Christchurch Adventure Park changes answers on burning chairlift
The Christchurch Adventure Park has given different accounts of why it kept a chairlift running during the Port Hills fire.
Video footage showing the park's burning chairlift apparently starting new fires as it moves through scrub and forest has emerged this week thanks to the efforts of Worsley Spur resident Kieran Grace, whose family lost their house in the February fire.
Grace links the fires started by the chairlift on February 15 with the destruction of his home and others about 5pm that day when easterly winds pushed the fire up a fence line and into a garage at his property.
The fire at the Adventure Park resulted from a suspicious fire that started two days earlier at Marleys Hill, near the Sign of the Kiwi, spreading.
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Adventure Park communications advisor Anne Newman told Grace by email in June that the park kept the chairlift running to limit damage to the haul rope.
"We kept the chair running on a low speed throughout the fire and turned this off on Friday 17th February. The fire crew were not involved with this in any way, this was purely a Christchurch Adventure Park operation.
"None of our staff were allowed at the top of the park from Tuesday onwards due to the risk," the email said.
However this week Newman upped the ante by saying operating the chairlift during fire events was standard operating procedure as "failure of the haul rope would be catastrophic putting lives at risk".
"Health and Safety is always at the heart of what we do and this event was no exception."
Newman did not respond to questions asking her to explain the different answers or how stopping the chairlift would have endangered lives.
Neither did she provide the relevant standard operations document as asked.
"The cause of the fires is currently under investigation by the fire authorities and we await their findings.
"We have worked closely with the authorities throughout the fires and in the months subsequently. While it is under investigation we will not be speculating on events." she said.
Grace said the different answers were puzzling.
"The Adventure Park initially said the chair lift was left running to limit damage to the haul line, now however they say it was a health and safety issue. This is interesting given the Adventure Park was evacuated the first day of the fire and no one would have been in the park in the days following."
"We have heard the Adventure Park will be reopening this summer which is great, but what procedures have been put in place to stop this happening again and more people losing their homes," he said.
Police and Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) investigations into the fires – which burned through 1645 hectares and destroyed or damaged 11 homes – are continuing.
Detective Inspector Greg Murton earlier said the investigation was "very complex" but "well advanced", and police wanted to hear from anyone who had information about the fires and had not spoken to them yet.
FENZ director Leigh Deuchars said the investigation into the second fire, in Early Valley, was expected to take "at least a couple of months".