Christchurch residents flee

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 09:50 19/03/2011
Clara Sweetman
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/The Press
PACKING UP: Clara Sweetman fills a suitcase in preparation for a trip out of Christchurch.

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Tens of thousands of people attended the memorial service in Hagley Park yesterday, but thousands more were making the most of the long weekend by leaving Christchurch.

Cantabrians were given an extended break after Prime Minister John Key declared a one-off provincial holiday for the earthquake memorial service yesterday.

Holiday spots such as Hanmer Springs and Geraldine were nearly booked out.

Some of those leaving told accommodation providers they wanted a break from quake-damaged Christchurch, but others wanted to be out of the city tomorrow because of controversial predictions by "Moon Man" Ken Ring of another big quake.

Go Geraldine co-ordinator Rachel Harper said most accommodation in the town was booked for the weekend.

"There are a lot of families coming and quite a lot seem to be getting out of Christchurch for Sunday, March 20," she said.

"People aren't necessarily scared, but they're thinking `better safe than sorry'."

Geraldine Farmyard Holiday Park manager Kerrie Biggs had turned away about 60 families wanting cabins.

"People just want to be safe and they're a bit concerned about some of the predictions. They're very scared about what's going to happen," she said.

Hanmer Springs Mountain View Top 10 Holiday Park assistant manager Margaret Godsiff said the camping ground had been "inundated" with bookings.

"They were saying they were wanting to come away for the predicted earthquake, plus the public holiday," she said.

Halswell resident Chris Leigh was heading to Geraldine with his wife and three children, and will return on Tuesday.

He said the long weekend and the quake predictions were behind the trip.

"It's a bit of both. We've heard about Ken Ring and we're the first to hold our hands up and say we hope he's wrong, but we're better safe than sorry," he said.

"So we thought we'd get a break from the shakes and get the children out for a few days."

Kay Heald, of Shirley, was travelling to Twizel with her husband and daughter to stay with friends.

"I think the Moon Man has frightened me, and it's a good opportunity to just get out of town," she said.

"I'd like him to be wrong, but if he's right, I'd rather not be here."

Tourism representatives in Akaroa and Kaikoura said their towns had been busier than usual since the quake, but there was no increase in demand for accommodation this weekend.

Air New Zealand reported high demand for flights out of Christchurch from Thursday.

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"We are very full," a spokeswoman said. "But we have been full every weekend since the February earthquake."

- The Press

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