Am I the only one who thinks it's great news that the designers of the proposed new $4.6 million World War I memorial in front of Auckland's existing War Memorial Museum to end all war memorials, have thrown their drawing boards into the air in frustration and stormed back home to the capital.

Strangely, Mayor Phil Goff has now joined in the tantrum, turning his mayoral Vickers machine gun onto senior councillor Mike Lee, who has been trying to oversee the project. If I were Goff, I'd be delighted this stalemate gives me the chance to ditch the whole inappropriate enterprise.

If he does feel the need for a new memorial, then instead of the proposed huge new "contemplation circle" dug into the expansive grassed terrace in front of the museum, why not recreate the wooden camp erected there for American troops during World War II and house Auckland's homeless?

The WWI propaganda was all about creating a land fit for heroes. How better to honour that pledge than providing emergency housing in a wonderful park, with sweeping views across to Rangitoto.


I've never bought into the WWI centennial industry. When the five finalists for the new memorial were unveiled 18 months ago, the best I could say was the proposed $3m budget was at least more modest that the obscene $120m of taxpayer cash wasted on expanding the national war memorial in Wellington.

A century ago, Auckland's grieving citizens honoured their fallen by erecting a magnificent neo-classical complex combining a much needed museum, with a replica of the famous cenotaph designed by Sir Edwin Luytens for London's Whitehall.

As a war memorial, it surely ranks amongst the finest in the world.

James Tyler, Auckland city engineer around the time, was more modest.

In a report to councillors in February 1932, he referred to the war memorial museum as "an edifice which ranks among the noblest in the Dominion".

All of which begs the question, if so, why are we repeating the process, a century on?

This was the quandary facing the old Auckland City's WWI Centenary Memorial Working Party, set up about five years ago.

Chairman Mike Lee wrote later they were looking for "something modest and functional" that would be "of practical use to everyday visitors to Auckland Domain", and that would "seamlessly integrate" with the existing Court of Honour and Cenotaph.

They decided to follow the recommendation Tyler had made to council back in 1932.

While praising the memorial's position "on the highest point of the Domain" he said "the approaches are unworthy of such a monument, the only access available being from the sides and the rear".

His solution was "a broad dignified walk ... flanked by suitable trees" from Domain Drive, up and across what is now the grassed open space, to the Court of Honour, with the Cenotaph in line of sight. The slope, he said, made it too steep for vehicular access.

Eighty years later, Lee's committee finally heeded his call. Unfortunately they went a bit further and invited applicants to design a "processional way", with "a new commemorative/contemplative feature" at the bottom of the slope.

Of course, landscape designers being landscape designers, they couldn't help themselves and leapt at the chance of grandiosity.

When the designs were released, I bemoaned how the entrants had all abandoned the "less is more" approach this project cried out for.

They all hollered "look at me," drawing attention away from the existing memorial.

Following a meeting of the Domain Committee on April 12, Lee sent the mayor a three page briefing on the stalemate. It says that despite much prodding throughout 2016, the winning team had refused to incorporate the "central axis" pathway up from the Domain Drive that Tyler recommended in 1932 and which was included as part of the competition design brief.

The mayor was told the committee had resolved to dump the Wellingtonians, bring the project in-house and build a simple central axis pathway on a reduced budget of $1.4m.

Personally, I'd be delighted if we just left well alone. But if the council is set on adding to the memorial, the committee's modest in-house proposal seems like an outbreak of commonsense.