Ad­vo­cate calls to re­open tun­nels

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES PASLEY

Auck­land’s next big tourist at­trac- tion might be stag­nat­ing un­der the city at this very mo­ment.

Be­neath Al­bert Park in the Auck­land CBD 3.5 kilo­me­tres of air raid tun­nels have been sit­ting unused since they were closed off af­ter World War II.

Bill Reid, 77, is cam­paign­ing for them to be re­opened and used as a tourist at­trac­tion with sep­a­rate tun­nels for glow worms, black wa­ter raft­ing, a Maori Bat­tal­ion mu­seum and a chapel.

The tun­nels, which were built in 1942, could also pro­vide a di­rect link for walk­ers and cy­clists be­tween Vic­to­ria St in the cen­tral city and Par­nell.

The tun­nels were built to house up to 22,000 peo­ple in case Auck­land was bombed dur­ing the war.

In De­cem­ber 2016 Reid met with Auck­land Tourism, Events and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment (ATEED) and has fur­ther meet­ings sched­uled in the com­ing weeks.

ATEED’s spokesman Steve Ar­mitage said open­ing the tun­nels was an in­ter­est­ing con- cept.

How­ever he said the idea was very much in its in­fancy and more work would need to be done to as­sess its fea­si­bil­ity.

‘‘At face value the idea aligns with the goal of de­vel­op­ing new at­trac­tions that en­cour­age vis­i­tors to our re­gion to stay longer and spend more.’’

Ar­mitage said ATEED would not be re­spon­si­ble for fund­ing the tun­nels.

With the up­com­ing meet­ings Reid was hope­ful 2017 would be the year the tun­nels fi­nally re­open.

‘‘Th­ese tun­nels are an ab­so­lute as­set to Auck­land,’’ Reid said.

Reid said in 2013 con­trac­tors Mc­Connell Dow­ell es­ti­mated it would cost $6 mil­lion for the main tunnel to be cleared.

Ad­just­ing for in­fla­tion Reid es­ti­mates it would now cost $8m to set up a con­struc­tion site, re­move 8.5 mil­lion red clay blocks, line the tunnel, set up light­ing and ven­ti­la­tion and to seal the floor.

‘‘It only took 8 months with 114 men to build the orig­i­nal tun­nels,’’ he said.

Reid said he didn’t know why it had taken so long to re­open them.

‘‘I don’t know why it hasn’t hap­pened, it should hap­pen and it will hap­pen.’’

And if it doesn’t hap­pen this year, or even in Reid’s life­time, then he said his 35-year-old son Wil­liam will carry his mis­sion on.

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