On the path to recovery
Following the Christchurch earthquakes, a "good news story" is blossoming east of Ferrymead Bridge. WILL HARVIE reports.
The rebuild east of the Ferrymead Bridge has hardly begun. The Mount Pleasant kindy is still bunking with the Anglican Church, the Redcliffs volunteer library shares space with the village's tennis club, the Sumner Community Residents Association occupies the Sumner police cottage - and has to vacate abruptly if the police need it back in an emergency.
This doubling up is seen all over quake-damaged Canterbury, but the communities east of the bridge now have something not many other communities have - something new, something that wasn't there before the quakes.
It's the Coastal Pathway - a planned 6.5-kilometre walking and cycling trail from the Ferrymead Bridge to the foot of Scarborough Hill.
Less than a kilometre of the pathway has been built so far, the portion along the Causeway. But it's enough to get a sense of what's to come.
Four metres wide, it can accommodate two passing groups of walkers, joggers, rollerbladers and so forth. When the season is right, estuary- appropriate plants will be introduced. There's even a swale to clean water coming off the causeway road before it enters the estuary.
"What people see is bare bones at the moment," says Tim Lindley, chairman of the Christchurch Coastal Pathway Group.
In coming years, he foresees public art, educational signage, an offshoot around McCormacks Bay, and buckets of things people haven't dreamed up yet.
Following international best practice, high-speed full-spandex cyclists are encouraged to stay on the road, not the pathway. It's about the safety of other pathway users.
The next section to be built will connect the causeway to Ferrymead Bridge, part of a Scirt project to repair broken pipes and infrastructure, as well giving the current two-lane Main Rd a third, city-bound lane.
Meanwhile, repairs into Redcliffs along Beachville Rd will take the pathway as far as the heart of Redcliffs. In three years, Lindley hopes to have spent the $9.9 million so far budgeted by Christchurch City Council getting the pathway as far as Shag Rock.
He reckons another $10m might be needed to compete the job of linking it to Scarborough, as well as betterment projects along the way. "But we don't know."
It's "great for us locals, but a city- changing resource" for Christchurch, Lindley argues. Figures from New Plymouth, which has a similar coastal pathway, suggest the Christchurch version could attract one million users a year once fully built. That would make it the city's second most visited attraction behind the Botanic Gardens.
The pathway has been a "huge psychological boost" for area residents, says inaugural chairwoman of the pathway group Linda Rutland . The former city councillor and current Mt Pleasant community association co- ordinator says "the investment makes people feel the area is not going to die". She detects "a lot of stress and people are very tired. The waiting is interminable".
For some it got worse this month with the release of a council-funded study of mass movement in the Port Hills. Category one means an "en masse" failure on a slope could lead to "severe damage to homes, loss of infrastructure services to many people and possible loss of life". Almost all category one areas are east of the bridge. GNS recommended further study, which should be out in April.
In theory, the second report could derail elements of the Main Rd master plan, on which consultation ended yesterday. The plan suggests many improvements from the bridge to Sumner, including regenerated commercial areas, playgrounds, viewing platforms, illuminated cliffs.
A lot of it is unfunded wishful thinking, some requires private landowners to invest significantly.
In other cases, the master plan takes up projects well underway. Concept plans for a new Mt Pleasant community association building should be released before Christmas and the pre-fabricated building could be opened by the start of 2015, says Rutland, who was awarded a Christchurch Earthquake Award for services to Mt Pleasant residents.
The building will be likely to include rentable meeting and party rooms, and a good kitchen, which will earn income for the association. Threaded through the master plan is the pathway. At the east end of the causeway, for example, the pathway turns to follow Beachville Rd, but not always directly beside the estuary.
A map on the pathway group's homepage pointedly notes a "true coastal pathway" would run between the riviera houses on the waterfront and the estuary itself. Instead the pathway strikes inland.
"For many that was a big compromise," says Lindley. "But if you want a vision to be a reality, you have to compromise."
Carrying on, the pathway will turn into Redcliffs village, where things get murky because of tight space.
The 4m pathway could take away parking, according to the master plan. This "upsets locals" says Fletcher Stanton, (earthquake award for assisting Redcliffs residents). He still mans a community office most weekdays.
"I'm passionate about Redcliffs as a destination, not a drive-through on the way to Sumner," he says.
For that vision, he needs businesses and the return of the Redcliffs volunteer library and Redcliffs School.
