come to the party.

‘‘I used to cross the park as a third and fourth form stu­dent,’’ Reid says. ‘‘I’d come across the green domes and won­dered what they were for – some­one told me they were air ven­ti­la­tion shafts.

‘‘Due to my cu­ri­ous na­ture I went and had a look but couldn’t find any tun­nel en­trances.’’

The Al­bert Park Tun­nels were built as air raid shel­ters dur­ing World War II. It took 114 men and eight months to build an in­tri­cate 3.5km tun­nel sys­tem which could fit 22,000 peo­ple.

Thank­fully for Auck­land’s res­i­dents, they were never needed.

Once the war ended, they were deemed of lit­tle use and, to pre­vent col­lapse, were filled in with 8 mil­lion clay blocks.

Reid says the main tun­nel, which is 600m long and 4m wide, would per­fectly link the CBD with Par­nell and wants to see it turned into a tourist at­trac­tion, pos­si­bly with a tram run­ning through it and even glow worms.

In 1998 Reid also came up with a de­sign for a walk­way from the car park on Kitch­ener St to the tun­nel with des­ig­nated tourist bus park­ing.

‘‘The tun­nels will be open at some stage – they have to be,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s part of Auck­land’s his­tory, it’s right in the CBD and would be­come a great tourist at­trac­tion.’’

Reid spent al­most $10,000 in 1998 to open the en­trance of tun­nel No 6 to take a look at the blocks. The door has since been welded shut.

Reid says an in­de­pen­dent fea­si­bil­ity study es­ti­mates the tun­nel project would cost $6 mil­lion and he is now look­ing at pri­vate fund­ing al­ter­na­tives.

‘‘That is cheap for a tourist at­trac­tion,’’ Reid says. ‘‘This year 72 cruise ships will come into the har­bour for a short visit, they’ve got nowhere to go.’’

Reid has had no luck in his deal­ings with past and present coun­cils – none of which have been keen to fund the project.

Lo­cal and Sports Parks Cen­tral manager Jane Aickin says the is­sue is un­der con­stant re­view.

‘‘How­ever, based on ex­ten­sive dis­cus­sions and in­ves­ti­ga­tions, there is cur­rently no vi­able busi­ness case or ap­petite to open the tun­nels for trans­porta­tion or tourism pur­poses.’’

Aickin says the pro­posal has sig­nif­i­cant her­itage chal­lenges and it isn’t clear th­ese could be over­come.

Bill Reid, right, is on a cru­sade to re­open the Al­bert Park Tun­nels. He is stand­ing out­side the No 6 tun­nel en­try.

It took just eight months for work­ers to com­plete the project.

Some of the bricks used to seal the tun­nels.

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