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Few would know that a secret series of tunnels lie beneath the earth under Albert park.
The tunnels were originally planned by Auckland City council and began construction in 1941 during World War 2 with the purpose of providing shelter from any possible air raid attacks. Engineer James Tyler designed the tunnels and structure. Once completed the underground structure was capable of sheltering more than 20,000 civilians.
When World War 2 eventually passed, the extensive tunnels – stretching over 3.4km were never actually utilised and as the following years went by they were more or less forgotten by the public. Due to type of timber beams used in the construction, years of abandonment and no up-keep, the foundation of the tunnels began to rot. The Council arranged for a large portion of the tunnels and former entrances to be filled up and blocked with bricks and material to prevent collapse. This closure of the tunnels was completed in 1946.
Over the last decade, a number of individuals and groups have wanted to get access and reopen the tunnels - all without success. But this year another plan for re-opening the tunnels has been proposed and is even backed by some members of Auckland Council.
The directors of the new plan known as ‘The Underline’ are Bill Reid; an advocate for the tunnels and Nick Andreef; CEO of Waitomo Adventures Ltd (Waitomo Caves tourism). Together they plan to develop Auckland’s underground tunnels into a transport and tourism hotspot whilst also utilising the space as a walkway, which links to Auckland Universities. The creators of ‘The Underline’ project have made the full concept and plan available to the public and you can also see their posts and plan with the public via their Facebook page.
Considering the ever growing population in Auckland City, usage of the tunnels could help ease the road/pathway congestion, as well as provide the increasing number of students with an alternative way to access university campuses. To achieve this, the underline project plans to re-open the main section of the underground tunnel that stretches from Victoria Street to Beach Rd. By building two sets of large elevators between the tunnel and Princes Street and Symonds St, the structures would then be able to operate as a pedestrian and cycle way. This would then connect the congested areas of the CBD, Parnell and university campuses.
Re-opening Auckland’s underground tunnels would be a costly project. From the estimate prepared by tunnelling experts, clearing of the tunnels would cost around $6 million alone. A total cost of the project was estimated to be about $17 to $19 million.
The next phase of making 'The Underline' a reality would be a discussion with interested parties to determine the best funding option plus operating and ownership model. With backing from certain members of Auckland City council and years of perseverance by the creators, ‘The Underline’ seems to be the most tangible plan that could see this forgotten entity come back to life.
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