Banished travellers shelter in toilet

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 10:07 23/05/2013

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Tourists at Christchurch Airport were asked to leave the premises again last night, after the airport could not finish refurbishment work in time to allow them to stay.

The airport attracted controversy last week by closing and "clearing" its international terminal between midnight and 5am after finding up to 200 commuters were choosing to sleep there instead of booking accommodation for a night.

Tourists arriving late at night were left with nowhere to stay between midnight and 3.30am, when the departures terminal opened.

The airport said on Sunday that it would suspend its refurbishment work from Wednesday night. People who could prove they had a ticket to fly the next morning could stay overnight.

Last night, when The Press visited, tourists were still being told to leave, with some sleeping in nearby toilets to avoid the cold.

A spokeswoman said today that the airport had been unable to finish suspending the refurbishment work in time.

"We're working as fast as we can. Our guys are doing double shifts, but it's taking a while to get it to a standard where the council can sign it off as safe," she said.

"We want to get this done as fast as possible, but we also need to make it safe.

''We have glue, paint, sawdust, everything down there. The council needs to check all our fire alarm testing and safety works are complete."

She did not know how long it would take to get a council signoff but hoped it would be soon.

Once the work was on hold, tourists who could prove they were flying before 8am would be allowed to stay between midnight and 3.30am.

"They will be able to sit in a chair for a few hours. We will strictly police this only for people flying early," she said.

Over 200 people had been staying at the airport during peak periods, with some staying for several nights.

The airport did not want that to happen again, the spokeswoman said.

"Nobody is more conscious of the role we play in tourism than we are. We always let them know where cheap backpacker accommodation is, but some of these people don't want to pay for a night's accommodation," she said.

"We're not trying to be nasty or turf people out into the cold, but we have to shut the terminal sometimes to get work done."

She did not know when the airport would finish the refurbishments.

"We were doing them now because it is traditionally the quietest weeks of the year for flying. I don't know when we will do them now," she said.

The airport has also seen Christchurch residents staying the night.

The spokeswoman said that one night last week two Christchurch women arrived at 10.30pm from their homes for a 6.30am flight.

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- The Press

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