The NZ Transport Agency says the first stage of the operation to shift the Rob Roy Hotel - one of Auckland's oldest pubs - back to its original sight opposite Victoria Park west of the city's CBD has been completed successfully.
The 125 year old hotel has been "pulled" 24 metres by a series of hydraulic jacks attached to the concrete apron at the base of the brick building. The move will be completed tomorrow when the jacks will push the hotel the final 20 metres of its 44 metre-long journey. .
"The hotel is having a smooth ride back home, and it's been well looked after by our partners on the Victoria Park Tunnel project and the contractors responsible for the move," says the NZTA's State Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker.
The shift began just after 9am when the hydraulic jacks "pulled" the hotel the first 1.8 metres along a series of concrete runway beams. When its journey is completed, the hotel will be on the exact site where it was originally built, except that now the location is on top of the southern portal to the new Victoria Park Tunnel. The return is a straight reversal of the move that was required last year to shift the hotel away from the tunnel construction site.
The hotel's double move is costing around $2.5m. The cost of the Victoria Park Tunnel project is $340m.
When the first stage of the move was completed mid-afternoon, work began to reposition the hydraulic jacking sledges to the rear of the building so that they can be used to push the building for the final leg of its journey.
Adam Thornton, the director of Dunning Thornton the consultants responsible for designing the move, says the Christchurch earthquake provides an added incentive to preserve the Rob Roy. .
"So many old buildings of a similar age were lost forever at Christchurch, so saving the pub which is an important part of Auckland's as well as New Zealand's heritage, is more critical than ever," Mr Thornton says.
The NZTA will continue to own the building, which will be refurbished as part of a plaza development around the brick building. The NZTA will next week call for expressions of interest for a hospitality-type business on the ground floor.
"The Rob Roy has served Aucklanders for 125 years, and we hope that it can start a new life back in its old spot being a focal point again for the community for at least another 125 years," says Mr Parker.
The Victoria Park Tunnel project is the first of the Government's seven roads of national significance (RoNS), to start construction. It will support economic growth by reducing congestion, improving safety and journey times, and increasing the capacity of State Highway 1 between the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Newmarket, one of the country's busiest freight and business routes.
Last week, the NZTA announced that drivers can start using the 450 metre-long tunnel built for northbound traffic this November, three months earlier than planned. The entire project, including the widening of SH1 through St Marys Bay and the reconfiguration of the existing Victoria Park viaduct to carry four southbound lanes of traffic, is due to be completed next March, two months ahead of schedule.