Albert Park Tunnels

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Albert Park air raid shelters

World War II era air raid shelters constructed under central Auckland City

Contents

Summary

Albert Park is situated on the remains of Ranipuke, a volcanic cone overlooking the centre of the city. It covers approximately half of the area formerly defined by the walls of Albert Barracks, which is recorded as archaeological site R11/*33 on the New Zealand Archaeological Association's Site Record File. Prior to the construction of the Barracks, little is known of the area. There is no indication that it was one of Auckland's pa sites, although it is a short distance from Te Reuroa ('the long outer palisade'), a pa where the High Court now stands. It is also on the ridge, which runs down to the former Point Britomart, where a pa known as Tangihanga Pukeaa ('the sound of the war Trumpet') was recorded.

The Tunnels are situated under the park itself, but not exclusively. This has the potential to cause long term issues. The tunnels were filled in after the war and have been sealed ever since, although periodically people are able to break into the tunnels.

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History

The earliest piece of legislation that affects the tunnels was brought about by the withdrawal of the military barracks from Albert Park, with the 1872 ‘Auckland Improvement Trust Act’ where the park and the land within it were classified as ‘unalienable’, meaning that no part of the park may be separated from the rest of the park – and potentially sold to a private individual or organisation.

With the entry of Japan into the Second World War, the Auckland City Council panicked and set about constructing an air-raid shelter system of tunnels to shelter civilians in the city in the event that the Japanese came.

1946 saw the completion of the tunnels, but due to the end of the war the year before, the tunnels were no longer of any use and the wood was removed from the tunnels which were filled with unfired clay tiles and sealed. However, some people have managed in recent years to break into the tunnels and some of the clay tiles are still wet enough to be turned into pottery. Unofficially, it is thought that the clay from the Panmure basin as the clay used in the pottery was very similar to clay taken from the basin.
Negative image of engineering blueprints overlaid Google Maps image of Albert Park and Auckland University

Modern Developments

Although the tunnels have never been open to the public and have been sealed in excess of six decades, the tunnels have not failed to capture the imagination of the public.

Dr. Garry Tonks, a Senior Lecturer in Architecture in the School of Planning and Architecture at the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, a faculty at the University of Auckland and a team of students proposed the opening of some of the tunnels as underground transport corridors. However, very little became of this idea and the proposal died with the late Dr. Tonks.

Also, a business man who proposed the opening of the tunnels with a commercial purpose including shops and a black water rafting experience.

Neither of these have progressed to any state and have not been granted Resource Consent, which means that any information regarding these plans are stricly confidential and may not be disclosed until sometime in the future.

Publications

Reports

Management Plan at Auckland City Council - Appendix 2 summarising the history

Pilkington, Scott 2007: 'Investigation into Heritage Management - Albert Park Air Raid Shelters Case Study', Unpublished report prepared for University of Auckland


Published Papers

Pilkington, Scott 2008: Heritage values of the Albert Park air raid shelters. Archaeology in New Zealand 51(2):106-117.