Gondola reopening a 'victory'

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 14:39 25/03/2013
Christchurch gondola day one
Stacy Squires

LYTTELTON HARBOUR: Views worth waiting for from the top of Mt Cavendish.

Zane McKinnon
Stacy Squires
HONOURED: Former Christchurch resident Zane McKinnon was the first passenger on the reopened gondola.
Michael Esposito
Stacy Squires
DELIGHTED: Reopening the gondola is like holding the World Cup, says managing director Michael Esposito.

Gondola set to open

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When Zane McKinnon bought tickets for the gondola he never expected to be its first passenger after the quakes.

The former Christchurch man, who now lives in the UK, was offered the honour after buying the first tickets online about a month ago.

The gondola reopened at 10am today for the first time since it was forced to close two years ago due to the February earthquake.

McKinnon and his mother Sandy were at the front of the cue. "I was actually booking some other stuff when I found out the gondola would be open. I thought I need to get up there."

He was "pleasantly surprised" by the email inviting him to be the first passenger on the ride and said he felt "privileged".

"It was awesome, well worth coming back for. I couldn't have asked for more. It's a victory for Christchurch when something opens."

McKinnon, who was not in the city when the quake struck, said it was devastating seeing the damage caused first hand.

Gondola managing director Michael Esposito said the two years it had been closed "felt like five".

He compared the feeling of reopening the gondola to "Richie McCaw holding up the World Cup".

"It's a relief. We're also pretty proud to bring back an iconic Christchurch attraction."

Esposito said the top complex had been completely renovated to repair damage caused by the 60,000 litres of water when the sprinklers burst during the February earthquake.

The gondola came through the ordeal vastly unscathed, with only "minimal" damage, he said.

The $2 million cost of repairs and renovation was largely for building a new rock fall protection wall.

Annual card holder Rowena Laing, who had been "hanging out" for the gondola to reopen, said it was even better than she remembered.

"It's like going on it for the first time," she said.

The last time she was on the gondola was two days before the February 2011 quake struck.

The Lyttelton resident said the reopening was a sign of the city's recovery. "Every little thing is a step back to normal."

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