Hospital fears traffic impact of Hagley Oval

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 15:54 12/06/2013
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Access to Christchurch Hospital could turn into a "quagmire" if traffic management is not addressed, Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates says.

Meates gave evidence today at the Environment Court hearing into Canterbury Cricket's submission to build an international cricket oval in Hagley Park.

He said more than 230 people visited the hospital's emergency department each day.

About 71 patients were rushed to hospital by ambulance, and drivers were hampered by congestion around Hagley Park.

People in critical condition being driven in private vehicles often had to wait in queues, he said.

''Traffic has been an issue around that site and location for many years,'' Meates said.

''We do have significantly strained car parking and access.

"Timeliness of access to critical treatment is fundamental for outcomes to critically injured people.''

People trying to park near the hospital were also hampered by a lack of accessible parking.

Meates said the hospital was down 500 parking spaces since the earthquakes because a parking facility in Antigua St was damaged.

The board had had to employ security guards to monitor the available car parks and frequently fielded complaints from people trying to access car parking in the vicinity.

''The Christchurch District Health Board's formal view is that we neither support nor oppose [the development],'' he said.

''But we are highlighting some significant issues and challenge that, as the major tertiary health provider in the South Island and a significant employer of health services, assure that appropriate traffic process had been worked through ... and ensure there is going to be no compromise to the provision of health.''

Ruth Spearing, representing the medical staff association, said ''we see the human side of when people can't get parks.

''We see the distress and it is real distress,'' she said.

In her submission, Spearing said staff  ''often have to comfort people, many of whom are elderly, who have had to walk an inappropriate distance from where they can find a park''.

''Recent examples have included patients with cancers, relatives of patients who are in intensive care, people attending the neurosurgical unit and parents with babies in the neonatal unit,'' she said.

She said nurses would often arrive at 6.15am for a 7am shift because it was so difficult to find a park.

Earlier, former traffic engineer Lindsay Eagle said the development could hurt access for patients, staff and visitors to Christchurch Hospital.

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He said the Hagley Oval site was "fundamentally unsuitable" for traffic of the proposed project.

Maintaining traffic flow on Riccarton and Hagley avenues was critical to the preservation of access for all hospital traffic, he said.

Number of seats disputed

The proposed Hagley Oval upgrade may not be able to fit 12,000 people as originally claimed, a group says.

Architect Trevor Watt, who appeared for Canterbury Cricket, will be recalled to the Environment Court after the new evidence emerged in Martin Meehan's submission.

Canterbury Cricket has filed a resource consent application to develop Hagley Oval.

Meehan, the chairman of Hands off Hagley, said only 7560 people would be able to sit on the embankments.

However, Watt had previously told the court that 12,000 could sit on the embankments without installing temporary seating on top.

Meehan said he calculated the smaller figure by using Watt's guide of 80cmsq per spectator. He took further numbers out by allowing for clearways and for technical equipment like screens and video cameras.

Judge Jane Borthwick told the court it was unfair to allow Meehan's evidence without recalling Watt.

"If the embankment cannot fit 12,000 people, this is important,'' she said.

Meehan said the public could be excluded up to 90 days a year from Hagley Park if the development went ahead.

He based the calculation on two test matches being played each year, taking a total of 22 days to pack in and pack out the temporary stands.

Four one-day internationals and Twenty20 games could be played, taking a total of 32 days to pack in and pack out.

Six domestic and Twenty20 games would swallow 36 days.

"The figures allow for one reserve day for the one-day games,'' he said.

"So if none are needed for this, the number of days reduces to 80 days. This is still well above the claim that the public will only be excluded for 12 to 20 days.''

Judge Borthwick asked Canterbury Cricket lawyer Pru Steven about the timing of the packing in and packing out and whether the site would have to be secured and unavailable to the public during those times.

"That, I think, is an important issue,'' she said.

Steven agreed that it should be put to the association.

Meehan also noted that the toilets at the proposed venue left children vulnerable.

People wanting to use the toilets must leave the oval and go around the back of the pavilion, where the toilets open on to a public car park.

"In 2007, whilst I was president of the St Albans-Shirley football club, an incident occurred at St Albans park in which a young 9-year-old boy was sexually assaulted in the toilets in the park,'' he said.

"These toilets were in plain view of over 100 children, who were there practising and up to 40 parents.

"If it could happen in an open, supervised situation such as this, how much more likely is this sort of thing to occur in an isolated toilet block with no clear sight lines to supervising adults?''

Resident questions relationship

A Christchurch resident has questioned the relationship between the Christchurch City Council and Canterbury Cricket.

Robert Sherlock, who moved to Christchurch from Hamilton in 2000, addressed the Environment Court today to oppose the proposal for an international cricket oval in Hagley Park.

Sherlock believed the city council was biased and urged Judge Borthwick and commissioners Anne Leijnen and David Bunting to be ''fully aware'' when evaluating council evidence.

"Regrettably, I need to put it on the record that I am very disappointed in the role that appears to have been played by some Christchurch City Council staff in aspects of this case,'' he said.

He noted that former mayor Garry Moore told the court this week that ''a well-connected group has leant on a weak council and administration to impose their sport ... on the special place called Hagley Park".

"I realise that it is probably not the role of this court to address such issues,'' Sherlock said.

"I do consider it appropriate that the court should be fully aware of them when evaluating city council evidence.''

Sherlock submitted that Canterbury Cricket could find a ''perfectly viable'' alternative site, and called for the application to be dismissed.

"If the court does not feel able to do that, I fervently hope that at least the massively intrusive lighting will be denied and that the remainder of the project is scaled down ... so that some aspects of the village green character might be retained," he said.
 
THE PROPOSAL

Canterbury Cricket's resource consent application seeks permission to:

  • Create a 2.5-metre-high embankment around Hagley Oval for 12,000 spectators.
  • Build a two-storey pavilion incorporating 440 covered seats.
  • Install four lighting towers that will stand 48.9m tall when in operation.
  • Install temporary stands, scaffolding and fencing for large fixtures.
  • Temporarily use 6 hectares to the west of the oval, off Deans Ave, for parking during major fixtures.

- The Press

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