Reopening Auckland WWII tunnels dismissed by Beck's mayoral rivals

Source: 1News

Auckland mayoralty candidate Viv Beck's idea of reopening the tunnels under Albert Park has been rejected by the majority of her rivals in the upcoming election.

City Centre Master Plan 2020 artist rendition of reopening the tunnels.

The 3.5km network of tunnels was built in World War II as air raid shelters but were abandoned and sealed in 1946.

The transport proposal from the Heart of the City chief executive would turn the network's main 600-metre tunnel into a walking and cycling link between Auckland's CBD and Parnell.

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The plan is projected to cost $25 to $35 million, through both Council and central Government funding, and would enable up to 3500 daily trips between Aotea City Rail Link station and Auckland University.

But while Beck says the project would "revitalise" the city by creating "a world-class urban space,” some opposition candidates questioned the timing, while others decried the cost of the proposal.

Labour and Greens-backed councillor Efeso Collins told 1News he's supportive in principle, but other, more urgent issues are facing the city.

"As I've said on previous occasions when this has been raised as part of city centre master planning, I'm supportive in principle of opening up the tunnels under Albert Park.

"However, I don't believe this is a priority for ratepayers when we need to be focused on investing in critical transport, housing and environmental infrastructure."

Collins has said that should he be elected mayor, his council would be "completely focused on climate action" through greater housing intensification and offering free public transport fares.

Former engineer and media freelancer Craig Lord also said now was the wrong time for the project which "has been in the ideas box for many years."

"The focus must be necessities.

"I have no issue with a private entity proceeding with the task, but I can’t imagine anyone will as they would not see a return on investment."

Lord has previously suggested binning Auckland's light rail in favour of cheaper, creative alternatives like an overhead pod system.

"Once the council's finances are in order then niceties can be put on the table."

But if Collins and Lord gave Beck's idea a half-hearted thumbs down, former Far North mayor Wayne Brown slammed the $25 to $35 million tunnel proposal, calling it "another Pike River in the city".

"We should be looking at ways to save, rather than spend money."

Brown, who has run his candidacy on a platform of fiscal prudence, said he doesn't want the mayoral race turning into "a contest about daft things [other candidates] want to spend money on."

"We've got guys proposing free buses without working out how to pay for them, we've got guys offering 3 billion dollar stadiums... and now we've got tunnels without any idea how we're going to pay for it."

"What we should be looking at is the shocking increase in rates and how we're going to bring that down."

However, it wasn't all condemnation from opposition candidates.

Restaurateur Leo Molloy said the proposal "sounds like a good idea on the surface... but you'd have to look at the fine print".

"I would definitely support something in that direction... but you'd have to look at the cost, make sure it's useable, make sure it's safe, make sure it's not one of those places where people are dropping their tweeds to urinate.

"Which can happen with these sorts of things, unfortunately."

Molloy also provided a rare and charitable endorsement of Beck, saying "she's put forward some really good [transport] proposals".