Gardens tended in middle of red zone

KEITH LYNCH
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2011
red zone
WEEDING: Christchurch's City Care workers tend a garden outside Alice in Videoland in High St, inside the red zone.
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A flower show judge is welcoming the sight of workers gardening in the heart of Christchurch's devastated red zone despite the fury of some business owners.

A central business district owner snapped City Care workers tending to a small plot of council land in front of Alice in Videoland, on the corner of High St and Tuam St.

It has prompted an outcry from some business owners and the public.

However, a Christchurch flower show judge said the City Care workers should be commended for working in potentially dangerous situations.

Ellerslie International Flower Show judge Rachel Vogan said she understood the frustrations of those businesses who could not access the red zone. However, she said maintenance of the gardens which had survived the February earthquake would help the city recover and make the CBD an attractive place to be once again.

Public relations consultant David Lynch passed on the pictures to The Press.

He said the photographer, who did not want to be identified, described the whole thing as "surreal".

"He [the person who took the photos] is not critical of the chaps from City Care. They're just going about their business.

"But they're smack in the middle of the red zone, where many business owners have been unable to access since February 22."

Lynch said he was working for several red-zone property owners.

"I know they're extremely frustrated at the difficulty they have in getting access and knowing what's going on," he said.

"People have been locked out and it's business as normal as far as the tending of the garden plots are concerned.

"What were the decision-makers thinking when City Care got permission to be in there when clearly the [business] owners, the people who are vitally important for pumping the lifeline back into the main CBD, are still left bewildered and wondering?"

Lynch said business owners were shocked at City Care caring for a garden plot "that may never be appreciated by the people of Christchurch for some time to come".

Alice in Videoland owner Paul Stewart said he was aware of the gardening outside the store.

"Maybe it was necessary. Maybe it wasn't," Stewart said.

"It was quite extraordinary. I must say that."

Christchurch City Council acting transport and greenspace unit manager Kay Holder said the plants were being trimmed to reduce costs.

"In order to reduce costs when the central city is reopened, the Christchurch City Council has instructed City Care to continue minimal maintenance inside the red zone of river banks, grassed areas, shrubbed borders and paved surfaces," she said.

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"Some live plants from planter boxes in the red zone have been given to the Greening the Rubble organisation for use elsewhere in the city.

"Carrying out ongoing, minimal work means that when the central city is reopened, the council will not be faced with a large cost to tidy these areas."

City councillor Yani Johanson said he could understand why some business owners would be frustrated at a gardening team being in the red zone.

"I personally can't see the logic in this unless it costs more to break the contractual arrangements rather than do the minimal maintenance," Johanson said.

"I would've thought that there are bigger and more important priorities, like building stopbanks to prevent flooding, getting drains and roads fixed, and preparing local parks for sports and recreational activities, than to be doing a bit of gardening in the CBD."

- The Press

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