Motorists heading over the State Highway 2 Rimutaka Hill Road are being urged to take extra care and allow extra time for their journeys this weekend as they share the highway with hundreds of people participating in a World War 1 memorial re-enactment march.
Around 250 registered marchers will retrace the footsteps of 60,000 soldiers who trained at the Featherston Military Training Camp near Tauherenikau and marched in groups over the Rimutaka Hill on their way to ships heading to Europe to fight on the Western Front. The re-enactment march will take place this Sunday (September 27th) and the New Zealand Transport Agency is urging drivers to allow extra time to complete their journeys over the Rimutaka Hill Road between 3am and midday.
“The Rimutaka Hill Road is a challenging road to travel on no matter what form of transport you take,” says Mark Owen, Regional Performance Manager for the NZ Transport Agency.
“With people marching over the hill and road users needing to use it as well, there will be significant traffic management in place to ensure everyone is safe. Traffic will only be able to pass the marchers at certain points on the route. Police will be escorting traffic past the column of marchers, and their speed will be managed by the police through a pilot vehicle. The key message is slow down and take extra care.”
Mr Owen says he can’t remember any other time when the Transport Agency has given permission for people to walk on this particular part of SH2, but this is a truly special occasion.
“The 100th anniversary commemoration of New Zealand’s involvement in WWI is a historic and significant event for our country, which is why we’ve allowed access to the highway. Only those people registered for the march are eligible to participate and be allowed on the road.”
Mr Owen is asking the public to allow extra time for their journeys between 3am and midday on Sunday and to be extra careful when passing the group. Both lanes of the highway will be reopened to all traffic from midday Sunday but the Summit and Trig Track car parks will be closed until 5pm.
Participants depart from Camp Road in Featherston at 3am Sunday 27 September (clocks move forward overnight with the start of daylight saving) and will march in formation on State Highway 2 to the Featherston Cenotaph for a wreath laying ceremony. Marchers then head south on the Rimutaka Hill Road, stopping at the summit for a dedication and wreath laying ceremony (around 8am) and resume their journey down the other side to finish at Kaitoke. The marchers will then be transported to Upper Hutt where they will march through the main streets and lay a second wreath at the Upper Hutt memorial, before marching onto Messines Field at approximately 12.20pm. Here, they will be welcomed in by officials, family and members of the public.
PLEASE NOTE: It is daylight savings on Sept 27th. The marchers will assemble at Camp Road around 1.30am for a 2am departure, which automatically become 3am thanks to daylight savings.
1.30am: Marchers formation begins for 2am departure (which becomes 3am due to daylight savings.
3am: Marchers depart from Camp Road north of Featherston and march south down SH2.
3.45am: Approx arrival at Featherston Cenotaph for wreath laying. Following this group marchers up the Rimutaka Hill Road.
7.15am: Approx arrival of group at the summit of Rimutaka Hill. Unveiling, dedication and blessing of new WWI commemorative structure by officials and dignitaries. Wreath laying. Invited guests only.
Billy tea and sandwiches served for marchers.
8.20am: Parade forms up and begins descent of Rimutaka Hill.
10.20am: Approx arrival of Parade at Kaitoke after which time there is a short rest break and marchers are bussed into Upper Hutt.
11.30am: March through Upper Hutt shopping centre
11.40am: Wreath laying at the Upper Hutt Civic Centre with invited guests after which time marchers are bussed to Messines Centre.
12.20pm: Parade forms up and will march from Messines Centre along Somme Road to Messines Field for final welcome by public, family and invited guests. Following this there will be interactive military equipment displays, re-enactment demonstrations, food stalls and children’s entertainment on Messines Field. Marchers will be served lunch off-site.
For more information contact:
Media Manager – Central
NZ Transport Agency
T: 04 894 5251
M: 027 213 7617
Robert “Tweet” Bird
Event organiser for the Rimutaka Crossing 1915 – 1918 Re-enactment Group
M: 0274 439 044
F: https://www.facebook.com/rimutakacrossing(external link)