Sumner containers shipping out

IMPROVED ACCESS: The number of shipping containers protecting the cliffs around Sumner and Redcliffs has been halved.
IMPROVED ACCESS: The number of shipping containers protecting the cliffs around Sumner and Redcliffs has been halved.

Large, metal boxes have blighted two of Christchurch's most picturesque suburbs.

Now, after more than two years protecting the earthquake-prone cliff faces around Sumner and Redcliffs, shipping containers numbers have been cut by half.

The Christchurch City Council yesterday put the finishing touches to work that has seen 50 of the 109 containers removed.

The biggest changes are in Wakefield Ave, where some containers have been replaced by fencing and others have been shifted into new positions.

Their presence has proved a catch-22 for residents and business owners.

Although the containers are crucial to protecting life and transport links, the popular seaside spot has suffered a drop in visitor numbers due to safety fears and limited access.

Council figures show weekly traffic on Wakefield Ave dropped by a third since before the September 2010 quake to September last year, while on Main Rd traffic dropped from 16,184 to of 12,325.

Sumner business owner Bryan L'Estrange said he was pleased to see the containers moved.

"The fewer containers the better, right? It's good news," he said.

L'Estrange, an art gallery owner, was behind the project to have leading New Zealand artists display their work on containers to help minimise the visual effects.

Christchurch painter Kees Bruin and Tin Man creator Tony Cribb are among those whose works have caught the attention of passers-by.

The project would be unaffected by the changes, L'Estrange said.

"There's still going to be containers and there's still going to be art work on them.

"They are ominous. That's why we wanted to work with them and get art on there to try and change that perception of them, but they are there for people's safety."

Sumner Residents' Association chairman Darren Wright said the removal was "another sign Sumner's back in business".

"It's certainly great for the businesses that are along that part because those businesses have been suffering for a while with containers right in front of them."

He did not believe people would feel exposed without them.

Few rocks had reached the road in the areas from which containers had been removed, Wright said.

"I think people always thought those containers might be a bit of overkill but it was good to err on the side of safety."

The art work could now move to area where containers were "probably going to be for quite a long time".

Council transport and greenspace unit manager John Mackie said changes would make the area safer for all road users.

"Reducing the number of containers, where it is safe to do so, is a positive step for the community. The council is continually looking to improve access in this area while ensuring the risk of land instability is adequately addressed," he said.

SUMNER ROAD CHANGES

Main Rd to Shag Rock Reserve: A temporary pedestrian path has been constructed on the bund on the seaside of this section of Main Rd. Although there is a requirement for containers in this area, the fence in front of the containers has been removed, providing space for cycle lanes in both directions. The Clifton car park has been be repaired and the existing fence will be repositioned and secured in place, providing pedestrian access on the seaward side of the fence.

Main Rd below Mt Pleasant: The removal of a dangerous boulder has enabled the containers in this section of the road to be removed. This has improved safety for cyclists heading north as there is no longer any sudden merging with vehicles in this part of Main Rd.

Main Road to Moa Bone Cave area: There is no opportunity to improve the traffic management as the containers must remain in place for some time for safety reasons.

Wakefield Ave (Nayland Rd to Wiggins St): Containers in this section are two-high and will stay in place as risk of rockfall and cliff collapse in this area remains high.

Wakefield Ave (Wiggins St to Arnold St): Pedestrians will continue to use the footpath on the other side of the road, but the road is clear for two-lane traffic for motorists and cyclists.

Wakefield Ave (Paisley St to Arnold St): Single-height containers from Paisley to Campbell Sts will remain in place.

The Press