City's playground lost
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
As the final zoning decisions are announced for the Port Hills, The Press examines how demolition workers will be kept safe in the hillside suburbs, how Christchurch has lost a playground and how tumbling boulders reached speeds of nearly 100 kilometres an hour in the February earthquake.
The hills aren't alive with the sound of movement.
Christchurch's Port Hills were once full with the whir of mountain bikers, the strained breathing of rock-climbers reaching for the nearest handhold, and the soft murmuring of walkers enjoying a stroll through one of many tracks in the area.
However, the city's earthquakes have put many of the Port Hills recreation areas out of action.
More than half of the 46 walkways are off-limits while engineers assess and remove dangerous rocks, while several reserves are also inaccessible due to rockfall issues.
The Summit Road Society, which maintains the rugged Ohinetahi Bush Reserve, said the walkway and reserve closures had had a ''fairly massive'' impact on the city's residents.
Society secretary John Goodrich said the tracks and reserves were popular not just with locals, but with people throughout Christchurch.
''It was a destination for people: they'd come here just to go walking and use the tracks.''
Goodrich said the society was working with the council to reopen the Ohinetahi reserve, but did not know how long it would take for some badly damaged areas to reopen.
Christchurch rock-climbers have also suffered as a result of the quakes.
The New Zealand Alpine Club's Canterbury-Westland chairman, Clayton Garbes, said the Port Hills had been the closest place for Christchurch climbers to use and provided a beautiful view of the city.
''You can be up on the likes of Rapaki Rock, overlooking Lyttelton Harbour, and it's just stunning.''
Garbes said all but one of the crags were currently closed, limiting choices for keen climbers.
''It's quite frustrating: you either have to climb inside, or you've got the choice of one crag only.''
Garbes said the club's general manager was working with officials to try to open more of the crags in time for summer.
Mountain bikers also have fewer options, with five of 24 tracks in the hills closed due to quake issues.
Canterbury Mountain Bike Club president Michael Allison said the earthquakes meant riders were more cautious than usual when riding in the area.
''You'd still ride it by yourself, but when it comes time to do an actual club ride, we'd stay out of there, because if something goes wrong in an enclosed area, it wouldn't be looking good.''
Christchurch City Council regional parks team leader Kay Holder said officials were working hard to open as many tracks as possible, and were also monitoring areas which had been reopened.
Holder said the council was focussing on popular tracks with the least damage, such as those in the Rapaki and Bowenvale areas.
The council was unable to put a timeframe on when tracks would be opened, due to the complexity of assessing rockfall issues.
''It's tricky: until we've had a good look with the geotech engineers, we don't know the scope of work that needs to be done,'' she said.
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- © Fairfax NZ News
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