Rockfall protection plan canned

22:58, Jul 17 2014
Phil Elmey
BEATEN BUT NOT BOWED: Phil Elmey in November 2011 alongside the wall he built to protect his red-stickered Sumner property from rockfall.

The Christchurch City Council has abandoned the idea of providing area-wide rockfall protection on the Port Hills.

After months of indecision, councillors have accepted the view of council staff that such work is not financially viable.

The decision is a blow to Port Hills red-zoners who have been pushing for area-wide mitigation in the hope it could allow them to stay in their homes.

Phil Elmey, who has made repeated deputations to the council over the last year pleading for area-wide mitigation, said it had been "a death by a thousand cuts".

"I think it is disappointing but for those of us who want to stay, it is an insignificant defeat. We will get there on an individual basis even if that requires houses side-by-side to have their own rockfall protection," Elmey said.

He was determined to stay in his house. He believed about 50 to 100 others felt the same way.


The council has been considering the feasibility of area-wide mitigation since the end of last year. In May, councillors received a report that said the small number of properties which would benefit, coupled with the high costs, made it an "unattractive and largely unaffordable" option.

Elmey and other Port Hills red-zoners claimed that report was flawed and councillors decided they needed more information before they accepted the recommendation to not pursue area-wide mitigation any further.

A second report on the issue was provided to councillors last month. It said while there were five areas where area-wide mitigation was technically feasible, none of them met the minimum threshold to establish financial viability.

However, councillors again decided to defer making a decision despite warnings from mayor Lianne Dalziel that dragging the issue out was unfair to the affected homeowners.

Yesterday, councillors decided to call it quits.

"It is time we stop the area-wide mitigation policy and continue to work with individuals who want individual rock protection structures and hope that, in that context, we can help those who want to remain in their homes," said Dalziel, adding that the council's hands had been tied by a series of decisions made by the Crown.

Cr Andrew Turner said a couple of years ago area-wide mitigation might have been a feasible option, but the opportunity had been missed. The council needed to provide certainty for homeowners by making the tough call not to pursue the option further.

Cr Paul Lonsdale said it was with a "heavy heart" that he supported the staff's recommendation.

"This is a hard call," he said. "I'm pleased we can still support individual property protection."

Cr Yani Johanson said he could not support the decision to stop pursuing area-wide mitigation. He understood the Crown had made it difficult by not allowing Crown-owned land to be used but he believed the council could still make a case for it and show it was cost-effective.

"I think it is a real shame that we are basically wiping our communities through not enabling area-wide mitigation," Johanson said.

The Press