The new Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington was officially opened by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae on April 18. The Memorial Park will host the ANZAC Day service and commemoration on Saturday April 25. Richard Silcock explains the project’s construction.
THE NEW PUKEAHU National War Memorial Park, which lies over the recently completed, ‘cut and cover’ 150 metre long Arras Tunnel, (refer Contractor issues: December 2013, February 2014 and November 2014) is a memorial to the thousands of New Zealand and Australian servicemen and women who were killed in action during the First and Second World Wars and other subsequent wars. The park opening and dedication is significant as April 2015 marks the centenary of the fated Gallipoli landing in April 1915.
The park’s concept design was submitted as an entry in a design competition by Wright Athfield Landscape Architects. The design brief was for an enhanced commemorative space that incorporates the original National War Memorial complex: the Carillon which was dedicated on ANZAC Day 1932, the Hall of Remembrance (1964) and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior (2004). These are located on the slightly elevated ground that overlooks Wellington city and harbour known as Mount Cook (Puke Ahu) and regarded by Maori as wahi tupuna (sacred). It was formerly the site of a military depot, barracks and a gun site (circa 1840 – 1945).
Physical works for the $120 million memorial park and tunnel was begun in late 2012 by the Memorial Park Alliance. The Alliance was formed to design, construct and manage the ‘roll-out’ of both the tunnel and the park as a single package following an ‘accelerated consent process’ that was completed under special legislation in August 2012 (Pukeahu National War Memorial Park Empowering Act 2012).
Involved in the geotechnical, drainage, structural design, lighting design, and construction are the NZ Transport Agency, contractors Downer NZ and HEB Construction, and engineering consultants Tonkin and Taylor and URS. They have all worked together as partners in the Memorial Park Alliance, in consultation with the Wellington City Council and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which has been responsible for overseeing the cultural and commemorative aspects of the project on behalf of the government.
Under another contract Fletcher Construction is carrying out extensive seismic strengthening and refurbishment work on the Carillon and Hall of Remembrance.
Positioned in close proximity to the iconic Basin Reserve Cricket Ground to the east, the memorial park lies between Sussex Street on the south-eastern boundary, Tory Street to the north and Taranaki Street to the west. It incorporates the existing War Memorial complex in a terraced, aesthetically pleasing and extensively landscaped area of 15,000 square metres.
Within the park are garden and lawn areas and plantings of 165 iconic and symbolic pohutukawa, eucalyptus, kowhai and olive trees. The Tangata Whenua gardens and rock features, which flank the War Memorial, honour the special relationship Maori have with the site. A large basalt and granite 4000 square metre paved plaza in front of the existing Carillon, known as ANZAC Square, will act as a congregation area during ceremonies.
Also included in the park on the northern side is a commemorative Australian War Memorial. This was designed by Australian architectural firm, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer and comprises 15 vertical pillars of red sandstone featuring aboriginal art and is symbolic of Australia’s ‘red centre’. When complete it will be surrounded by eucalyptus trees to further simulate the Australian landscape. Memorials commemorating other allied nations’ service men and women will also be included over the next few years. Car parking space is being constructed along the northern boundary of the park.
An elaborate stormwater drainage system connects with the tunnel system, and drains off downhill to the north and east. ‘Rain’ gardens also help with drainage through plantings and porous membranes.
Lighting will set a new benchmark for urban park environments. Environmental and compliance manager for the Alliance, Ed Breese says the park will be illuminated by LEDs to highlight the unique features and structures of the park such as the Carillon, Australian Memorial, and rock garden.
One of the biggest challenges facing the Alliance team was to ensure the project was completed on time for ANZAC Day. With an immovable end date there was no room for any delays during design/construction and many of the team worked 75 hour weeks at the peak times of construction. Once the tunnel was completed and opened to traffic at the end of last year, the team moved onto the park development and the earthworks associated with creating the multi-level terraces, lawns and gardens.
Alliance park manager Jason Harrison said it was imperative that the team worked collaboratively and in a timely manner to bring this part of the project to fruition in time for the opening.
“Timing and logistics were a very important component of this project, as due to the long lead times we had to plan well ahead to ensure things like the mature trees and shrubbery were procured well in advance, and the planting of the lawns scheduled to ensure growth by the opening date,” said Jason. “Due to the historical nature of the site and the relevance to Maori we worked closely with them, and with the archaeologists who were interested in a number of historical findings.
“Because of the site’s location and nature of the sloping land, the design called for 10 terraces, five on each side staggered down from the plaza. These are retained by sculptured pre-cast concrete wall slabs, approximately 160 to 200 metres square, which were craned into position and then backfilled.”
Some 1520 people have been involved with the project since it began, clocking up around 680,000 man hours. All stakeholders, interested parties and immediate neighbours to the development were consulted and kept informed of the project prior to work commencing and during the various construction stages.
A pavilion, educational, administrative and hosting facilities will complete what will become known as the National War Memorial Precinct. The park and the Arras Tunnel underpass will form a key link with the Wellington Northern Corridor via the Inner City Bypass and SH1 and will be regarded as the gateway to Wellington city from the south and east.
The former Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Chris Finlayson, said last year that the completed National War Memorial Park would be a significant place for the commemoration of New Zealanders’ service and sacrifice in times of war as well as a useful space for other passive recreational uses.
The park is a fitting tribute to those who did not return from war and completes the vision originally adopted by a government appointed committee in 1920, for ‘a memorial so designed as to embody the objects and sacrifices of war and the virtues displayed therein, in such a way that it will be an education and an inspiration, not only to present but to future generations’.
Wellington Citizen’s War Memorial Cenotaph
The $2.5 million upgrade to the Wellington Citizen’s War Memorial Cenotaph, near Parliament Buildings was also recently completed by contractors L T McGuinness. The cenotaph, built in 1931 to honour soldiers killed during WW1 and WW2 is also a focal point for commemorating ANZAC Day. To ‘declutter’ space around the structure many of the shrubs and trees close to the cenotaph have been removed and a new paved forecourt around it laid to allow up to 14,000 people to attend the traditional dawn service. The marble granite stone of the structure, along with the bronze sculptures and friezes, have also been cleaned and old grouting replaced. New concrete steps now link it more directly with the grounds of Parliament. Newly installed lighting will bathe the cenotaph in light at night, and a new pathway embedded with jade discs representing the stream that once ran through the area, will be complemented by ‘sound boxes’ replicating the sound of running water.
The memorial is the responsibility of the Wellington City Council and is listed as an historic asset on the district plan and registered with Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 Historic Place.