Tun­nel vi­sion


Pas­sen­gers aboard Palmer­ston North’s cel­e­brated Es­planade Scenic Rail­way now have a new at­trac­tion to en­joy.

On Thurs­day, well-known wil­low weavers Brid­gette Mur­phy and Jim Richards from the Rangi­wahia En­vi­ron­men­tal Arts Cen­tre Trust planted a tun­nel.

The 20-me­tre long struc­ture, which strad­dles a curve in the tracks be­hind the Scenic Rail­way engine shed, is woven to­gether, Mur­phy said, ‘‘from a bunch of sticks’’, some of which were har­vested dur­ing the re­cent trust open day.

Richards said the al­ready bud­ding wil­lows will take root, leaf and send out with­ies that can be in­cor­po­rated into the liv­ing struc­ture of the tun­nel.

‘‘It’ll take a good cou­ple of years to reach fullness, but leaves should ap­pear on it in two to three weeks and the with­ies should be over a me­tre long by the end of the grow­ing sea­son,’’ Richards said.

The tun­nel could be ex­tended by sim­ply plant­ing and weav­ing more wil­low on to the end of the struc­ture, or eas­ily taken out if it didn’t work.

‘‘They wanted a door in the tun­nel,’’ Richards said. ‘‘Some­thing to do with scar­ing peo­ple on hal­loween night.’’

He said new growth could be har­vested for tun­nel ex­ten­sions and for other pro­jects, such as the an­nual Fes­ti­val of Cul­tures lan­tern pa­rade.

Scenic Rail­way grounds man­ager Ge­orge Shiels said the rail­way had been look­ing to do some­thing with the piece of back cor­ner track for some time.

‘‘A tun­nel was the one thing we didn’t have.’’

The rail­way had thought about con­struct­ing a tun­nel, but us­ing con­crete, wood or cor­ru­gated iron re­quired a build­ing per­mit, while ma­te­ri­als and con­struc­tion costs would be ex­pen­sive.

One of the op­tions had been to grow green­ery over shaped wire mesh. Jason Pilk­ing­ton, leisure as­sets man­ager at the Palmer­ston North City Coun­cil, put the rail­way in touch with the trust’s liv­ing wil­low tun­nel pro­posal.

‘‘We all liked the idea... It’s go­ing to be a real as­set,’’ Shiels said.

Pilk­ing­ton said safety, main- ten­ance and graf­fiti prob­lems with a tun­nel con­structed from more per­ma­nent ma­te­ri­als had to be con­sid­ered.

‘‘A liv­ing tun­nel meets the de­sign stan­dards we have set for the Es­planade, while al­lay­ing con­cerns about any of the neg­a­tives as­so­ci­ated with it.’’


RE­ACT’s Phil Hooper, left, Jim Richards and Brid­gette Mur­phy

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