He and retired mates from the village's men's shed have a plan: convince inner-city developer Antony Gough to gift them Shand's Emporium, the 1860 heritage-listed timber building on Hereford St.
It nearly matches a well-known red timber building at Main Rd and Augusta St that's housed shops and offices for years. It could become the library or a community facility.
Meanwhile, Redcliffs School is to remain in temporary quarters in Sumner for all of 2014, principal Kim Alexander said.
Piling for a new 1662 sqm New World supermarket in Redcliffs began this week. Construction of the two-storey building will begin in late January or early February.
Further east in Moncks Bay, the road and waterway are hard against each other and the pathway will be squeezed between the two.
This section will be expensive because there aren't significant quake repairs on which to piggyback construction of the pathway.
Around the corner, the shipping containers along Peacocks Gallop are expected to remain for years.
The risk of mass movement from the cliffs, which could cut Sumner's main lifeline, is still not understood according to the GNS report.
Further along, the Sumner Surf Club is operating from shipping containers and celebrating the resource consent it won two weeks ago to rebuild in the dunes.
Detailed plans for a low-slung building and a watch tower are being drawn up, says chairman of the building committee, Blair Quane.
The club had "bugger all" insurance but has fundraised diligently and Quane is "confident of achieving" the $1.5m-$2m budget. The aim is to start construction by April-May 2014 and to be open by summer.
The club, sited on crown land, will include meeting and party rooms, and a kitchen, all rentable so the club has income, Quane says . The city council will probably rebuild the neighbouring public toilets as part of the works.
A little to the east, Main Rd becomes Marriner St, which signals the end of the Main Rd master plan and the start of the Sumner Village Centre master plan.
It came about differently from most other post-quake master plans, says Sumner community development co-ordinator Marnie Kent (earthquake award for services to Sumner).
Residents told her that as they lost half of their village, "Rather than wait to see what happens, let's be proactive and discuss what we want".
This was about May 2011 and public meetings were organised, which led to two community master plans and then the city council and community board got involved to create a Joint Advisory Group and then an official Sumner master plan.
The official plan has been through consultation and was adopted by the council in August.
It lines up pretty well with the early community plans, says Kent. "What we captured through consultation, they captured as well . . . we're pleased with the outcome."
The plan calls for stronger connections to the sea, perhaps some laneways with boutique shopping, cafes, bars and more of the sorts of things Sumner already has.
Kent sees Sumner as a "humming little place" in five years, once the pathway comes and community centre and library are rebuilt.
These once-neighbouring buildings on the best intersection have been demolished and plans call for a joint facility of three stories, with meeting and party rooms and a good kitchen, to produce income.
The old community hall wasn't properly insured by the council, says Humphrey Archer, president of the Sumner Community Centre. There's less than a million dollars in the kitty for a building that will likely cost $5m-$7m "and the fact that it was under-insured is very much in council's court".
Councillors declined to fund the joint rebuild in August and Archer says consultation with council staff has become "sporadic", despite the community centre- library being the most popular idea during the Sumner consultation. He's getting disappointed.
The pathway, meanwhile, will veer away from Sumner Village, passing Cave Rock and linking up with the Esplanade, already a popular coastal pathway. A new 14.5 metre-long concrete and tile sculpture by Chris Reddington and inspired by kowhai seed pods will be installed about halfway along, probably before Christmas.
The pathway ends at the coming $780,000 Scarborough Paddling Pool. If the cost raised eyebrows, politicos took note of a different development: The Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board will "fine tune the final design". In former mayor Bob Parker's time, this probably wouldn't have happened, says the new community board chairwoman Sara Templeton
It's an early example of the "new way of doing things", says Mayor Lianne Dalziel.
"Every member of this council campaigned on making this council and our decisions open and totally transparent," Dalziel says, which includes giving community boards "more scope and power".
At the Scarborough terminus of the pathway, it's worth noting that the 136km West Coast Wilderness Trail officially opens today. It's one of 23 predominantly off-road cycle trails - about 2700km long - that Prime Minister John Key seeded with $50m in 2009. Another $30m has come into New Zealand Cycle Trail from communities along the routes.
NZ Cycle Trail programme manager John Dunn visited the Coastal Pathway last month and issued four-pages of recommendations ("engage with stakeholders" and such). But he also wrote: "This is an excellent example of what can be achieved with collaboration between Christchurch City Council and a community group. It is a good news story."
"These communities are lucky in some ways," says Templeton (earthquake award for service to Heathcote). "They had the people with the skills to help their communities to bounce back."