Following on from the last post we made, an April Fool’s gag that seems to have genuinely fooled some of our less discriminating readers, it’s with no great surprise that we hear of the demise / further delay of “Memorial Park”. It was the other potential target for our 1 April prank – where we were set to announce that the Park was to go ahead – but even we didn’t think that anyone was likely to be seriously taken in by that story. As the weeds grow thick and fast on the former building verge, and the hurricane wire fencing sits slowly gathering detritus, it has looked increasingly unlikely that it would ever get a go-ahead.
As a pet project of the former Labour government’s Minister for Culture and Heritage, it was always going to get a hard road (no pun intended) from the incoming National team. As a project to honour and respect the war dead from NZ’s and other countries, it was fatally flawed, and as a piece of inner-city roading repair, it was a dog of an idea from the very start. While there are some parts of it that have merit, overall it was a disaster, and we here at Eye of the Fish believe that Wellington, and our national War Heroes, deserve better.

Over a year or two ago, the Ministry for Culture held a competition to look at what the park could be – and we think that now that the project has been ‘delayed’ yet again “till past the May funding date”, the Ministry should have the guts to at least publish the results of the former competition and say: “Look, here is what we could have had.” As someone interested in Architecture and Urban Design, I’m absolutely dying to find out what schemes were proposed, and my tiny flippers are flapping with excitement at the thought of what juicy ideas the assorted architects might have come up with. I’m especially keen to find out what the end result was – what final scheme or schemes were on the cards, before the final shelving. Were there any good ideas for Memorials, or were they all just glorified roading schemes? Come on Mini-Cult, you owe us at least this much!
The route of the current road runs along Buckle St, which sails past the old Police station and the base of the existing War Memorial. Behind the Memorial and the Carillon sits the former Museum, built on the site of the former Mount Cook gaol, and now as we all know, the home of Wellington’s bleeding stump of Massey University. The Museum’s conversion into Massey was never a great success – I remember the review in the local Architecture magazine gave it an absolute raspberry, and deservedly so, but the access up the hill to Massey was as deserving of a black mark as was the appallingly bland conversion inside. The current road past just brutally cuts off the base of the access to the Museum as well as treating the National War Memorial with as much gravitas as if it was an electrical substation on the side of a motorway.
Clark’s push for the road to be re-routed was a good thing – Mini-Cult’s gradual buying up of low quality sheds and caryards along the Memorial Park route allowed the potential for the road to be pulled away from the base of the hill, and a more fitting stretch of verge to be planned. The land sits there still, waiting for action, enclosed in rented steel wire mesh fences, as if it were an historic jewel about to be stolen. We have no idea what they think people may be about to steal. On offer on the enclosed sites are such gems of detritus such as used asphalt (2 hectares), redundant concrete slabs (1 hectare), and weeds in a gravel compote (3 hectares). Come on Mini-Cult people, get your act together. Yes, we know that one day the road will be moved, when the issues of killing off local school children with exhaust emissions has been solved. Yes, we know that in theory there may be untold treasures such as bits of broken bottles and ex-convict bricks lying beneath the tarmac, but there is a very simple and low cost solution that should be taken immediately to return this land to the People: dig up the asphalt, take down the fences, and sow grass along the whole shebang. No landscaping, no fancy anything, no re-routing the road at present, just grass and no fences.
We’ll cover off in another post What Should Be Done with the land at a later stage. But for now it should just be taken up (asphalt) and taken down (fence). It wouldn’t take long. It’s the sort of project that Boy Scout troops and Rotary clubs do all the time, for weekend working bees, and really: it wouldn’t take long nor cost much. Just Do It.