Anger at 'An Accessible City' central Christchurch traffic plan

Cars queuing on Hereford St in central Christchurch.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Cars queuing on Hereford St in central Christchurch.

Central Christchurch business leaders and property owners are threatening legal action if an inner city traffic redesign is not stopped.

At a private meeting at city council headquarters on Tuesday, described by attendees as "heated" and "explosive", a who's who of central Christchurch discussed claims the An Accessible City road redesign scheme was putting the rebuild at risk.

Speakers told Mayor Lianne Dalziel, council chief executive Karleen Edwards and Otakaro chief executive Albert Brantley the work was creating unsafe roads for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists getting in and out of cars. It was blocking emergency vehicles, removing manoeuvring space for traffic, driving away customers, and scaring off tenants, they said. 

A new cycle lane on St Asaph St.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

A new cycle lane on St Asaph St.

The plan was flawed and the road works were too slow and disruptive, the business representatives said.

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The multimillion-dollar scheme is an anchor project aimed at improving the central city's traffic network. It involves narrowing traffic lanes, adding street furniture, rain gardens and traffic calming measures, creating shared spaces for cycling and walking, reducing speed limits, and removing on-street parking.

The meeting was a followup to a November meeting, where similar concerns were aired.

One-way traffic on Lichfield St.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

One-way traffic on Lichfield St.

"There was a lot of anger. They want it paused or they'll seek an injunction," one attendee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said. 

Attendees and invitees to the meeting included Ballantynes' general manager of property development Philip Richards, St John district operations manager Dion Rosario, Ben Harrow, of Armitage Construction, restaurateurs Philip Kraal and Michael Turner, Central City Business Association's Lisa Goodman and Brendan Chase, property investors Philip Carter, Stephen Collins, Tim Glasson, Antony Gough, Ben Gough, and Peter Guthrey, developers Craig Newbury, Richard Peebles, Miles Yeoman, Dean Marshall and Nick Hunt, business owners Justin Vaudrey, Angus Cockram and John Hutchinson, and real estate professionals Hamish Doig and Gary Sellars.

Collins told the meeting that together they represented "hundreds of millions of dollars" being spent in the city, and thousands of private employment contracts.

Road works on Manchester St.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Road works on Manchester St.

He described An Accessible City as a social experiment that would put retailers, hospitality operators and others out of business. If the public were put off coming into town, they would not come in to shop, eat, drink and play, he said.

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Newbury said people "with skin in the game" should be part of the decision making, not just "politicians, planners and professional directors".

The city needed "some quick wins" and interim steps to bring back vibrancy and people, he said.

Chase, who said he represented 200 businesses, said after the meeting that while some of the plan was positive, some aspects needed fixing and it was being poorly carried out.

"As an anchor project, this is different because we have to live through it – it won't just appear from behind a hoarding," he said.

"There's not enough cognisance of the effect of this on businesses trying to operate. It's very distressing for some of the smaller ones." 

Edwards said the meeting was a chance for council and Otakaro to hear about the impact of An Accessible City and the concerns of business and property owners. 

"The meeting was productive and we are now working together to address the issues that were raised," she said.

​An Accessible City is part of the Crown's Central Christchurch Recovery Plan and is being delivered by both Otakaro and the city council. It grew out out of the post-earthquake Share an Idea scheme.

 - Stuff

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